Fredzilla: King of the Comeback - The Bend Magazine

Fredzilla: King of the Comeback

Meet a man who went from being unable to walk to walking across a competition stage

There may only be one person in the entire world who suffered a stroke, started a business, and then entered a physique competition – within a one-year span. His name is Fred Saunders.Fred is living an inspiring fitness journey that started when he was playing sports at 11 years old. He went on to play football and run track at Calallen High School and had a partial sports scholarship in college at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Unfortunately, he was in a car accident that resulted in a knee injury which prevented him from running – but it didn’t slow him down.

To work around his injury, Fred began trying different workouts. He started weight training and fell in love with it. He even decided to make it his full-time job, quitting a career in sales to become a trainer at a gym in 2013. And when he wasn’t helping transform the lives and bodies of his clients, he was personally preparing for a big competition.

He entered The Battle of the Bay’s physique competition in 2014. It was love at first step. He left the stage already planning his fitness regimen to return the next year. But a terrifying and debilitating health crisis was just around the corner. Only months later in October, Fred was training a client when suddenly, his speech became slurred. Initially, he chalked it up to being tired. He then tried to show his client an exercise, but he was unable to perform the movement.

“The ambulance came, and the paramedics asked me questions, but I couldn’t speak,” Fred remembers. At the age of 33, Fred had suffered a stroke. It stole his ability to walk, talk, and function. Despite this life-halting situation, Fred was never deterred. “I was trying to do push-ups at the hospital,” Fred recalls with a laugh. “It was six weeks after my stroke before I could say something coherent. The first time I could form some words was the first week of December. The first time I could walk unassisted was the week before Christmas.”

In addition to the rehabilitation orders from doctors, Fred did additional training himself. And over the next five months, he began seeing the extra and hard work pay off. With every milestone, Fred was encouraged to reach another. He had decided that no matter what, he was going to walk the competition stage of the 2015 Battle of the Bay.

“One of my main focuses was that I wanted to get back to training and competing. I was set on getting back to the Battle of the Bay.” Fred says. “I didn’t care what I was going to look like – I was going to walk that stage. Because walking was one of the hardest parts to recover; so that was my goal. I was going to walk the stage and do a pose.”

That wasn’t all he had in store for 2015. In that same year, Fred opened Fredzilla Training – his own fitness and personal training business. Fredzilla offers personal training, online training, and more. He develops fitness regimens and diet recommendations customized to each client and their goals. “I really focus on lifestyle. That’s my philosophy,” he said.

There’s no doubt that Fred’s drive, perseverance, and enthusiasm led to his incredible outcomes. And after his experience, he is passionate about encouraging others. “Celebrate every victory,” he encourages. “If you can tie your shoes, that’s a win. If you write your name, that’s a celebration. Everything is a victory – it’s all about how you look at it.”

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