The scrawny kid who turned into Thor

Calling all gym rats! This story is for you… But the truth is, this story hits home on so many levels that it really doesn’t matter if you’ve never worked out in your entire life – you’ll be able to relate to it regardless. This is a story of sheer willpower – a tale of courage in the face of the unexpected and the unknown. A story of strength within weakness, and the determination to prevail against all odds.

The subject of our inspirational story is Ben Mudge, fitness instructor and 27-year-old Instagram sensation from Belfast who managed to garner a social media following of over 55,000 people – but he is also so much more. Ben’s success was acquired in the face of a rare disease that he was born with – one that makes it hard to for human growth to take place – and that is only the beginning of it.


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Another element of what makes Ben so intriguing is that he has a captivating resemblance to a certain well known Marvel superhero. Not only does Ben possess genetic features that are strongly similar to this character, but he also likes to go all out in true doppelganger fashion, dressing up like the superhero and having fun in the process. These facts about Ben may seem trivial, but when you consider the breadth of his followers, mixed in with the fact that he is also well respected for his prowess in the health and fitness department – it all seems to go hand in hand. After all, life can truly be hard sometimes, especially for those that have serious medical conditions – and sometimes, the best way to deal with the heavier things in life is to incorporate a little bit of silliness.

This is what makes this story so intriguing. Ben’s ability to balance these two aspects of life – the intensity and the silliness – is we believe what has enabled him to be such an icon for a large amount of the population. Because at the end of the day, the best teachers are the ones that we can relate to on some level – it’s not enough to know everything there is to know about a certain subject if you can’t give it over successfully to someone else. This is something Ben understood, and this is why he was named by Men’s Fitness Magazine to be the 2016 Trainer of the Year.

Meet Ben

This is the story of a 27-year-old young man named Ben Mudge. This is man who defied astronomical odd to overcome a condition he has had his entire life, called cystic fibrosis. There were many reasons that this process was far from easy, but Ben managed to find a rhythmic routine which enabled him to get pretty ripped, while simultaneously creating a striking resemblance between him and Thor, the Marvel comic superhero. But that’s not all he managed to do.

Trainer of the year

The obstacles that he faced in his venture to look the way he looks, as well as feeling the way he feels, has been an inspiration to thousands upon thousands of people. In fact, his success in fitness success was so impressive that he was given the title of 2016 Trainer of the Year by Men’s Fitness Magazine. Now that right that there is some serious respect. But there are many healthy and strong fitness trainers out there – what makes Ben so special?

Unique condition

Ben is special for a few reasons. The uniqueness of his condition has made it very hard for him to live his life on a daily basis, let alone spend time in the gym exerting himself in rigorous workout routines. His cystic fibrosis makes it hard for him to breathe – imagine going about your daily life, going to school, work, or wherever you need to go, and having constant difficulty breathing – these type of things can take a toll on a person’s motivation to do anything.

Twice as hard

That being said, the fact that Ben was able to rise above the challenges that he was dealt, is truly enough reason to respect the success that he has garnered, as well as the social media following that he has been a huge inspiration for. The fact that Ben had to work twice as hard than the average person to look as fit as he does adds a whole other element to the equation, and this why he has been so widely celebrated.

Thor look-alike

But there’s another reason why people love him – in addition to his inspiring story and how fit he looks, there has been a whole other fun little element to this equation that people simply can’t ignore. Ben looks exactly like Thor. There are many people that are just as fit as him, but how many of them bear such a profound resemblance to the demigod warrior that was played by the actor Chris Hemsworth? The answer is not many.

Hair and abs

When you look at Ben’s picture and compare it to that of Thor, it’s not hard to see their resemblance. The washboard abs certainly do a lot for the cause – without those, there wouldn’t be much “Thor” for us to appreciate. And of course, we can’t forget about the long blonde hair – whether he’s wearing it in a ponytail or whether he’s letting it down, you can’t help but think of the superhero. But there are a couple other important features of their similarities that we must note.

Uncanny resemblance

This applies more to Ben’s resemblance to the movie adaptation of Thor, but another thing that makes Ben look so much like him is the fact that his facial features are so similar to that of actor Chris Hemsworth. The beard and the long hair are one thing – those things could be consciously grown, but our facial features are something we are genetically born with. Ben realized that his face naturally looked like Thor, so he grew out his hair and beard – but that’s not all he did.

The hammer

To pretty much solidify his status as “Mr. Thor Doppelganger”, Ben acquired the fabled “Hammer of Thor”. At this point, Ben must have realized that his resemblance with the beloved superhero was trending, and he figured he might as well go all out with it. And guess what – people absolutely loved it. On the surface, it may seem like a gag, a silly gimmick that Ben did because of his willingness to feed off of the crowd. But there may have been a deeper reason for this choice.

An opportunity

We already know that people were strong followers of Ben’s inspiring story – how he overcame, and is still overcoming huge odds to become healthier, and more jacked as well. We also know that everyone loves that Ben looks like Thor. Perhaps Ben saw this as opportunity to combine these two elements. There are so many different ways people can become inspired to push themselves forward, and sometimes these inspirational catalysts overlap into the fictional world.

Superhero role model

If you think about it, it’s pretty genius on Ben’s part to capitalize on his whole “Thor persona”. It has nothing to with vanity, and everything to do with helping people. He realized that by combining “Thor” with his “otherworldly” battle against his disease, he was allowing himself to be seen as a superhero himself. And you know how much we all love superheroes – he wanted to show struggling kids at home that they too can be like him – they too can be superheroes.

Thorsday

If his Instagram following is any indication, he seems to be doing a pretty good job getting his message across. He is constantly posting self help fitness videos, with all kinds of life tips as well – he even has weekly “Thorsday” posts. He really is going all out with this adventure, and if his 55k followers on Instagram have anything to say about it, they just hope that he keeps doing whatever it is he’s doing.

Cystic fibrosis population

Ben may be an inspiration to his followers, but it is especially important to note the influence that he has had on people that have the same condition as him – the cystic fibrosis population. These are the ones that know better than anyone what Ben’s condition is like, and therefore they can feel deep down what makes his story so powerful. And there is no doubt about it that they are inspired by him in ways that the average person can’t really comprehend.

What is the disease?

Let’s talk a little bit about what exactly cystic fibrosis is – perhaps if we understand a little more about it, we can gain a slightly bigger insight into what makes Ben’s story so meaningful. Cystic fibrosis is a harsh genetic condition that is damaging to various bodily organs. Cells generally produce important watery fluids that make it easy for the body to function, and the condition makes the fluids a lot thicker and more goopy.

Unfortunate circumstances

For this reason, instead of the bodily insides getting the proper fluids, things get really stuffy and clogged up and it becomes hard to breathe for the individual. Unfortunately, this can lead to lung infections, leading to the individual coughing up mucus frequently. It can cause issues with gaining weight and proper growth as well. We are already start to understand a bit more about what made Ben’s journey so tough – and why it is so meaningful that he’s a current success.

Irony of recovery

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic have claimed confidently that regular exercise will help people that have the disease, due to the fact that cardio activity loosens up the flow of the sticky mucus, making it easier for the individual’s lungs and heart to function. But the problem is, the people that need the exercise most, ironically are the same people that have to work extra hard to meet their goals. This is true for people that have extreme weight issues as well.

Young athlete

While this is what makes Ben story so influential, his road to where he is now was truly a rocky one. When he was born, he needed to have an operation done so that he could stay alive. Thankfully, he was able to live a relatively normal life until he was 18. What with him being a very active athlete in middle school and high school as well, it seemed his entire life before young adulthood had gone by without a hiccup. But everything changed when he turned 18.

Hospitalized

Disaster pretty much knocked at Ben’s door after high school, albeit unexpectedly. He was rushed to the hospital in a frightening turn of events, where he was told that he had developed a lung infection due to his cystic fibrosis. The capacity of his lungs was at a frighteningly low number of 66 percent. This event would change his life for ever; incidentally, it would also change the lives of many others too, now that he’s helped so much of his followers.

Scary prospect

While normally optimistic about the capabilities of exercising for those with cystic fibrosis, the doctors were not looking hopeful about Ben’s situation, and they told him that he’d never fully recover. Ben has gone on record saying that this was a very frightening moment for him, and that it felt like the bottom of his lungs were being squeezed shut. That’s what he knew he needed to start exercising, and that set him onto the path to become the fitness guru we all know and love.

From scrawny to brawny

Ben proved the doctors wrong, and hit the gym hard from that day on. He’d always been known as a fairly scrawny kid, and it’s safe to assume that when you see what he looks like these days, “scrawny” is the last word that would come to your mind. But while the change in Ben’s physical appearance is quite blaring to anyone comparing his pictures of back then to his of right now, it’s important to note that Ben’s motivation was very health-related, and not so connected to his appearance.

Started at the bottom

When Ben talks about how hard it was for him to workout when he first started out, it becomes clear why he is such a fitness inspiration. He says that in the beginning, it was hard for him to even lift up a barbell. This is something that anyone who has ever felt too weak to do something can relate to. And it is all the more special for these people when they see the progress Ben made, what with all of his Instagram posts of him lifting extraordinary weights.

From 66 to 95

Ben claims that he “always wanted to be stronger”, and that was “always the guy reading up on how to train better.” Nearly ten years after that skinny 18-year-old was sent to the hospital due to lung problems, he was able to change the capacity of his lungs from a mere 66% all the way up to 95%! Here it becomes clearer than ever how important it was for him to exercise. His life truly depended on it.

Thor keeps me motivated

When the whole Thor concept came up, he embraced it with open arms. A few years after he started working out, friends started telling him that he looked a lot like Thor, and so Ben started to let his hair out. But apparently, the superhero identity plays an even bigger role in his progress. He has claimed that Thor is more than just a name to him, but a motivation that keeps him going, especially when he knows others get motivated by it too.

Proud of their condition

But let’s talk about how appreciative the cystic fibrosis population has been to Ben, due the contribution he has given to them. According to him, he gets tons of messages from folks telling him that he helped them get healthier. Ben has acknowledged how amazing it is when people tell him these things. He finds it so fulfilling that he helps so many people, even when it’s something as simple as taking his nebulisers, or showing people the scar on his stomach. People are now proud of their cystic fibrosis.

Little Thors

Ben has been a friendly guru to people of all ages, kids as well. He says that it feels surreal, especially when so many of the people he influences are young children. He has even gone on record calling them “little Thors”. He goes on to say that he loves that he can contribute positively to people getting healthier all over the world. He apparently does private training sessions for any committed individual, whether they have the condition or not.

Cautious Ben

But although he trains people that have cystic fibrosis, he does have a certain policy. He will only work with people that have cystic fibrosis via online coaching, through video chat. His reasoning is that it is too much of a risk for him to be training in close quarters with another member with the condition, because it may lead to a cross infection. This caution on Ben’s part just goes to show how serious this condition can be.

Treat everyone equally

Because even though it is risky, Ben is of the belief that anyone who desires to be trained should have the right to it. He goes on to say that no matter how healthy you think you are, everybody has something wrong with them – it could be something like a bad hip or a lactose intolerance. He treats all of his clients the same, because in his head, there is always room to get healthier, and people love his mindset.

Get Inspired

Ben Mudge has been enjoying the fruits of his labor through many avenues of success, other than through his following on social media. Men’s Fitness Magazine actually chose Ben to be the face of their “Get Inspired”, citing that there was “no better person” for the job. And this was after they had “spent weeks considering many brilliant and unique individuals.” In other words, not only is Ben important to his followers, but he has outperformed all other professionals in his craft – Men’s Fitness considers him to be the best.

Barnes recap

Joe Barnes, the editor of Men’s Fitness Magazine elaborated on why they had chosen Ben above all the other talented fitness instructors. He talked about how Ben beat the debilitating effects of his condition, progressing to build not only an incredible body but also a successful career as a personal trainer, and most importantly – being a massive motivation for others to do the same. He certainly has a point – but there is one special person we haven’t yet discussed that would agree with us too.

Ben’s girl Janice

Okay, so at this point you probably have come to the conclusion that Mr. Ben Mudge is quite the catch – is he dating anyone? Well, it turns out that he is dating someone – Janice Birnie, a cute blonde who is also from Belfast, agrees that Ben is a catch, and somehow found a way to catch him. They are constantly posting pictures of themselves together on various social media mediums such as Twitter and Instagram, and they look really happy.

Smell the roses

Which brings us to our final point – there is the saying that “when life gives you lemons, you should make some lemonade.” Well, many people would agree that’s very easier said than done. Ben Mudge would agree with that sentiment – his trip was not easy at all – and yet something within him encouraged him to power through. We’re not sure what it was, but perhaps it’s just something innate about his character – the part that likes to step back and smell the roses.