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Personal Trainer Doesn't Let Going Blind Slow Him Down

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- If you suddenly lost your eyesight, what would you do? Faced with that life-changing event, one young man was forced to start over.

This guy could teach us all a thing or two about life. Of course we rely on our eyes, perhaps even take them for granted. Patrick Sjodahl was almost 20 years old when he started going blind.

All of a sudden, he had to rethink his career. Sjodahl never thought he'd be a personal trainer, or a blind personal trainer at that.

"I use my hands as my eyes," he said.

At 19 years old he was diagnosed with Leber's, a hereditary condition that leads to vision loss. He left technical school and his dream of working on motorcycles. Determined to make the most out of life, Sjodahl found his new passion inside the gym.

"I just fell in love with it because I like spreading my knowledge to others," he said.

He's now working on becoming a certified personal trainer at Life Time Academy.

"It's awesome. To see him out here entering personal training in his way is his strength," said his teacher Billy Anderson.

His strength as a trainer comes from his condition.

"He listens and that's what I was looking for, someone who listened to me and not preach at me," said Lee Synderguard, who trains with Sjodahl.

Since he can't see his clients, he relies on his hands to track their form and progress.

"Most trainers, their biggest challenge is breaking that bubble with that client," said Anderson. "For Pat, that's his strength. That's his entry point."

Sjodahl doesn't let his condition slow him down. He may be blind, but he now sees life more clearly.

"I didn't let it get to me that way you know, what my opportunities were and not the opportunities that I didn't have," Sjodahl said.

Since he lost his sight, Sjodahl spent a lot of time training for marathons. He ran the Grandma's Marathon in Duluth this past year.

He also doesn't believe his condition is improving much. Leber's is much more common in young men than anyone else. In his periphery, he sees blurry shadows and in front of him, he says he can't see much. But he sure has learned to adapt and is doing well.

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