Dirk and Darren)

Learn about the people behind the Almost Fit website and the Almost Fit team

Since becoming the first blind person in the world to complete a Tough Mudder course, Darren Fittler and Dirk Venter have joined together to bring you the Almost Fit website.

But we can’t forget those who were a part of the Almost Fit Tough Mudder team and who were also a part of the successful completion of Spartan Race Sydney in April 2014.

Learn more about:

About Darren

I grew up on a farm in a little country town in New South Wales Australia with my mum, dad, younger brother and nan.

I was diagnosed with retinal distrophy when I was about 4.

Retinal distrophy is a condition where the rods and cones in the retina do not rejuvenate – meaning that my sight deteriorated slowly over time. Well pretty slowly anyway until I reached 13.

I went to a small mainstream primary school – only 90 students across kindergarten to grade six and later went to the high school in town where there were over 1000 students in the school and over 100 just in grade 7.

I lost my sight gradually, though there was a pretty rapid deterioration in the 12 months between 12 and 13. Just at the time I was transitioning into high school and the joys of those early teenage years.

I wasn’t really ready though to make myself stick out as being more unusual than I perhaps already was. So, while I probably should have used a cane, I didn’t.

There were lots of bumps, falls and accidental run-ins as I am sure you can imagine, and as my eyebrow ridge and shinbones attest.

After completing grade 12, I traveled to Sydney to complete a degree in social work, and later, law.

When moving to Sydney to go to uni, it was time to face facts. Yep, I am blind and being blind means I need to use a cane to get around and also, to be honest, as a way of letting others know that I can’t see.

I realised that being blind was part of me and that I might as well embrace it and get on with things.

I am now married with two kids, a mortgage and a Subaru.

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to do many interesting things in my life so far, including:

  • becoming the first blind person in the world to ever complete a Tough Mudder course
  • becoming the ffirst blind person in Australia, and maybe the world, to complete a Spartan Race
  • riding a bike from Brisbane to Sydney to raise money for charity. Yes … a tandum, and yes I was on the back. Least for most of the time!
  • trekking for 7 days through the mountains outside of Nepal
  • qualifying for the Atlanta paraolympics in swimming, though, due to lack of funding, I couldn’t actually afford to go
  • attending the United Nations in New York to participate in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disability.
  • learning guitar, ballroom dancing, wine tasting, HTML, Karate, water skiing and singing
  • even getting out of the bush, to uni and eventually into a top tier law firm has been an adventure.

My first Tough Bloke and the 14Km Spartan Race is next on the list!

One of the key factors that has enable me to get where I am and to have done the things I’ve done is the self-reliance and independence that my parents allowed me to develop.

The temptation, the very real and strong temptation, would have been to wrap me up in cotton wool.

Looking back, and having kids myself now, I am amazed, and grateful, that my parents let their blind son chop the firewood, mow the lawns, ride his BMX bike, cook dinner, play cricket with a real cricket ball, ride horses, wander round the farm, go fishing, water ski, drive a go-cart, ride a motor bike, drive an old Toyota ute in the paddocks, set and light the fire in winter …

So, lots to thank my folks for!

About Dirk

It all started with a double page spread of Arnold Shwartzneger in Flex magazine back in the early 90s. I was instantly obsessed.

I was sixteen, the eldest of four siblings, growing up in Silverton, a small suburb in Pretoria, South Africa. My parents were strict Christians and did not approve of my newfound passion for this sweat-filled lifestyle.

I was forbidden from joining a gym, so instead I secretly turned our home into my training ground; chin-ups on impossibly thick door frames and bicep curls using buckets loaded with dirty clothes soaking in water my mother was washing.

Each night I hid in the bathroom and did as many push ups as I possibly could before showering. I lifted anything I could find, and pushed my body hard. I made sure I never got caught!.

Before long my physique began to change, I started looking bigger and feeling stronger. The more my body responded, the more motivated I became, and so grew my addiction to the rush that comes with training.

At school I did athletics and played 1st grade rugby and continued to increase my passion and knowledge about health and fitness.

I started my life in the fitness industry shortly after I left school and also started body building around this time. And my interest grew from there.

Over the years I have completed countless courses and spent countless hours reading about health, fitness, the human body, training and diet. I then adopt my learning into my own training and life and use this learning to help my clients reach their goals.

I have been a trainer at Fitness First for the last eight years and have trained people from all walks of life.

About Glen

Glenn Wellham)

Sydney born and bred and currently living the dream in Manly. I work in finance and love heading to the country on the weekends.

The only drawback to my current existence is the workouts with Dirk!
I have been training with Dirk for a number of years and over that time I have learnt that:
1. There are no excuses
2. You can push through pain
3. You are allowed to train legs!

Over these years, I have also come to know Darren and his workouts with Dirk. The strange thing is that Darren’s workouts are usually exactly the same as mine.
These workouts often include such things as box jumps, overhead squats and handstand push ups.
As I struggle through my workouts and search for excuses for myself, it is quite humbling to know that, someone who is blind is pushing through the same work out.
Of course, because of this, I have a great deal of respect for Darren and he is an inspiration for those that meet him.

On the other hand, Dirk & Darren can also be quite annoying. Particularly when Dirk is telling me constantly how easily Darren can do a particular work out that I am struggling with. Hence I do have some resentment towards them both. Hopefully I won’t be tempted to sabotage either of their efforts at Tough Mudder!

Michael Meredith

Growing up in the Sutherland shire, I was privileged to go to a good school, get a good education and be surrounded by positive people through my years growing up. With a pretty solid sporting background, my main passion was playing rugby league.. With a few stints here and there of playing junior reps football, I eventually hung up the boots for a few years to travel overseas and work in the US teaching kids water skiing at their summer camps for a few months of the year.

In between travelling my main career path being followed was hospitality and by 22, I was in hospitality management within the pub / club industry. After making a return to playing rugby league, and eventually wearing thin on my career in Hospitality management, I decided enough was enough and what was originally a dream to join the police force transferred to a career as an Army officer through the route of RMC Duntroon. Unfortunately at the same time as my testing for this I was struck down with some pretty significant health issues that would bring that dream to screaming holt. Within a 12 month period of searching for answers and a deteriorating health, I finally got some clarity and began the path to recovery. So at this time decided to pursue my career in personal training, got qualified, took a job at Fitness First Park street and well the rest is history.

Through my working relationship with dirk, Darren and I have developed a relationship as an interim partnership when ever dirk needed time off. There’s always a good laugh to be had when we get together, and Darren’s presence in the gym is one that I will always feel privileged for, as his appreciation for life and what he has is unbelievable. It’s a pleasure to watch this bloke train, more often than not training harder than anyone else in the gym! He is a true inspiration and I’m honoured to say I’m apart of team Almost Fit.

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