When Exercise Became More Than a Workout

Michelle Gonzaba avatar

by Michelle Gonzaba |

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PTSD, awareness, exercise, travel, community, hiding, Cinco de Mayo, IVIG therapy, COVID-19 vaccine

Exercise and I have never been the best of friends. I would make a commitment to work out more, which included buying new sneakers, workout gear, and equipment that I absolutely did not need. And what did I do with all of these new purchases? I completed four or five workouts and never touched my new stuff again.

This cycle repeated itself about twice a year until I turned 19. I abandoned my “cycle of exercise” around the same time I started experiencing myasthenia gravis symptoms. As my body became weaker, exercise fell very low on my priority list. Once the weakness hit my arms and legs, I knew that any attempt at exercise could result in a dangerous fall or accident.

The weakness in my arms became so bad, I couldn’t keep them up long enough to properly wash my hair. Picking up bags, packages, and other items was out of the question. My legs weren’t any better; when I attempted to perform a squat exercise, they gave out and my head smacked against the floor. While I lay on the ground, my head pounding from the impact, I finally accepted that exercise would be impossible until I gained control over my symptoms.

Once my body was finally able to handle different types of workouts (after years of medications and surgery), I realized my attitude toward exercise had changed drastically. Instead of avoiding it, I was actually excited to run around on purpose.

Shockingly, I didn’t immediately start doing parkour. I started off slowly with easy walks around my neighborhood, and channeled Arnold Schwarzenegger by lifting 5-pound weights. Although I wanted to do as much as I physically could, I was still extremely cautious. I didn’t trust my body enough to go any faster than slow walks and lame arm workouts.

Week by week, as I became more comfortable with my returning strength, I decided to never take my endurance for granted again. It was during those months after the weakness went away that I decided to try new workouts I had either been too nervous or embarrassed to do before.

One of those workouts was Zumba. Dancing by myself? I did it all the time. Dancing in front of people? No, thank you. But every time I stopped myself from signing up for a class, I remembered how I’d promised to never take my strength for granted again.

So after forcing my mother and sister to sign up alongside me, I attended my first Zumba class. And although I tried not to, I had fun. Each dance was like a celebration of my improving health. Each drop of sweat felt like a small part of my fears was falling away.

Since my MG diagnosis, exercise has become a physical way to remind myself of what I’ve lost and what I can still do. It isn’t just a way to stay healthy and in shape. Every time I bike down the street or fumble my way through a piece of simple Zumba choreography, I am incredibly thankful for what my body can do. 


Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


barry berger avatar

barry berger

I am recently diagnosed and am doing ok. I want to exercise. Does any one have a routine to help prevent deconditioning. I am a 66 yr old male. Last year I played hockey 4x a week for an hour and a half at a time. I would like to do this again. any suggestions? Thanks. Barry

Paula avatar


Thank you for this article. You are an inspiration!

Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

Thank you Paula!


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