When Exercise Became More Than a Workout
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.
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