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Finding a Balance with Exercise and Myasthenia Gravis

Last updated: February 2022

I don’t think it comes as any surprise that 1 of the top resolutions each New Year is to exercise more. We all know that working out is excellent for our health, physically and mentally. Not to mention, it makes us feel good and look good. Who wouldn’t want that?

Unfortunately for those of us with myasthenia gravis (MG), exercise and MG aren’t always the best of friends though.

Modifying workouts

My MG symptoms started popping up less than a year after my husband and I opened up our first CrossFit gym. Talk about horrible timing. Working out was a serious challenge, especially before I knew what was actually going on with my body.

I couldn’t explain how working out more would make me weaker, not stronger. Despite feeling my strength decrease after most of my workouts, I persisted by doing what I could. I practiced what I preached to my clients by listening to my body and not what was programmed.

That meant when my legs were giving out, I’d switch to upper body. When my upper body was getting unnecessarily fatigued, I would hop on a rower and do light cardio.

Being a trainer gave me the experience I needed to recognize when I needed to stop or when I needed to slow down. I adjusted and adapted and would modify workouts so they worked for me, not against me.

Fear of a crisis

Fast forward to after my diagnosis in 2015 and my mentality was completely opposite from the do what you can, listen to your body, just don’t quit attitude like before. I had fitness PTSD. I was terrified of pushing my body too far to the point where I couldn’t use my arms and legs or even worse, that any cardio would make it so I couldn’t breathe.

I was scared to death and reasonably so. MG is so unpredictable that we don’t always know what is going to set off a flare, an exacerbation, or even an MG crisis. I let that fear get the best of me and I chose, for longer than I’d like to admit, to do nothing instead.

Despite having months of consistently feeling good, I was so concerned that working out would send me spiraling, I didn’t even try.

Learning about my body

Thankfully, my husband is also a trainer and an amazing partner. Over time, he consistently motivated and encouraged me to the point where I finally decided to give working out a shot again.

I had also gained some confidence and trust in my body again over the years of having MG. I’ve learned more about my body with this illness than I could have ever imagined.

I can recognize the beginning signs of a flare so I know not to push myself in a workout which means I may just stretch or do yoga or go for a short walk instead. I’ve learned not to exercise when it’s too hot or humid or when I’m feeling extra fatigued that day. Instead, I choose to rest.

Do what feels right

I think exercise should be a healthy balance for everyone, especially those of us with MG. I’ve found that I feel much better living with a chronic illness, physically and mentally, when I workout.

The main takeaway, and what I’ve learned most in my experience, is that as long as you have your doctor’s approval and you listen to your body (slow down or stop if you have to), exercising with MG doesn’t have to be daunting. It doesn’t have to be scary or even taboo.

Just make sure to go slow and do what feels right. Most importantly, if you aren’t able to work out, don’t get down on yourself. Your time will come so be sure to listen to your body when it does!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Myasthenia-Gravis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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