Exercising to death?

Something has been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I have been thinking about my mother. My mother was a beautiful woman. She was a stay at home mom of 4 girls, all born 15-18 months apart. That in itself is amazing. In her mid 30’s she decided to take control of her health. She started to eat healthy, exercise and became a fitness instructor. I remember those days like they were yesterday. She started a little class at the local community centre and eventually worked in a gym. I admired her. I went to her classes and was in awe of her strength, and how she could inspire others. She was so happy at the gym, or with her exercise ladies at the community centre. She inspired lots of people to get off their butts and get moving.

My path is somewhat the same. I had my kids later in life, and I stopped at two, but in my mid thirties I too started to gain control of my health, and became a fitness instructor, with the same goal as my mother… to inspire people to get off their butts and move. I know that it is my calling in life. I have worked doing many jobs but this is the one that brings me the most joy.

Let’s go back 10 years

When I was unhappy in graduate school and decided to quit, my mom bought me a necklace. She was the first person I told about my decision to change my path in life and the necklace she gave me was inscribed:

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.

At the time, I wanted to pursue a career in the fitness industry. It made sense to me. My life was spent at a gym. My greatest mentors were my coaches and teachers, and of course, my mom. It took me a while to get where I am today but I am finally here. I know my true calling. It feels good. But there is a problem. This is what is weighing heavily on my mind.

At the age of 54, my mother was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gherig’s disease. The disorder causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body caused by degeneration of the upper and lower motor neurons. Unable to function, the muscles weaken and atrophy. You eventually lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement.

For my mom it started in her foot and spread up her body, quickly and without mercy. Her beautiful strong body slowly lost it’s ability to walk, and eventually she was completely immobile. Her muscles atrophied. Everything she loved was taken away from her. And 18 months after her diagnosis, so was her life. She was 56.

There is no known cause or treatment for ALS. The diagnosis of the disease is a death sentence.

I’ve often wondered why. I’ve often wondered if exercise was partly to blame. Was there a trigger in her body due to overuse of her muscles that started to make them shut down? No research has ever shown that, but a lot of athletes are affected by the disease. Now, what if that was partly to blame?

At the end of her life, as she was laying immobile, I asked my mom a question. “If you knew that exercise caused the disease would you have stopped?” Her answer was a strong and definitive “NO!”. She wouldn’t change a thing.

I think you know where I am going with this. I am on her path. I am following her footsteps. Will that be my fate? And if I was worried that exercise may be partly to blame, would I change my path?

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.

I would say no. I can’t live in fear of that. I can’t let her fate dictate my life. I can’t say I’m not scared. I am. Petrified. I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worse enemy. Those 18 months were the hardest of my life. Watching her strong fit body deteriorate until she was just a shell.

No matter how much I say that it won’t affect the way I live my life, the fear is always at the back of my mind, weighing heavily on my heart. But instead of thinking about her death, I have to remember her life. I can’t tell you how many people have come to me telling me how she changed their life. She may have died young, but she left a legacy. She inspired people until the day she died.

That, my friends, is what I have to focus on.

About fitlikemia

Trying to live a balanced life to the extreme.
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One Response to Exercising to death?

  1. jessica says:

    Mia, what a beautiful, thought provoking, inspiring post. Keep up the wonderful writing.

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