I Canceled My Gym Membership for the Sake of My Health


I finally went to the gym!

…in order to cancel my membership

…for the sake of my health.

“Can I help you?” the manager asked.

“I want to cancel my membership,” I said. Please don’t ask why! I know you have to ask why, but please don’t. I just want to have a normal human interaction for once.

“What’s the reason for canceling?” he asked.

“Health issues,” I said. Go me! That’s what normal people would have said. Brief, sufficient, no oversharing. Maybe I have a future in subtly after all!

“Well, there is the option to freeze you account if you would like…” he said.

“I am allergic to exercise,” I stated slowly, clearly, while making direct contact to be clear that this was not a punch line to his marketing pitch. Here we go.

“Like actually allergic?” he asked.

“Yep, I’ve got my EpiPen right here, “ I said, patting my purse, ready to whip it out à la Annie Oakley if he didn’t take me seriously.

“I guess I know someone who is allergic to water,” he said or asked. I’m not sure.

“Yep, allergic to that too. I can only drink Fiji water,” I said. He tapped on his computer and squirmed the self-inflicted awkward silence. “I mean, I do try to exercise. I just can’t do this stuff. There’s like a sweet spot of adrenaline ­– about 30 seconds. I can only run for like a minute. I can’t do a workout.”

I had not gone to the gym in two years, but I clung to my membership and the belief that one day I could return. Because an allergy to exercise sounds like the greatest excuse, right?

The truth is I can barely even get to the gym. Most weeks, I struggle to get to the grocery store because I’m allergic to the weather (sun, humidity, cold, pollen) or I don’t have any energy left. Some weeks, I am nursing injuries related to my hypermobility. If the journey to the gym isn’t exhausting enough, once I’m there, I risk exposure to fragrances, cleaning chemicals, and germs.

When I exercise too much, my body becomes overwhelmed by chemicals released by my mast cells. Simultaneously, I need to lay down, puke, and use the bathroom. I struggle to breathe and think, while my organs continue to burn, swell, and spasm.

The benefits of regular exercise do not outweigh the consequences of a mast cell reaction. Sometimes my reaction lasts for days, affecting my ability to do basic activities like eat or work.

However, I’ve found ways to exercise at home in small doses when I am feeling up to it. Any exercise starts with Benadryl (in addition to the eight antihistamine pills I take daily). I stretch gently, walk on my treadmill, lift light weights, or run for a couple minutes. I also have two toy poodles that are pretty demanding. Somedays going to work, taking care of my dogs, and making meals is a workout in itself.

Canceling my gym membership was hard, counterintuitive, and comedic. But it was necessary. Mast cell disease has taught me what works for someone else may not work for me no matter how much I want it to. I am forging my own path to wellness one pre-medicated, temperature-controlled, scent-free step at a time.

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Thinkstock photo by master1305

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