Dizziness and Karate

Dizziness and Karate

My university required at least one kinesiology credit in order to graduate. I wanted the class to be archery while I studied abroad in Korea, but it was canceled my semester. Much to my disappointment, I would have to fulfill my kinesiology credit in America. I was dreading this with my dizziness.

The Lesser of Two Evils?

I had only two options that would fit with my class schedule: scuba or karate. I am not a fan of swimming unless it involves snorkeling in the open waters of the Caribbean. Scuba diving in east Texas lakes was most definitely not that. Additionally, scuba was a three hour long night class and night classes were especially difficult with my adrenal insufficiency.

Thus, I signed up for karate.

And I was dreading it.

The Dread of Group Fitness Classes

I have always struggled with group fitness classes. I remember having extreme anxiety during them as early as kindergarten. I just always felt different. I remember feeling dizzy. I remember struggling to understand the spoken instruction. I remember not knowing what to do. I didn’t realize that my dizziness was abnormal at the time. I just assumed that was how I was supposed to feel because I had never felt any different.

These were the worst days in gym for me due to my dizziness.


My dread that semester for karate further increased when I realized it was only offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00pm – 1:00pm.

Karate was smack dab in the middle of lunch.

Should I eat lunch before karate and feel sick? Should I wait to eat lunch until after karate and feel sick? Throughout the semester, I tried both options. I felt sick both ways.

The instructor would begin each class with a group warm-up. I don’t remember all of the routine, but I do remember one exercise in particular. Burpees with a push-up terrified me beyond all belief. If I went from sitting to standing on a normal day, I would black out. Karate class expected me to jump down, complete a push-up, and then jump back up on the instructors count!

With every burpee I attempted, I was afraid I would collapse the floor. Each jump, I was nervous that I would lose consciousness similar to band camp.

Just Survive

In college, I was still ashamed of my disease and disclosed it to very few people. I felt that my disease made me weak. I tried to hide it and appear “normal.” Twice a week, I was beyond terrified that I would be discovered as “not normal” but diseased.

I honestly cannot tell you what I learned. My entire focus was to just survive, to try to blend in, to not appear different. Even as I think of karate class now, over five years later, I have to calm my breathing down and remind myself that I am ok. I received my yellow belt. I earned my kinesiology credit. I have my engineering diploma.

I survived.

Reflections Many Years Later

If I had to take Karate over again, I would approach it differently. I would speak to the instructor individually and disclose my adrenal insufficiency. I would request special accommodations. I would ask for an alternate warm-up that didn’t included POTS triggering exercises. I would request that he not disclose my health struggles to others because that is information that I disclose at my own discretion. I would have up-dosed my medicine before class.

Perhaps, with these special accommodations I could have actually enjoyed the class instead of merely surviving it.

I want to do more than just survive life.

I am Clearly Alive.

Amber Nicole is Clearly Alive