EXERCISE 101

I seriously hope you’re not expecting me to yell, “Drop and give me twenty!”  If so, you’re in the wrong place.

Well, maybe later, but for now we’re starting slowly.

First, let’s answer a few questions:

Have you gotten permission from your doctor to start an exercise program?  This is important for anyone, but even more so for an individual who’s gone through or is still going through cancer treatments.  Yes, you can exercise, but its important to do it safely and your doctor will provide, in writing, any restrictions that you and your trainer should follow.

If you’ve had any lymph nodes removed or have had radiation, you are at risk for lymphedema.  Find and work with a certified cancer exercise specialist, physical therapist or lymphedema therapist, who can teach you basic warm-up techniques or help you manage your condition if it’s progressed.

A qualified medical or fitness professional will help you with any movement restrictions you may have due to radiation or surgical procedures.  Regaining your range of motion is essential before starting any resistance training to the affected body part.

No matter if you’re in super-duper-ultra-great shape, dominating the weight room and running full marathons, you may experience some annoying loss in range of motion.

While I sort of expected this, it took me by surprise when I couldn’t raise my arms over my head after my mastectomy, much less hoist any weight up there!

What are your goals? This may seem like a silly question, but everyone has his or her own reason for participating in a fitness program.  Do you want to improve your cardiovascular fitness?  Run a marathon?  Increase flexibility?  Pack on muscle?  Lose weight?  Gain weight?

Maybe you want to build strength in anticipation of surgery or are mainly interested in the social aspect of exercise.

Your program will change with your goals.

Before mastectomy I was training to be able to get out of bed without using my arms, as that can be a problem when those muscles are cut or you’ve got scar tissue making movement difficult.

Back in the day I wanted to build muscle so I would “look like” I work out.

When one trainer asked what my goals were I informed him, jokingly, that I wanted to be young and firm with a bouncing pony tail.  His answer?  “Hmmm….you can grow your hair!”

Smart ass.

I’m a little older now, and have been through some stuff.  Consequently, my current routine has changed to include maintaining muscle and bone mass, staying flexible and being quick enough to chase after the grandkids and outrun cancer.

So what are your goals?

What do you like to do?  Just because I like the weight room doesn’t mean you will.  You might like to dance and like classes that include choreographed dance based movements.

I’m the kid in the back with two left feet.

You may prefer mind-body exercise like yoga and tai-Chi, both of which are excellent for a lot of people.  I hate water, but maybe you’d like to exercise in a pool.

Hope Chest Buffalo sponsors dragon boat racing that you might enjoy. Paddling has been shown to be a great way to increase strength and range of motion following breast cancer treatments and surgeries.

I can’t do the water thing but you might love it!

Are you currently physically active?  Do you sit a lot or are you a blur of constant motion?  Do you have a desk job or do you work on a loading dock?  Do you get some form of cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis?  (Refer back to the first post in this series for guidelines.)

So…….Let’s start with you couch potatoes, shall we?

(I heard once that Greyhounds are actually couch potatoes….who knew?)

First, let me emphasize that working with a good personal trainer can help with this.  However, not everyone wants to or can afford to go that route.  Classes offered by the Breast Cancer Network of WNY are a few  of the many great resources available to you if you live in the Western New York area.

Your starting point in cardiovascular training is simply to add movement to your routine.

If you have a desk job, set a timer to go off every 15-20 minutes.  When it chimes, just stand up, walk around, shake your legs, stand up and sit down a bunch of times, walk to the water cooler or, next time, the restroom.  This should take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

You’ve probably heard it all before…park farther away, take the stairs, yada, yada, yada.

Well, sometimes that’s not an option.

Maybe it will be in a few weeks, but right now you might be out of breath just walking to the kitchen.  Maybe you’ve had part of a lung removed.  Perhaps your heart was damaged by chemotherapy or heart disease.  Maybe you’ve had or need to have surgery on a hip, leg or foot and can’t move very well.

There can be any number of conditions that your doctor may or may not think will benefit from increased cardiovascular strength.

I’ll assume that you are working with someone to regain pain-free range of motion on affected parts, but you may be able to move other parts.

If you have difficulty walking, try just moving your arms.  Circular motions, air punches or simple arm raises repeated enough times can get your ticker ticking quite nicely.  Ever try an arm bike?  Whew!

Increase the duration first, then you can add resistance as you begin to feel stronger.

If you’re restricted in upper body movement, you may be able to walk or ride a stationary bike.

Work at a pace that allows you to talk or sing comfortably.  As with any exercise, you can increase time or distance slowly as you start to feel stronger.  It may seem that you’ll never reach the requirements set in those guidelines.  Take your time and remember that “some movement is better than none.”

Keep in mind, too, that adding purposeful exercise to your day is a good thing, but your regular daily activities also burn calories and keep your heart pumping, so move as much as you can without pain.

Maybe you’re more advanced in your cardiovascular training and this post doesn’t come close to addressing your needs.

We’ll get there.  Gotta walk before we can run!

Where are you in your fitness journey?  Are you dealing with effects of surgeries or cancer treatments?  Are you getting ready for a surgical procedure?

Please feel free to comment and let me know how we can help you progress!

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