I’ve been fortunate that I have been doing some type of physical activity for over 20 years. It’s second nature to me at this point. This put me in a better position going into the cancer treatment. Having already developed the base for exercise, the positive benefits definitely helped get me through some of the worst of it without being too worse for the wear.
I realize that I might be a bit of an anomaly and not everyone was a personal trainer when they were diagnosed with cancer. The thing is, that’s okay! Exercise can be started no matter your fitness level. Just going for a walk is sometime enough to get things moving in the right direction. It’s simply a matter of making the time. I encourage everyone to make the time for their health. A simple ten minute walk can go a long way. Doing that twice a day is huge. Think about it being more of an investment in yourself and an investment in your overall health. Whether you have cancer or not, the health benefits of exercise are worth it in the long run.
If you’re not sure where to start, start small. Don’t try to do too much at first if you haven’t been doing much prior. Exercise isn’t the magic cure all but it will certainly help. Start with a ten minute walk. When I first got out of the hospital the first thing I did was walk. I’d time myself. I’d set a five minute timer as I stepped out the door. I’d walk for five minutes down the neighborhood street and when my timer went off, then I turned around and walked back. I didn’t worry about how far I’d been or how fast I was going. It was just a matter of getting in the time.
As time progressed and I developed more stamina, I increased the duration of tthe walk. Going from the ten minute walks up to twelve and fifteen minutes. Still doing the same thing, I’d set my timer for half the full time and just walk. I’d start having more stamina and be able to walk faster and cover more distance but still not trying tto keep track of distance. The goal was just to get out and move my feet.
I am fortunate enough to have quite a bit of weight equipment at my house. One of the benefits of being a personal trainer over the years was amasssing a certain amount of equipment. So once I was walking better and had more stamina, I started incorporating more body weight movements and weighted exercises back into my routine. This, like the walks, was done slowly over the course of several weeks. I started with just some push ups on an incline, some body weight rows, and simple body weight squats. All these things could be done at home with minimal equipment. Just because I had a lot of options I kept it basic. Push ups could be done off a counter top, rows could be done with a cheap band (found online or at the closest sporting goods store), and squats could be done to either a low seat or just air squats.
Similar to the walking, the initial goal was to add endurance. I wasn’t trying to push the strength. The goal was to build muscular endurance and develop stamina. I wanted to be able to do more without having to rest. I increased the number of reps from ten to twelve to finally fifteen reps over the course of a couple weeks. I had equipment to do bench press, pull ups, and a whole host of other things. The idea was to get better at just some body weight movements first though. I wasn’t trying to jump into a bodybuilding or powerlifting training. My strength and stamina would come back but I wanted to make sure that I was ready for those things first. The first priority was just to keep it simple and work my back up.
As I progressed through the first several weeks of training it was diffficult not to over do it. I have a tendency to try and do too much too soon. This was an exercise in patience to be sure. I knew though that if I tried to do too much too soon, that it would come back to bite me in the ass. As slow as it was, it was better to be consistent and patient instead of rushing things. There were days where I definitely diidn’t feel like training, so I knew I needed to be patient. I remember that prior to cancer, if I had days that I felt as bad as I did, I wouldn’t train. Pushing through the pain, nausea, or fatigue would not result in a net benefit. It would only set me back.
Exercise isn’t easy. If it were, then we’d all look like those Greek gods and goddessses. Even without cancer, exercising can be tough. With cancer, everything gets that much more difficult. It’s difficult for sure, but not impossible. Be patient and be consistent. I’d walk one day, and do some body weight exercises the next. I alternated like this back and forth the best I could.
Due to my illness and recovery, I was very sun sensitive so I couldn’t walk during the day when the sun was up. I had to either walk early in the morning or later in the afternoon. That being said, I could exercise in the garage or in the house. The best time to do it is whenever you can be consistent. Most of my clinic appointments were in the morning, so most of my training times were in the afternoon. I did this just to develop some type off consistent training schedule. Don’t do it when you feel like it, do it when you’ll be consistent. For some this means getting up thirty minutes early and doing it before work. For others, this means doing it on the way home from work. Whenever you do it, make a time and a commitment to it. Remember, the best time to exercise is when you’ll consistently do it.
Not sure what to do? I highly recommend hiring a personal trainer. There’s good ones and bad ones out there. Just like fixing a leaking pipe or getting your oil changed, unless you’re the type to want to sit and learn, it’s never a bad thing to stop and ask for help. When I was doing personal training, I always told my clients, I’m not going to be here forever (how true that statement was!), and as such, it is my job to teach you how to do this on your own. I wanted my clients to learn technique and exercise selection. When looking for a personal trainer, make sure you’ll learn from them.
While I’ll admit, it’s nice having client retention and there’s definitely clients that just want to show up and for me to telll the what to do, there’s others that can afford that luxury. For those on a more limited budget, I would teach them one session a week and then give them their homework for the rest of the week. Whether it was cardio, or one or two more weight sessions, they had in hand something to do for the rest of the week before they left the gym.
I still work remotely with many clients. For those that I worked previously with, I feel very comfortable giving them workouts and exercises that we have already done. I can either review videos of their training to make technique changes or get feedback and make the appropriate changes. It’s always changing and the workouts need to adapt as the client adapts. Training needs to reflect both a clients needs and wants. It’s constantly evolving process to make sure a client has everything they need to be successful.
As complicated as exercise can be, it doesn’t have to be. Just be patient and start somewhere. I just recommend to everyone get up and do something. The long list of health benefits to exercise are increased everyday. Exercise is shown to reduce body weight, decrease blood pressure, and have positive efffects on almost all blood markers. Even beside the physical effects are the mental benefits of the dopamine and serotonin mechanics. These chemicals can have a positive bearing on mental and emotional well being.
In the end, it’s better to be doing something rather than nothing. Just a simple walk. Start easy and keep going. Even if you never touch a weight, walking can be the best and simplest way to go about getting some exercise. I can’t stresss enough how much it’ll help get through the whole process of cancer and cancer treatments. Even if you don’t have cancer, walking is still going to be a great way to keep your health up and in the unfortunate event that something does happen, you have that base that will forever beneficial.