Whether you’ve had a mastectomy, an ostomy, tons of surgeries, or are just trying to get in shape and feel better after cancer; I know how you feel. Cancer almost killed me and most cancer patients have some limitations after treatment. So what the heck are we supposed to do to safely, yet effectively get back in shape? Here’s what worked for me.
Take It Easy: Okay, before cancer you did P90X everyday. Well, you may be able to do it again, but you should probably start smaller to begin with. Baby steps. Your body has been through hell and back. Don’t hurt it more. I had to start by doing exercises for geriatric patients. It makes me laugh now, but at the time I remember having to grind my teeth and almost crying it hurt so much. I literally sat in a chair and practiced lifting my legs. I couldn’t keep up with a 70 year old woman on TV in the hospital. It completely wore me out. Now I can do 100 steps on my stair stepper on medium resistance. Work your way up slowly. No shame in my game!
Do Push Yourself: Let’s face it fellow survivors, cancer hurts and so does recovery. It may hurt you to lift your arms, bend your legs, stand up straight and on and on. The only way that it’s going to get better is if you just keep trying. Don’t go overboard and injure your body, but do a few more reps than you want to. It shouldn’t burn or feel like something is tearing, but it should feel difficult. It may make you cry or grit your teeth. The only way to get energy is to burn some. That’s the way it works. You will probably have a better appetite and feel happier once you get those endorphins going. You have to walk a fine line between not hurting yourself and not trying hard enough. You know your body. Listen to it very intently and it will tell you what it can or can’t handle each day.
Swimming: Swimming can be one of the best exercises for recovering cancer patients. It will take the weight off of your joints and allow you to move freely. I was too fatigued to swim laps, but I would hang on to the edge of the pool and just kick my little chicken legs furiously. I had no muscle whatsoever, but after about two months of this, I had my first compliment on my legs. It felt great. Even better, I could walk through the grocery store by myself as long as I had a cart! Freedom!
Exercise Bike: I love my exercise bike. I got it at Wal-Mart (which I totally despise) after treatment because it was cheap. I think I got it for under $100 dollars. It has a calorie burn counter, resistance, and mileage counter. Ha, as if I could peddle a mile! I didn’t focus on how far I went, I started at 60 seconds and tried to add a little time each week. I’m up to three minutes now. An exercise bike is really good to help you improve your stamina if you’ve been bed ridden or had atrophied muscles. It’s also great cardio and if you can’t leave the house yet, you can close your eyes and pretend you’re going somewhere (laugh, please). It’s not funny, but it is.
Walking or Jogging: Walking or jogging are both wonderful ways to improve your stamina, and are fabulous cardio workouts. I had to start by walking to the end of my street and back. It took everything I had to do it. Now I can power-walk around the park. I’m not up to jogging yet, but I’m working on it. It’s really hard for the first week or two, but after that it starts to get easier. If you feel dizzy, don’t go alone in case you fall.
Seated Exercises: If you get a workout band, you can do some things right on the sofa or in bed. Place your feet on the floor, over the middle of the band, and hold the grips to do arm curls, side arm lifts, or hold the grips firmly and do resistance leg lifts. If you put both feet on the band, you can do both arms at once out to the side. It may sound silly, but if you’re barely able to stand or lift your arms, you will notice more strength after a couple of weeks of this.
Bow Flex or Total Gym: If you can afford it, I really recommend a Bow Flex or Total Gym. The reason is that you can do so many exercises on them and can do what’s comfortable for you. I won a Bow Flex as a sales bonus before I got sick and I put it on the 5 pound weights. I can do leg lifts, chest exercises, back exercises and so forth. I know they’re expensive though. If you can’t afford something like that, try thinking of a way to do the same exercise using a resistance band or little tiny weights if you can hold them.
Special Note: Obviously, different kinds of cancer are going to affect different body parts. I have issues with my legs and abdomen, stamina, and muscle atrophy. Whatever your issues are; just remember to take it easy and work your way up, listen to your body, and don’t feel bad if you have days when you aren’t able to do much more than get out of bed. It can take years to heal depending on what you’ve been through. Just enjoy each day and do your best.
For More Health or Cancer Related Articles, Visit Carrie Williams Homepage. Her articles are written from the heart for the purpose of helping others.