As we shift from a cold, dark winter to the bright warmth of spring, you may be seeing a lot of activities taking place all around you. This is the season for 5K runs, bike rides, and fitness challenges, all geared toward the shedding of your winter layers to achieve the goal of having a “beach body.” If you are in the middle of or have recently completed cancer treatment, this could all rub you the wrong way. Even if you had a daily exercise schedule prior to treatment, it is sometimes challenging to jump back into the same routine and expect that everything will “just come back.” Here are five tips on how to re-enter your fitness routine, if you had one prior to treatment, or how to jump start one, now that you have completed treatment:
- Listen to your body. You and your body have gone through a lot together during the course of treatment. It is quite possible that you experienced feelings and thoughts that you never knew existed prior to treatment. Be sure to check in with yourself to determine your true energy levels and be gentle with yourself knowing that your cancer treatment impacted all aspects of your physical and psychological self. Know yourself and respect your edges and limits. Start where you are.
- Although there are multiple ways to jump into your community’s 5K or an upcoming bike ride, be sure that you train adequately. Do not just run that run or participate in that bike ride without adequate training. Always check with your doctor first before starting any new physical activity.
- Rebuilding your strength is essential and is the core foundation of any long term and successful exercise routine. Try to incorporate a regular practice of yoga into your routine. Check in your community for classes that are geared to people with cancer. (The Abramson Cancer Center offers daily yoga classes) Yoga is a wonderful practice to restore your energy, manage fatigue, and prepare your body to embark on or resume a fitness routine after cancer treatment.
- Visualize your goals and be realistic about achieving them. Keep a daily activity log that includes walks, stretches and any other physical activity that you are doing to work toward your goal. As you embark on your new fitness regime, keep all that you have been through with your cancer treatment in mind. Know that your body is recovering and visualize your strength in mind, body and spirit to achieve any of your goals.
- Tell a friend or family member about your fitness goals. Whether it’s being able to walk around the block twice a week or run a marathon next year, sharing your goals with loved ones who have supported you throughout your treatment will be an inspiration to all!
Most of all, it is important to recognize the challenges you have encountered along the way of cancer diagnosis and treatment and the toll it has taken on you and your family. Give yourself the permission to start slow in order to build up to the fitness level you are most interested in achieving. Know that you are supported by your family and loved ones and the community. There are many organized events that benefit various cancer communities, hospitals and organizations. Seek them out as you will have the opportunity to meet other survivors who, just like you, are interested in keeping their bodies and minds strong and sound with the great tool of fitness and exercise!