I am troubled that anyone could read my blog or the Life-Cise website and think that I am senselessly pushing people to exercise beyond their limits. I feel like I should apologize, or at least further explain.
By now there has been enough anecdotal evidence and rigorous research showing vast benefits from exercise throughout cancer treatments that I am so surprised to still encounter the attitude that cancer patients can’t do any exercise. (You can find information on recent research on the Life-Cise News page.) I run into this occasionally from doctors and even patient support professionals. I once had the director of patient support at a major cancer center in New York tell me, “You don’t understand, our ladies can’t possibly do that! They’re far too tired to exercise.” Given the weight of scientific evidence to the contrary, this attitude shocks me every time!
What is sometimes missing from discussions about exercise, and what I constantly strive to impart to people, is appropriateness. As I said in my last post, there is no one correct amount or type of exercise. What is appropriate for you is completely individual. And it is never constant. Your exercise routine should never be routine! It should always be changing to reflect the current state of your body.
There are times that getting out of a chair or walking to the mailbox is an appropriate fitness challenge. I know, I’ve been there – too many times. At those times, I tried not to think about it as a failure or that I was too weak to do anything. I tried to see it as what I could do. It might be a shock that I had gone from being a very fit person, climbing mountains and skiing, to someone struggling to stand. But I chose to look at it as simply my starting point. It was just my current state, and a place from which to build.
I have on occasion been accused of being Pollyanna-ish in my outlook. Maybe so. But I also think it’s a healthy way to look at it.
And I stand by my strong belief that exercise – whatever constitutes “exercise” for you at any given time – is good for more than just your body. Every time you choose to take the stairs, or go for a run, or struggle to walk to the next room rather than just sit and say you can’t do anything, you are choosing health. You are making an active choice for something better than your current situation. You may not be where you want to be yet, but you are choosing to continue heading in that direction. And there is great power in that choice!
Fitness is about so much more than time on a treadmill or numbers on a scale. I strive in my writing and with my clients to stress that what matters is you as an individual. All cancer survivors are survivors in very individual ways. We experience cancer and our treatments (and their side effects) in our own way. So, too, should our fitness plans be individual. That’s one of the reasons I offer individual exercise DVDs, developed and shot for each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all workout. What someone else is doing doesn’t matter. Finding what is appropriate for you does matter.
If I have gotten away from that message of late with all my writing about goals and my own running adventures, I apologize. What I am doing has no bearing on what you can or should be doing – except maybe as a lesson in working toward a goal, or as a little inspiration. Whenever I give workshops, I stress that if people ever see me working out at the gym, they shouldn’t be scared or freak out. I work out at a pretty intense level, but I never expect anyone else to do that. I always work with them to find what is safe and appropriate for them.
So, if I have not been clear or have gotten off-message, I apologize. I will try to do better in the future. But I do not apologize for encouraging you to stay involved and accountable for your fitness and your health. To push yourself, to strive for more, to claim the power in making choices. I do not apologize for wishing you great strength. I do not apologize for wanting you to feel as good as possible for as long as possible.