WHY I MADE THIS PROGRAM
In April 2021, a routine mammogram led to a breast cancer diagnosis, and I spent the rest of the year going through treatment. It was tough, but I am recovered and grateful that it was caught early.
During chemotherapy, I was encouraged to exercise as much as I could. I found tons of research studies that show the benefits of strength training during treatment (links below).
Once I could tolerate it, strength training was a game changer. I had energy, I slept better, and I recovered faster from each round. However, chemo is a rollercoaster. I would go from sick and exhausted on the couch to swinging kettlebells around within the space of a few weeks. As a PT, I was able to navigate these ups and downs and exercise accordingly, but I wondered how non-professionals were supposed to figure it out.
So I've created a six-part program designed to help other cancer patients keep moving during treatment.
Starting with extremely gentle yoga, we make our way up to more energizing movements, including body weight and balance challenges, and finally adding weights. Each video builds on the last, so you can choose where to start, and how soon to move to the next (or just stay with the one that suits you best).
Know someone going through cancer treatment? Gift them this program!
Making these videos was a labor of love, but it did involve labor. The full program is available for free. However, if you can comfortably make a donation, here's what I suggest:
CURRENTLY RECEIVING TREATMENT:
Free. Do not pay me. I made this specifically for you. Cancer is expensive.
FINISHED WITH TREATMENT:
Donate however much you would like, no more than $50. I was still paying for cancer over a year after I finished treatment.
GIFTING TO A FRIEND:
Anywhere up to $100 would be appreciated, but please choose an amount that is reasonable for you.
Class 1: Gentle Yoga (25 mins)
Designed to reconnect you with your body with ease. No twists, no standing, just gentle movements to soothe your nervous system, including a fully seated version if getting down to the floor is not an option. This one’s great for any day that you need a little quiet time.
Class 2: Gentle Active Yoga (31 mins)
More challenge – twists, standing, even a few squats, but no weights (not yet). Includes a fully seated version for more options. Bigger movements to get the blood flowing, balanced with some quieter seated poses.
Class 3: Active Balance Yoga (36 mins)
When you’re ready to sweat a little, give this one a go. This sequence builds on the first two videos - more flowing movements, balance challenges, and longer sequences, preparing you for some of the strength challenges to come. It’s the Rocky training montage of movement classes.
Class 4: Flow, Core, and Bodyweight Training (39 mins)
Here’s where we start to turn up the dial on strength and coordination. Fundamental movements to strengthen hips, core and arms, with playful choreography (don’t worry, you’ll get step-by-step cueing throughout). This one might be my favorite (but don’t tell the others, they’ll be jealous).
Class 5: Strength & Plyometrics Essentials (33 mins)
Maybe you’ve strength trained for years, or maybe you’ve never worked with weights. Either way, this class teaches the basics of good form while lifting. Do I make you jump around a few times as well? I mean, I kind of have to, since it says plyometrics in the title.
Class 6: Strength & Plyo Challenge (41 mins)
You’ve worked really hard to get this far. Your reward? A fun, challenging sequence including more complex weight training moves, more jumping, and more satisfaction when you’re done. This video easily breaks down into parts, so you can start with a shorter version and work your way up to the full sequence.
Can I really do this course during cancer treatment? Won't I be too sick?
The crazy thing with cancer treatment, and in particular with chemotherapy, is that your energy and motivation will be all over the place. Exercise when you're feeling up to it has been shown in research to improve quality of life. It was my experience through multiple chemo cycles that the more I dedicated some time to exercising on the good days, the better I felt overall.
Is it safe to exercise while I'm going through treatment?
In a word, yes - but please get clearance from your oncology team before starting any kind of exercise. Everyone's treatment path is different, and there may be specific circumstances for you that I don't know about.
Some of this looks really hard - like beyond-my-ability hard.
Not to worry - the series is designed to be progressive. Start with the first class, and move on when you can tolerate it. You might get through the first few classes, or you might make it all the way to the end. The most important thing is that you're moving.
Will my hair ever be normal again?
I've been asking the same question for a while now. Let me know if you find anything out.
With much gratitude to Alex Ellis, Trina Altman, Laurel Beversdorf, Terry Littlefield, and Jesal Parikh, who were all instrumental in getting this course made, and to my cancer support team, spearheaded by my mom, Anne Court, and MVPs Matt Court, Marla Lehner, Elise Gibney, Jodyne Speyer, Simonne Overend, Michael "Rearview" Hawley, Karen Khuu, Jackie Finger, and many more I am forgetting, because that's what chemo does to your brain.
Mijwel S, Backman M, Bolam KA et al. Highly favorable physiological responses to concurrent resistance and high-intensity interval training during chemotherapy: the OptiTrain breast cancer trial. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2018 May;169(1):93-103. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5882634/
De Backer IC, Van Breda E, Vreugdenhil A, Nijziel MR, Kester AD, Schep G. High-intensity strength training improves quality of life in cancer survivors. Acta Oncol. 2007;46(8):1143-51. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17851864/
Schmidt ME, Wiskemann J, Armbrust P, Schneeweiss A, Ulrich CM, Steindorf K. Effects of resistance exercise on fatigue and quality of life in breast cancer patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Cancer. 2015 Jul 15;137(2):471-80. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.29383
Montaño-Rojas LS, Romero-Pérez EM, Medina-Pérez C, Reguera-Garcia MM, de Paz JA. Resistance training in breast cancer survivors: a systematic review of exercise programs. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 7;17(18):6511. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7558202/
Klassen O, Schmidt ME, Ulrich CM et al. Muscle strength in breast cancer patients receiving different treatment regimes. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2017 Apr; 8(2): 305–316. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27896952/
Ax AK, Johansson B, Carlsson M, Nordin K, Börieson S. Exercise: a positive feature on functioning in daily life during cancer treatment - experiences from the Phys-Can study. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2020 Feb;44:101713. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31877511/
De Backer LC, Vreugdenhil G, Nijziel MR, Kester AD, van Breda E, Schep G. Long-term follow-up after cancer rehabilitation using high-intensity resistance training: persistent improvement of physical performance and quality of life. Br J Cancer. 2008 Jul 8; 99(1): 30–36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2453017/#bib16