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WHY I MADE THIS COURSE
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. As a PT, I dove into the research, and found tons of studies that show the benefits of strength training during treatment (see below).
Once I could tolerate it, adding strength training was a total game changer: I had energy, I slept better, and my body felt familiar again. However, the chemo cycle is a rollercoaster: I would go from unable to leave the couch to swinging kettlebells around within a matter of days (and then the cycle repeats, and repeats). As a PT, I was able to navigate the ups and downs and exercise accordingly, but I couldn't help but wonder 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 from extremely gentle yoga, we make our way up to more energizing movements, 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 who might benefit? Gift them this program!
FROM GENTLE YOGA TO KETTLEBELLS OVER SIX CLASSES
Class 1: Gentle Yoga (25 mins)
Designed to reconnect you with your body once you’re cleared for exercise following chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. No twists, no standing, just a series of easy movements to soothe your nervous system, with 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 with yourself (now that I think about it, that’s every day).
Class 2: Gentle Active Yoga (31 mins)
More challenge in this one – some twists, some standing, even a few squats, but no weights (I’ll warn you when the weights show up). Seated and chair-assisted version included if you need more options. Bigger movements to wake up more muscles and get the blood flowing, balanced with some quieter seated poses. Harder than the first one, but not hard. (Not yet.)
Class 3: Active Balance Yoga (36 mins)
When you’re ready to work and maybe even sweat a little, give this one a go. This sequence builds on what you learned in the first two videos - more flowing movements, balance challenges, and longer sequences, preparing you for some of the strength challenges to follow. It’s the Rocky training montage of movement classes. (See if you can spot the moments I had hot flashes during this one!)
Class 4: Flow, Core, and Bodyweight Training (39 mins)
Ok – here’s where we really start to turn up the dial on our strength and coordination. Just the tiniest bit of weights - not a lot, don’t worry – but fundamental movements to strengthen hips, core and arms, with fun 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 weight training form, so you can head into the final class with confidence. 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. Listen, I don’t make the rules.
Class 6: Strength & Plyometrics 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 plyo (jumping is fun!), and more satisfaction when you’re done. I’ve also broken this one down into parts so you can work your way up to the full sequence or do an abbreviated version if you’re crunched for time.
Can I really do this course during cancer treatment? Won't I be too sick?
That's the crazy thing with cancer, and in particular with chemotherapy: you'll go through ups and downs with feeling good and then not-so-good. All of the research points towards having a better experience (I mean, it's relative, but we do what we can) if you take advantage of the times you're feeling good to get some exercise. It was my experience through multiple chemo cycles that the ones where I really 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 experience is a little 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.
I get it - and it's designed to be progressive, which means you 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. Either way, the most important thing is that you're moving. You might also find that once you're done with treatment, you'll be able to progress all the way to the end.
When will my hair be normal again?
I've been asking the same question for the past year. Let me know if you find anything out.
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