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Training to fight cancer

As a personal trainer, I get the opportunity to make a difference in my clients’ lives by helping them to feel good, both physically and mentally. In truth, it really all comes down to the client; their values, focus and ability to lead a reasonably balanced life that enables them to reach their desired goal. The motivation and desire to achieve their goal comes from themselves. My job is to help them keep that motivation, give them the correct tools and to educate them along the way, although there are always going to be challenges and obstacles. As a trainer you become a positive person in their team.


Approximately eight weeks ago, a client of mine was diagnosed with colon cancer. She had felt fine physically with the only symptom being what had previously been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. Keeping a close eye on her energy levels and constant bouts of IBS, she was persistent with her doctor and was eventually diagnosed with colon cancer.


On receiving this kind of news, I could see that she was instantly forced to think about so many different things, like how her illness would effect her business, her spouse and all the everyday things she has to deal with, as well as booking hospital appointments and planning her life around the upcoming treatment.


This really is a huge challenge. Along with making these decisions, you then have to go ahead and carry them out and fight with a positive attitude in the midst of uncertainty, as well as dealing with feeling ill and experiencing bouts of low energy.


When faced with such circumstances, I guess you can either give up or choose to do all you can – which isn’t the easy choice. As far as I can see, this is a choice that needs to be made time and time again as you face the different physical and emotional challenges that cancer brings. My client has chosen to get up every day and work with the people around her in a positive way.


Performing exercise, and especially working with a trainer, is something that can really empower a person. I can see that she is using these sessions to set up her own success and that they lift her self-esteem and really make her feel good. So she has chosen to keep up her training regime no matter how she feels.


Our main physical goal is to maintain her cardiovascular fitness along with maintaining her strength, which not only helps her to feel in good shape but also will keep her strong to better tolerate the treatments she is going through and the ones to come.


We take each session as it comes, depending on her energy; if she is feeling low in energy, we increase her rest time in between sets and work primarily on strength training. I have found that certain medications will cause back spasms, so using some gentle biomechanics work to free and release tight or muscles that are in spasm really help in relieving this. When her energy is good, we can use this and train her cardiovascular fitness to raise her heart rate


Exercise may also have an impact on the cancer’s development. Some recently published theories suggest that improving the hormonal state may have an effect on tumour development. So, for example, controlling insulin levels with exercise, along with cortisol, may help reduce the ability of tumour cells to grow. Research also points to exercise helping with recovery after chemotherapy.


It feels good to be in her corner and to help her fight for her health from day to day, knowing that the time spent with her will really help in so many ways.


I saw this quote the other day: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” and from what I can see, this is so true.

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