Cancer and Exercise: First time for everything!
Posted: Mon, 24 Sep 2018 16:35 by Mr Tom Harwood
Click here for my last blog.
BLOG 3: Anxious visits to the gym, trying not to fall in the River Ouse and not being able to move my arms!
So at the time of writing this, it's about a month and a half after treatment has finished and I finally feel ready to test the water (literally)! I've been walking lots throughout, but if I'm going to return to fitness the exercise needs to go up a notch.
In this blog I want to share my experiences of how it has felt running, returning to the gym and general exercise for the first time. Before cancer I was very much in a routine. I would do each of the above a couple of times a week, and try to play badminton and go paddleboarding (when the suns out!). I still could have been fitter, but I enjoyed being in a routine and that feeling after a run is fantastic. However starting from ground zero made me feel very nervous.
First time doing something I love:
At the start of the summer in 2017, a couple of friends and I brought a paddleboard each. I love it, it's relaxing, you see the world from a completely different perspective and you can make it as hard or as easy as you like. All winter I had been gearing myself up for paddling once it got warmer and the days were longer… then came the 2018 heat wave. This was horrible. The weather was awesome, but it came just at the wrong time for me. I was tired out twice as quick and it was much harder to relax. I was craving to be out on the water, so much so I sat in the garden, pumped my board up and cleaned it at least twice…
Yep, sad I know, but having your ability to do something you love taken away from you in an instance was an uncontrollable feeling. Finally in the summer I felt well enough to paddle*. It was still around 30 degrees, I was excited but feeling very nervous. I hadn't paddle since the autumn, I had no idea how long I would last on the water and I was petrified of falling in. At this point I was still receiving treatment, so falling would leave me vulnerable to infection.
Luckily Jake and Steve looked after me, it felt brilliant just being on the water, being in the piece and quiet and finally paddling. This felt like a huge milestone, we paddled for around an hour and a half and although I was tired, I wasn't as worn out as I thought I might be. Relief, jubilation and importantly, very relaxing!
First two runs for an unfit Tom:
As I walked up the stairs to the gym, I felt as nervous as I did the very first time I went. My heart pounded as I walked through the doors, and it was the same on this occasion too. I was completely unsure what to say to people I hadn't seen for months, whether or not to let the staff know I've been unwell or importantly, how I would take to running again.
But I walked through the door and there wasn't a soul in there, so a bit of a non-event really! The gym was empty but the treadmill still worked, so I ran, jogged and walked for 20 minutes. This was a real eye opener and realisation that my body is miles away from 5k's was used to run. You could have filled a bucket as I was sweating so much! As I finished I staggered off the treadmill and felt a little light headed, the room span for a few moments, so I said to myself 'probably best to stop now'.
I hadn't overdone it, my body just wasn't used to that level of exercise. I knew when to stop but it was another stark reminder that my body really had worked so hard with the chemotherapy. My treatment wasn't the longest, but it was intense and aggressive. That first go on the treadmill was tough, yet I was so happy to get it done and jump the first hurdle.
My first run outside was a very different experience. It was a warm sunny evening and I felt free, like I had just been let off the lead and just wanted to keep running! The Forest Gump dream didn't last forever though, after seven and a half minutes I felt dead on my feet. This was progress though, running continually for that time hadn't happened for a long time!
Solid arms after lifting weights, all 10 kilograms of them…
I had been putting off lifting weights. Don't get me wrong, I'm no body builder (see photos above) but I realised how my strength had deteriorated and I needed to build some strength back up. So I picked up the 10kg dumbbells and tried to remember my old routine. This felt great at the time… until two days later. I woke up, went to stretch and I physically couldn't move my arms! I thought I was paralysed or something similar. I comically tried to pull the duvet off and get up so could stretch my arms out properly, it felt like I had claws!
I'm sure we've all woken up a little stiff after something for the first time in a while. This was the same, although I didn't want this every time I did something new!
Lessons I've learn so far:
- Slowly does it. I've been told to take it easy initially and I've listened to the advice. However I thought after a week or so, my body would get back into routine. This hasn't happened just yet, but I am being cautious not to push myself too far.
- Introduce exercises gradually. The weights felt like a good idea, Hopefully a few more sessions like the one above and my body will be used to it.
- Enjoy doing it. I loved running, paddling and sport in general, but I have felt in danger of stopping all together when it's been really tough. You have to remind yourself this isn't going to be a quick fix.
I'd like your fundraising ideas!
I'm looking for challenges I can do as a team or individually. If you've done something quirky and a little bit off the wall, or have some ideas, please let me know!
*Shameless plug, check out SUP Bedford for more info about paddleboarding in Bedfordshire and the local area!