It’s funny, the idea for this post on exercise presented itself when I was, you guessed it, exercising! I like to watch the news when I am on my treadmill exercising and one morning while doing both, I happened to hear about an amazingly simple concept, specialized exercise classes for women with cancer being offered at the Minneapolis YWCA. I thought, wow, what a great idea!
I, for one, have always preferred to exercise in the privacy of my own home, especially in the winter months when it can be extra hard to get out the door to do anything. For a few years my husband and I did belong to a health club. I’m not a great swimmer, so I generally used a kick board while frantically “doing my laps.” When I used it, I always felt like I was annoying everyone around me as they swam by doing their smoothly perfected breaststrokes. Later on, when we had small children, we joined the YMCA. Membership there worked for a while, but eventually after three kids, school and work schedules, it became too complicated to get there.
About that time I began walking, rain or shine, with a neighbor friend – at 6 o’clock am no less! We met nearly every morning and walked (and talked) our way around the neighborhood. Neither one of us liked getting up early, but we rarely let each other down by not showing up, a real benefit of the “buddy” system for sure. Then we both moved so that routine came to an abrupt end.
Next, about ten years ago my husband and I purchased a treadmill and it is still working. We’ve only needed to replace the belt once, (that was an exercise of a different kind, patience!!), so it’s been a great investment and is so convenient to use. I love that. These days the treadmill and walking the dogs comprise my exercise routine.
The surprising thing about this particular feature story was the fact they stated it was a one-of-a-kind program. I found that hard to believe. As someone who has experienced cancer up close I know this concept is a good idea. When you have been diagnosed with cancer and are going through or recovering from treatment, you are self-conscious about your appearance, to put it mildly. Having an exercise class exclusively for others “like you” would be a God-send for women who enjoy (OK, enjoy is a stretch, prefer – that’s better) exercising at a facility in a group setting.
CREW is presently offered at the Minneapolis YWCA in collaboration with Survivor’s Training, an award-winning Minneapolis non-profit founded in 2007 by Wendy Rahn, a breast cancer survivor herself. Wendy is a professor in the Political Science Department at the University of MN and also a wife and mother, so she was and is plenty busy. But like so many others, after her diagnosis and treatment, she wanted to do something positive for others. She wanted to make a difference.
During her recovery, Wendy often felt depressed and discovered the benefit of exercise to be huge.
“The only time I was happy was when I was working out,” Wendy says. (I know, I know, hard for me to relate to that too!)
She even hired a personal trainer and later founded Survivor’s Training to help other women discover similar benefits of exercise following a cancer diagnosis. The mission of Survivor’s Training is:
“To raise awareness of the importance of exercise for cancer survivorship and to promote regular physical activity as an essential therapy for those diagnosed with cancer.”
They aim to educate, facilitate and advocate, pretty impressive! You don’t generally hear exercise referred to as an actual therapy.
The CREW classes are specialized classes, open only to women diagnosed with cancer or those going through or recovering from treatment. These women do not have to feel embarrassed or ashamed when they come to class bald, out-of-shape or tired. The classes are taught by specially trained instructors and are tailored to the individual needs of the participants. In addition to the benefit of exercise, the women also form strong bonds with their “classmates” which often carry over outside the “classroom.”
Wendy has not forgotten about those of us like me who prefer to exercise at home. She also has a DVD which features “real women with real cancer.” It’s called “Celebrate Strength.” I even like the title. Wendy’s DVD has been endorsed by leading cancer clinics and oncologists and has been featured in the magazine, Women With Cancer. Like the CREW classes, it is designed to increase a woman’s stamina, strength and flexibility.
It’s been proven that regular exercise increases a cancer survivor’s odds of living longer. It also may help to prevent recurrence. It’s another weapon in our own personal wars against cancer. And if you haven’t had cancer, it’s another way to perhaps prevent it as well.
We all know exercise is good for us. We all know we need to do it.
Check out a couple other ways to get the job done and if you belong to a health club, you might want to suggest this concept to them as well.
Here are a couple of links to help with that.