Strength Training After Breast Reconstruction
Is exercise after breast reconstruction possible? Yes, it is even A.W.I.N! How about strength training? Absolutely and yes, A.W.I.N.! My A.W.I.N. acronym is meant to inspire you, motivate you, and share with you my tips on the value of exercise and how to begin thinking about weight training. In 2014, I had DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Starting or knowing what you can and cannot do is important after surgery.
A – Ask Permission to Begin Exercise
This is the most important piece of the puzzle. Your surgeon knows when it is safe for you to return to exercise after your surgery. I used to do planks every day before my DIEP flap surgery. It wasn’t until I got complete clearance from my reconstructive surgeon that I began doing them again after surgery. The intensity and type of exercise you do after surgery should always be approved by your surgeon. Ask them to refer you to a program they know about or a resource they can provide for you to get started. There are many wonderful on-site or online programs run by certified instructors who work with cancer patients. ASK!
W – Know Your Why?
Set realistic, attainable goals after your surgery. Your body is going to feel different now than it did before surgery. If you are doing it simply to lose weight or get back into a certain dress or pant size you may be setting yourself up for failure. Reset your compass. A remarkably simple goal is to say, “I’m doing this for my health.” That is an attainable goal and you are worth it! I am more present for others, family, and friends when I prioritize my own health and stick to my exercise routine and schedule.
There are strong evidence-based studies showing the benefits of exercise for those affected by breast cancer. A recent article published by ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) states that “Among cancer survivors, exercise across the cancer care continuum is effective at reducing various treatment-related adverse effects, such as fatigue, anxiety, and depression, and improves quality of life, physical function, sleep, and bone health.”
I – Inspiration from Others to Continue Exercising
Find those who inspire you to continue your exercise routine and schedule. I have a wonderful example of something that happened to me recently at the small gym I go to. Last year, at the youthful age of sixty-six, I invested in a personal trainer at my gym, something I never thought I would do. I learned how to deadlift inspired by my oldest son. He was sure I could do it with the guidance of a trainer.
There is a gentleman at my gym who is frequently deadlifting and working with free weights. He is a law enforcement officer and used to be a world-class weightlifter now turned husband, dad, and public official. He encourages me to keep deadlifting and increasing my weights only at my comfort level. He taught his own mother to deadlift so she could remain strong to work in her garden and lift her grandchildren comfortably. Performing exercise to maintain function in daily living is a good enough inspiration to do it.
Then there is the gentleman who is soft-spoken, quiet, and I have barely spoken to. However, I learned he recently survived throat and tongue cancer. And yet, he told me through all of his treatments of radiation and chemotherapy, he continued to exercise. He adjusted his routine during treatment but he kept moving. They inspire me. Find an exercise friend, join a Facebook group that encourages members with real stories and ideas for exercise, and surround yourself with folks who will applaud your small victories and get you back on track when needed.
N – NOW! Just Start
It goes without saying, make sure you do tip number one first, ASK permission and get clearance from your surgeon.
As the saying goes, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!” Don’t start out setting yourself up for failure because you think you cannot start an exercise program. My centurion grandmother used to tell me, “Terri, I’d rather wear out than rust out!” Our bodies are meant to move. Even after breast reconstruction surgery. Perhaps I should clarify, especially after breast reconstruction surgery.
If you told me last year I would be deadlifting 130 lbs. at the gym I would not have believed you. But I just started, slowly, with guidance, and inspiration to continue, and look at me now!
Guest blog by:
“Set realistic, attainable goals after your surgery. Your body is going to feel different now than it did before surgery. If you are doing it simply to lose weight or get back into a certain dress or pant size you may be setting yourself up for failure. Reset your compass.”