Episode 12: Fitness and Fatigue

“Yes, run! Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force.” Yoda – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

I had a really hard time starting this blog post.  When I looked at the date of my last post, I almost couldn’t believe it had been almost two months since I’d written.  A lot of it has to do with the massive bout of fatigue I’ve been dealing with in the last two months.  My brain feels like it’s about 3 steps behind what my body is doing.  It’s like my body is on auto-pilot but my brain is in slow motion.

One of the hardest things I’ve dealt with post treatment is that because of the fatigue and “chemo brain,” my mind is not as quick as it used to be, and I often have no desire to do anything.  I’ve been keeping busy, but it has become almost too much for me right now.  Every day is a bit of a challenge and finding the right combination of things to help me has been hard.

However, something I’ve done to help combat the fatigue is fitness.  I’ve never liked working out.  Part of the reason is that I get easily over heated and that can make me feel faint.  Another reason is that I’ve always been more comfortable being a couch potato.  But something changed as I was nearing the end of my treatments over the summer.

In July, I started a couch to 5k program.  I had been going on walks around the neighborhood park for about a month or so and I was started to get really consistent with it but I needed to up my game. At that point, my fatigue had come back to bite me after I had been feeling better.  I used this app called C25K (Couch to 5k).  It was really easy to use and very easy to follow.  As much as I disliked working out, I hated running even more.  So to push myself to do something good for me that I didn’t like seemed like a great challenge!

Admittedly, it was difficult at first.  Just the thought of running for an extended period of time was exhausting, and I wasn’t sure I could do it.  But the program was a combination of walking and running that gradually increased the amount of time I ran compared to the amount of time walking.  This was a perfect for me.  Each time I did it, I pushed myself to try harder and even though I had a few setbacks, I finished the program!  I learned that I actually enjoyed being outside again!  But I also learned I’m kind of a slow runner.  My original goal was to be able to run/walk a mile in 16 minutes, which I have accomplished.  Now, as I continue my exercise goals, I am working on getting that mile consistently under 16 minutes, which I have mostly been doing.  In fact, I’ve done two 5ks and I’ve hit my goal both times!

Once the winter hit, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run outside, so in January I joined a gym!  I have never joined a gym before (unless you consider high school, but we were kind of forced too, haha) so I was really nervous.  But I am SO glad I did!  I was able to continue to run AND try out some new things.  I tend to get bored easily and being on a treadmill can be very monotonous for me.  I’ve now been weight training and doing some other cardio machines, like the stationary bike, rowing machine, and arc trainer.  The weight training has been very eye-opening because I realized how weak my arms and shoulders are, but apparently I have thighs of steel!  My arms have gradually been getting stronger as well as my knees, which has always the biggest challenge for me.  When I’m at the gym, I feel the most awake and motivated.  As I type this, I am feeling better and stronger.  I just have to keep going!

Another motivation has been running at 5k at Disney World in Orlando.  That was actually the reason I started running.  I knew they had a Star Wars themed race at some point in the year and I thought it would be a great goal for me to have.  So, in a couple weeks, my sister and I will be heading to Disney World to run in the runDisney Dark Side 5k!!  I’m very excited and happy to have my sister there running with me and supporting me.  Plus, I have some friends that will be running as well and have been really helping in staying motivated.

For those interested in my training regimen, here’s what I’ve been doing:

I try to work out 5 to 6 days a week.  I don’t necessarily have daily time limit but I try to workout between 30 and 60 minutes.  I also try to remember to stretch before each workout and drink lots of water while working out!!

3 to 4 days a week: Warm-up 1 to 2 minutes on the treadmill at a brisk walking pace (3.5 mph for me).  Then move up to running for a minimum of 5 minutes (3.8-4.2 mph).  Then back to walking for a few minutes, then back to running, etc…  How fast you go is all dependent on how you run.  I have a small stride which I’m trying to lengthen.  I try to go for at least a mile and if I’m feeling really good I will go another mile or two.  I just base it off how I’m feeling that day and try to be really conscious of my heart rate so that it doesn’t get too high.  This takes me anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on how many miles I go. If I get too bored on the treadmill, after a mile I will work on a bike or arc trainer for 10 to 20 minutes.  If the weather is nice, I will run outside instead!

2 days a week (or in between treadmill days):  Weight training!  I usually warm up on the treadmill on an incline at 3.0mph for 5 to 8 minutes.  Then I do 6 upper body machines (chest press, shoulder press, row machine, triceps, biceps, abs, etc…) then do 4 leg machines (calf press, leg press, abductor, adductor, glute, etc…). Then if I have time, do two cardio machines for 5 to 8 minutes then eventually cool down on the treadmill.

Up next: Episode 13

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