Exercising with Cancer – Exercise Provides a Greater Quality of Life

I’ve not ever published a guest blog but I’ve been contacted recently by David Haas of Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance who was keen to write an article about how exercise can help cancer patients. With the Virgin London marathon just around the corner and me running it for Macmillan Cancer Support  after fundraising for the last six months, it seemed a very fitting subject, so I agreed to let David write a guest post for my blog. Here’s what David has to say….

Exercise Provides a Greater Quality of Life

Exercise is important for individuals who are experiencing cancer at any stage: diagnosis, treatment or recovery. The type of exercise recommended may vary but overall exercise can help individuals with cancer have more energy, be physically healthier and feel better than those who do not partake. An exercise plan should be developed with the help of a physician so that it is deemed safe, but it is important for individuals going through cancer to try their hardest to stay physically active.

There are many types of exercise that can be helpful during cancer. If an individual is feeling tired and lousy because of treatments or medications it is recommended that light exercise be performed regularly. This can include taking a short walk around the neighborhood or hospital, or doing light stretching or yoga. These activities will help invigorate a tired patient but will not make them feel exhausted or increase their feelings of sickness.

Individuals who are experiencing troubles with their lymph nodes during a cancer prognosis are prompted to exercise to help reduce swelling. Light weight lifting, mild aerobic exercise or yoga are all helpful during this time. This should be performed under the recommendation of a physician to ensure that it is safe for the patient. People with cancer, such as mesothelioma, can feel better after doing some health-promoting exercises.

Yoga is an exercise that is good for people in all stages of cancer because it is a mind and body exercise. This means that it helps the body to grow stronger and fitter but it also helps relax the mind. Yoga has been known to bring spiritual awareness to people and help them gain a more positive attitude on life. If this is performed during cancer treatment or recovery there is a better chance that the patient will feel better and fight harder to cure themselves of the disease.

Having cancer can cause depression in many people. Exercise helps to elevate the feel-good chemicals in the body that naturally help diminish depression. Patients who exercise regularly do not report having as many problems with depression as others do who do not exercise. This is one more reason why adding a few minutes of exercise to a person’s daily routine can help them to recover from cancer more quickly.

Life after cancer requires that individuals exercise to help prevent future cancer from occurring. Exercise can help prevent the occurrence of many types of cancer including breast, colon, endometrial and many others. It is recommended that adults recovering from cancer exercise three to five days per week for at least one hour at a time. A healthy lifestyle that includes eating a diet rich in nutrients can also help the individual’s quality of life. Fighting cancer is a difficult battle and exercise can help people get a little closer to winning. There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer but individuals who exercise generally feel better than those who do not.

If you, a friend or a family member are going through cancer, why not speak to someone like David and have a chat about how exercise can help you and what you should be doing. You can contact David through his blog at The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

If you would like to find out why David’s blog is so fitting, please feel free to read my story and why I’m running the London marathon for a cancer related charity at my just giving page.

Remember, exercise can help in all areas of life, whether you have an illness or you don’t. You are not alone; there are plenty of people across the world that you can talk too that will help you and support you along the way.

Thanks for reading David’s post.

Fail to Prepare; Prepare to Fail!

After using the phrase ‘Fail to prepare; prepare to fail!’ this week, I thought it would be a great place to start when writing my blog. As I’m in the process of training for the London Marathon in 2012 I find myself back in the same mindset as I was as a footballer, not leaving anything to chance and making sure every training run is prepared for properly. It made me think about how others prepare themselves for their sports or just for training in general. I’ve come up with a few questions and tips that might help you train and perform to your best…..

  • Are you eating the right foods before training or the main performance? 

TIP – What you put into your body prior to training/performing will provide you with the energy you need to perform at your best. If you don’t eat right, don’t expect to perform to your best! High carbohydrate foods before hand should leave you with the energy to perform at a good level without feeling tired/drained. I tend to eat foods like, chicken, pasta, rice, bananas, toast and cereal. The size and type of food depends on the time of day I eat it and how long I have before the performance. Ideally, a big meal should be eaten 3 hours prior to the performance or smaller, lighter foods such as toast for anything closer to the performance. Remember to leave enough time for your food to go down and start the digestion process or it will sit on your stomach and make it uncomfortable to run or move when performing.

  • Are you drinking enough of the right fluids before and during training or the main performance?

TIP – Very similar to the tip above, the fluids that you put into your body prior to and during training/performing, will prevent you from becoming dehyrated and will replace lost salts from sweating. Drinking plenty of water before training/performing will help the body be at its best. If you feel dehydrated the damage is already done! It only takes 2-3% of water loss in the body before endurance starts to suffer and your performance also suffers. A little bit more(5%) and it effects the mind making it hard to concentrate and the body continues to suffer with pace slowing down. Keeping hydrated is vital! Isotonic drinks are a good tool during training/performing as they replace lost salts and also have a high concentration of carbs to keep the energy levels up. If possible, try to take plenty of fluids with you during your training/performance and keep drinking small amounts at regular intervals. It’s easier for sports like cycling for obvious reasons that you can connect a drink to your bike, but I’ve been known to hide drink bottles in a quiet place on a route I plan on taking a long distance run, so that I have a drink at certain stages of that run. Don’t neglect drinking fluids and make sure they are the right fluids, not fizzy drinks, tea, coffee etc as they are diuretics and will only dehydrate you more!

  • Do you have the right equipment and clothing?

TIP – This is a very important tip! Having the wrong equipment or clothing could be costly, not just because of comfort but because you can risk injury. Until you know a sport, it’s very difficult to know what you might need, so make sure you speak to the right people and get advice on the essentials from people who perform in that sport or know their stuff. An example: Until running long distances, you might not have ever thought about blisters, chafing, correct trainers for your gait etc, but all of them can make the difference between performing at your best and a very uncomfortable event. Clothing such as 1000 mile blister free socks, lined shorts, vaseline or other lubricants to prevent chafing and correct trainers(sometimes fitted with orthotics if necessary!) are a must. Sometimes it’s trial and error but there are specific sports shops that can advise you if you need help. How about riding up a steep hill on your bike and the gears keep slipping? Again something that can cause an injury if you’re on a road amongst traffic and can really make your ride much more difficult. Maybe it’s about the right foot wear in a football match. Do you have moulded boots for hard grounds and studded boots for soft weather grounds? It’s not just the equipment/clothing it’s also the colour! I have recently been on a training run in the clothing you can see in the picture to the right which looks fine until you know I went out later in the day and misjudged the time. I ended up running in the dark in black clothing without any reflectors on. I rarely make mistakes like this and there were no problems on the run, BUT there could have been and next time I might not be so fortunate. I have learnt from my mistake and it’s a good mistake to highlight as an example of the title of this blog.

So in conclusion, don’t leave things to chance! There are many more tips I could give you about performing to your best but the blog would go on all day, so I’ll save it for another day. The higher the level you perform at, the smaller the margins are. Not drinking enough, eating the wrong foods at the wrong time, wearing the wrong clothing and using the wrong equipment and generally not preparing for your performance could be the difference between being a winner or a loser! What would you rather be?

Running the VLM Marathon in Memory in 2012

Many people out there will know it is the time of year where they are starting to prepare for the Virgin London Marathon in 2012, after receiving an acceptance letter from the ballot, or feeling the disappointment of receiving a rejection letter instead. I was one of the latter and when you have your heart set on something as much as I did, I can tell you just how bad it feels to have the chance taken away.

I was determined that 2012 was going to be my year for running the marathon and I decided the ballot wasn’t going to be my last hope, so I made the decision to go for a gold bond place with a charity instead. I had planned on raising money for Cancer Research if I was accepted through the ballot, so this was the first charity I contacted. Unfortunately all their gold bond places had been taken so I contacted other relevant charities that meant something to me. I’m happy to announce that I was accepted by Macmillan Cancer Support and I can’t put into words how happy this has made me. If you read my story you will understand why. The story behind running the London Marathon for a cancer charity can be seen at my Just Giving page. I urge you all to read my story and then decide if donating is something you would like to do. If it isn’t, all I ask is that you share the link and make people aware of what I’m doing and for doing that I will be very appreciative.

So, now the hard work begins! The long training runs and the fundraising over the next six months all leading up to one day. I have no doubt it will be one very long emotional day for me but with all the support I have behind me, I know that when my legs start to fatigue, thoughts of everyone that has donated over the six months will give me wings and lift me to my goal. I will remember every penny donated to such an amazing cause and together we will make a difference to so many lives around the world.

As part of my fundraising and aim to raise awareness, I have started a facebook page to keep everyone that joins, up to date with my latest training, news, fundraising events and ‘thank you’s’ to everyone that donates to the cause. If you are on facebook, please feel free to join my page and support me. It’s amazing how far a few words of support can go on someone’s wall!!!

For the next six months, deep in the back of my mind one date will always be there…..22nd April 2012. When that day arrives I will run with all the passion and emotion I have in me and I WILL NOT let anyone down. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading this blog and my story, and also thank everyone for all the support you have given me so far and right through to race day. Without you, this would never be possible.

Thank you all.

 

What motivates the motivators? London Marathon 2012?

In my blogs I normally give tips, statistics and ‘do’s and don’ts’ about exercise, but this time I have decided to let you in to my own recent exercise programmes and what has driven me to do the routines I have over the last few weeks.

After a couple of clients achieved the amazing goal of running the London Marathon and running it in a very respectable time, I decided to enter it myself for 2012. It has been a dream of mine for many years but has always taken a back seat because of my football career. Since retiring from football through knee injuries and being told I should avoid certain things(like running on concrete), the dream of running a marathon faded too. Although, being stubborn and wanting to prove my mental strength has made me believe anything is possible, even the impossible! So, when the ballot opened on April 26th I woke up and the first thing I did was grab my phone, entered ‘London Marathon entry 2012’ into Google and typed my details in to enter the ballot. From this moment on, all I have had in my mind is ‘what time do I want to finish the marathon in and what pace can I sustain?’ There has never been one thought of ‘can I get through the marathon?’ My fitness thoughts have been taken over by running 26.2 miles!

The next step for me was to think of a target that I would be happy with and come up with a strategy for running it in that time. So, I have two targets:

  1. I have always said anything under 4 hours is fantastic but I want better than that, so the first target is 3 hours 45 minutes. I would be very happy running 26.2 miles in under this time which is roughly an average of 8.55 min/mile. This is a good pace to sustain for such a long distance, but the competitive nature inside of me always wants to push for more, which leads me on to my next target………
  2. The second target is 3 hours 30 minutes. Now this is what I call pushing the limits! To get this target I would have to sustain an 8 min/mile for the duration of the race, which if you run a lot, you will know is a tough pace to run at for such a long time, especially if you are 90kg like me! It could also be harder if the heat is as gruelling as it was for this years marathon.

As a personal trainer I always look at things with a positive mental attitude (PMA, the old cliché!) and when I put my mind to it, there is no turning back. I currently run 10 miles 2-3 times a week between 6.45 – 7 min/miles, so slowing my pace to roughly 8 min/mile is possible! Isn’t it?

The next step was to add a few miles to my regular route and slow my pace to see if my theory could become practice. Since then I have had two longer runs in amongst my usual 10 mile runs. The first being 15 miles in 1 hour 54 minutes and the second being 17 miles in 2 hours 7 minutes(through the empty streets whilst our future King was getting married!). What I found is, it is quite tough to slow the pace that I am used to running at, hence the quick times for both longer runs. It has given me a strategy that I think will help me achieve my goal, but neither of these runs were easy, in fact the last few miles were draining!

In conclusion, I have realised that I can maintain the pace needed to complete my goal and the new strategy will help me towards that. Obviously(unless you are a professional runner), running for that many miles, everyone will slow naturally as they fatigue, but what I want to do is to get to 16 miles in roughly 2 hours. This will leave me 10.2 miles to run in 1 hour 30 minutes (roughly 9 min/mile), which will hopefully leave me enough time to cover the miles at a slower pace once fatigue starts to set in. The only thing left to do is actually run the marathon!

That’s if my entry is successful, ha ha, it could all be for nothing! Or would it?

Some might say why train until you know if you have been accepted or not(which is early October)? I say, why not? If it inspires you to push harder, get fitter, stronger and healthier along the way, is it a bad thing or a good? Many people struggle with motivation and dreams like this are a great way of motivating anyone, so the answer is…..becoming fitter, stronger and healthier can only ever be good no matter what your goal is. Even if you don’t quite achieve it, your body will always benefit from the training you have done.

My tip for you this blog is; don’t wait to start becoming healthier, we can’t change the past, we don’t know what will happen in the future but we can do everything we possibly can in the present, to help us achieve and be successful when the chance is given to us!

I hope you enjoyed reading how my mind works and just think, whilst your reading this, I might be pushing the limits a little harder on my next run to achieve a life long dream………..the London Marathon!

Marathon Recovery

As I sat down to write this blog I could think of nothing more fitting than a few tips about recovery, on the weekend of the London Marathon. Thousands of runners and walkers will be thinking about crossing the finish line at 26.2 miles but the truth is, it doesn’t stop there! What happens next is just as important as the training leading up to the marathon and the marathon itself. Having a few clients running the marathon, I thought there will be many people out there that don’t know the best way of recovering and could do with a few tips. Many of these tips can be used for recovery after any exercise or sports event not just for such gruelling events as the marathon, so here goes……

  • Cool down: Recovery starts straight away after the event. A cool down is very important to reduce stiffness and muscle soreness created from lactic acid build up in the muscles. A thorough cool down can help flush the lactic acid away and reduce DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness). A jog, walk and thorough stretch could be the difference between recovering in days or weeks. Once you have stopped running, your muscles will stiffen up, even after a cool down, so it is wise to keep moving every 15-20 minutes on the way home from the marathon, to prevent an uncomfortable recovery period.
  • Rehydration: Replacing lost fluids is vital. You can lose lbs just from lost fluids that need to be replaced for a speedy recovery. Also body salts and electrolytes need replacing and a good way of doing this is to add a dioralyte sachet to each bottle of water that you drink. They don’t taste great but they will help to replace the salts and electrolytes that your body has lost. It is important to drink water throughout the day not just gulp straight after the race. A good way to judge dehydration, is the colour of your urine. If it is dark, you need to continue to rehydrate until it is more of a pale yellow colour.
  • Replacing energy: Eating a high carbohydrate and protein meal will help your energy levels and the protein is great for muscle and tissue repair. If possible, try to eat a good meal within the first hour after finishing the marathon. Chicken and pasta are a good example of a high carb and protein meal.
  • Ice: If you can cope with it and you have somewhere to have one, an ice bath is great for keeping inflammation to a minimum. Ten minutes are all you need to help with your recovery. If you really can’t handle an ice bath, putting an ice pack on any areas with aches or pains will again reduce any inflammation and help speed up recovery. As much as you might want one, refrain from having a warm bath or sitting in a hot tub as they will increase any bleeding in muscles and can impede recovery.
  • Blisters: If you have accumulated some blisters during the 26.2 miles, they can get very uncomfortable after the adrenalin of the race fades. What you do with them depends on if the blisters are in tact or broken. If in tact, I would suggest sterilizing a needle, bursting and draining the blister and get some fresh air to it so it can dry out. If it has already broken and split away from the skin, it can become very sore. Cleaning it with antiseptic will stop infection but it will need to dry out and  heal without further rubbing/friction on other shoes. Try to keep the area open, flip-flops will allow you to air the blister out without rubbing unless it is under the foot.
  • Rest: After all the above, arrange a massage or two to help you rest and move any muscle soreness you still have. The general rule for exercising again is to rest for as many days as the amount of miles you run (26 days) before training again, but each individual is different. Let your body speak to you and if it feels too early, it probably is!
  • Sleep: The following days after the marathon, it is important to get plenty of sleep. This is your body’s time to heal and a good nights sleep can make a big difference in the way you feel mentally and physically.

Now you have completed the marathon and achieved what so many can only dream of, it is up to you to take care of your body and use these tips to help you back to normality.

Congratulations on your achievement.