Sandy wants to work out. She wants to feel more physically fit but she is just so tired. She’s been to hell and back fighting breast cancer for the past several years. She has been through chemo, multiple surgeries, testing, waiting and worrying, pain, countless doctor’s appointments and phone calls, needle sticks, hard life decisions, more worrying, and even more pain. She’s been telling herself “I’m strong” for years as she goes through this battle but the truth is she feels weak. Weak in body, mind, and spirit. She’s exhausted and worn down. How can she even begin to think about fitness and working out when she’s so fatigued, foggy, and still has lingering pain?
1. Shift your mindset.
What should Sandy do? Step one is to start with shifting your thoughts.
Acknowledge that it’s okay to feel weak and exhausted. Sandy has been through so much. All of Sandy’s feelings are perfectly normal.
She tries replacing one negative thought with three positive ones. For example, Sandy might say “I don’t think I can do this. I am depleted.” She chooses to replace that with “I have the tools to get stronger. I can start small. I survived cancer. I can do this.” The three-to-one ratio can rewire our brains by shifting from the negative to the positive.
2. Ask yourself: What is your “why?”
Why do you want to improve your fitness? Do you want to have more energy? Feel happier? Sleep more soundly? Lose weight? Gain weight? Write down your goals. Put your goal on a sticky note and put it on your mirror to remind yourself of your “why” every day.
3. Express self-compassion.
We tend to be harder on ourselves than on others. Sandy imagines if her daughter had just been through everything she went through. She would have far more compassion for her daughter than she has for herself. She would tell her daughter that even though she feels weak, she is still strong. She has overcome so much. You have overcome so much. Maybe you are feeling like Sandy and that’s ok. Think of your workout as self-care.
4. Start small and be intentional.
What activity do you enjoy? Do you like to be outside in nature? Go for a walk if you can. Try to increase your time incrementally every day. Start small but aim big. Do something active every day. Measure your steps and try to increase your number every day or on most days. If you have a dog, take your dog for multiple small walks. You and your dog will enjoy the benefits of a change of scenery.
5. Get creative.
Caring for a vegetable garden can be a great way to get outside in nature and do something active. Plus, you can enjoy the benefits of healthy, fresh-tasting food. Start researching now so you can plant a spring garden.
6. Get outside!
Being in nature is therapeutic. Ride a bike, go for a hike, swim. Do what you enjoy because that is what you will stick with. Try to aim for cardio or light weights to increase strength on most days of the week even if you can only set aside 10-20 minutes. Many apps and workout videos are easy and free.
7. Be more active throughout the day.
You can also incorporate a higher level of activity into your daily activities.
We tend to try for the closest parking spaces when walking into a store. Park farther away. Not only will you get more steps, but you may not be crammed next to other cars and have more space.
When you have the option and if you can, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Get those steps in.
Instead of taking that phone call lying down on the couch instead, walk around your house while on the phone.
8. Think about this as a lifestyle change.
Little things add up. Starting small will make a big difference. Don’t just tell yourself you are strong. Act strong.
Get an accountability partner to keep you in check or book a session with one of our professionals on “the after cancer” who will give you a simple plan and encouragement.
Listen to an inspirational audiobook or podcast as you walk. It will make you want to walk further. Think about living a more active lifestyle to build strength.
Treat yourself with love by nourishing your body with healthy activities and healthy food. You can start this year with a new mantra of strength. We have wonderful nutrition coaches on The After Cancer.
9. Tune into the good feelings of gratitude.
Enjoy that post-workout high. Be mindful about how you feel afterward and it will make you want to keep doing it. Let the positive vibes be your reward. Feel the feels. Notice if you sleep more soundly or have more energy throughout the day. Notice what you are grateful for in your body. If we are so busy noticing what we don’t love about our bodies we can’t appreciate what we do love about our bodies. Your body is an amazing thing. Take a few moments a day to really appreciate that.
10. Set a New Year's intention.
One word you can come back as your mantra throughout the year. Gratitude? Strength? Resilience? Hope? Remember Sandy? She sets her word of the year as “resilient” because that’s what she intends to be this year.
You are strong. You can do this. We only have this one life to live. We might as well live it as healthy and happy as we can manage.