I’ve long been an advocate of fitness as a cure-all. Not only does it make you feel stronger physically, it builds your brain power and boosts your emotional well-being. Personally, I believe that being sick isn’t a hall pass to skip exercising and being in shape helps you bounce back from an illness.
As a personal trainer, I haven’t had to test my theory. None of my clients has faced anything more than a head cold or a sore knee, I can’t say for sure what role fitness plays when you get really sick. You know, like the “c-word” sick.
So I’m wondering, even if exercise can’t cure cancer, can it help you heal?
Rhonda Skloff says it can.
Skloff, a personal trainer and Pilates instructor who specializes in working with women who are undergoing or recovering from treatment for breast cancer, has seen firsthand the power of exercise in helping people heal physically and emotionally.
“To know you are able to do something, even the smallest bit of exercise, when you have cancer can be empowering,” Skloff said. “It’s a way people can help themselves, do something for themselves that will in turn help them battle cancer.”
Skloff, who lives in Sudbury, recalls one client who was going through treatments and praised exercise because it could quiet her mind from “thinking about all the cancer stuff.”
Over the next few months, Skloff will offer a series of workshops for breast cancer survivors at Your Element Yoga in Sudbury. The workshops will help breast cancer survivors, as well as their caregivers and supporters, get back on the path to physical, mental and emotional health.
Skloff has been an in-home personal trainer for 11 years. Inspired by a client who was a cancer survivor, she took a certification course seven years ago for personal trainers working with breast cancer survivors, and has worked with this special clientele ever since. This past fall she got certifications in Yoga for Breast Cancer and Beyond, and the Pink Ribbon Program for Pilates and Breast Cancer.
She credits these courses for giving her the knowledge and confidence to work with people who have gone through different experiences with breast cancer. She has found that although the treatments for breast cancer don’t vary much, each patient has a very individual experience. In addition, according to Skloff, people often don’t get what they need when they’re finished with their treatments. For example, many women lose their range of motion and think the damage is permanent, but Skloff has worked with patients to get their range of motion back, which she says is “thrilling” for both her client and herself.
Skloff, who operates under the mantra that “people don’t have the choice to get cancer, but they should have a choice in the way they recover,” usually works with cancer patients and survivors on a one-to-one basis. However, she is offering the workshops on the advice of another client who suggested that she bring her experience to a wider group. While some people don’t want to go public with their diagnosis and fight, others find that being part of a community can make them feel less alone.
The Breast Cancer Fitness and Recovery Workshop will introduce clients to stillness and meditation, weight training, and yoga. The emphasis will be on showing women different ways they can get stronger, feel better and work with their bodies in a safe environment.
In just one year as a trainer, I have seen how hard it can be to work with healthy people who are just trying to lose a few pounds or gain a bit of health. But to work with people who have been through hell, to help them get back to health and make peace with their bodies, that’s more than a job — that’s a calling.
So, can fitness help people feel better? I think so, and I wish Skloff and her clients all the best in their quest for health and healing.
The Breast Cancer Recovery Through Yoga Workshops will be held February 12, March 11, and April 22 from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. The fee for each workshop is $30. For more information on the workshops or to sign up, go to www.yourelementyoga.com and look at the Events page or call 978-261-3202.