October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which puts a spotlight on a cause that touches countless lives worldwide. Women’s fitness professional Aly Khairuddin is one such person. Following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2015, Aly (now 51) gained weight and felt weaker, leaving her feeling depressed. As a Pilates instructor, she turned to strength training and Pilates to help her regain her muscle tone and enhance her physical appearance. FitNut Loft was born out of Aly’s personal journey to recovery and her desire to create a non-judgemental and inclusive environment where female clients feel comfortable and supported. The women-only fitness studio and gym is uniquely placed to help clients navigate the path of exercise after breast cancer, providing personal training, Pilates, strength training and group classes.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Tips for returning to exercise
“While an ‘I can beat this’ attitude is important, chemotherapy, surgery and reconstruction may be harder than anticipated. Regular and safe exercise can help to reduce your risk, boost your mood and overcome unpleasant side-effects of treatment,” says Aly. “Getting stronger and mobile is the best tool we have, and that has a huge impact on our health, fitness and mood.”
Here are her tips for a safe and effective return to an active lifestyle – and Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to begin!
#1 Start slow
Give yourself permission to ease back into exercise. Gentle stretching will help to stretch scar tissue from the mastectomy, while light movement will get your spine moving in all directions. If required for lymphedema, wear a sleeve to aid movement in the arm and reduce swelling.
Breast cancer surgeries, such as mastectomy or lumpectomy, can sometimes lead to the formation of scar tissue in the chest area. While this is a normal part of the healing process, it can cause discomfort and hinder mobility. Focus on taking deep breaths to gradually expand the lungs and improve chest capacity.
#3 Rebuild your strength
“I felt such relief when I started Pilates,” says Aly. The women-only gym FitNut Loft offers Pilates and reformer Pilates, both of which encourage full-body movement in a supportive manner – ideal if you’ve had joint pain caused by chemotherapy or medication. “Lying down on the reformer, for instance, allows you to strengthen the legs without having to deal with your body weight,” she says.
#4 Celebrate milestones this Breast Cancer Awareness Month and beyond
Acknowledge your progress and celebrate your achievements, whether it’s increased strength or improved flexibility.
#5 Train with a PT
If possible, find a certified fitness trainer who has worked with breast cancer survivors and can adapt exercises to individual needs. FitNut Loft’s bespoke personal training journeys combine both Pilates and strength training, making them ideal for those who are post-rehab or want to gain confidence before joining group classes – and each of the coaches has been personally trained by Aly.
A word from a client
“I’ve been going to personal training sessions at FitNut Loft for the past month, while going through treatment. They’ve helped me a lot! When I need to rest or relax, instead of just lying in bed and taking a nap (which I still do sometimes), I place a yoga mat on the floor and try to replicate Pilates movements I’ve learnt during my sessions. After the surgery, I wasn’t brave enough to actively move my arms, especially on the affected side, but I’m now able to – thanks to FitNut Loft. One tip is to be positive. I consciously try to remind myself of this (and friends remind me too)! While the experience has been difficult, I’ve also learnt a lot of new things since the diagnosis, including discovering FitNut Loft.” – Yukiko Hiizumi, Japanese, early 40s
FitNut Loft is a women-only gym offering personal training, strength training, Pilates and group classes at two locations in Singapore.
This article on Breast Cancer Awareness Month first appeared in the October 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe so you never miss a copy!
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