Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hitting the ground running: the Anti-Cancer Challenge Fitness Plan

I may appear to have been procrastinating, but I've been busy these last few days preparing for my brave new fitness plan: I got a comprehensive health check from my doctor (results to be published here shortly), fitness testing at a local gym (ditto) and a seal of approval for my program from Dr Ashley Cooper, an expert in physical activity and health at the University of Bristol.

Since they’ve all given me the green light, it is now time I stopped talking about getting fit and actually start doing it! So here it is, folks: the Anti-Cancer Challenge Fitness Plan, which I aim to follow faithfully for the next year.

For those of you who aren't aware, regular exercise is a key aspect of cancer prevention. (A separate post on this soon.) Since this blog is all about lifestyle cancer-prevention, I am basing my exercise regimen on the World Cancer Research Fund’s recommendations regarding physical activity (more details can be found here).

I have intentionally couched my exercise guidelines in affirmative terms (“I exercise” or “I jog”) rather than aspirational terms (“I plan to stretch” or “I hope to run”) to make them sound more real and convince every last cell in my body that this plan is not up for debate! Here goes:
  • I exercise vigorously (at my age, 44, that’s equivalent to 130-140 beats per minute) for 30 minutes 5-6 days a week;
  • On my 1-2 non-exercise days, I do yoga and/or stretching exercises and am moderately physically active for at 30-60 minutes (e.g. walking, cycling);
  • I mix a variety of activities – e.g. aerobic and strength training – in my fitness routine;
  • I stretch 5-10 minutes daily, following workouts;
  • I limit sedentary habits such as TV (which I hardly ever watch anyway) or sitting in front of the computer (I stand up and stretch for 2-3 minutes after every hour at the computer; I do not use the computer after 10 p.m. and switch it off completely on Sundays);
  • Wherever possible I climb stairs instead of taking lifts and walk or cycle instead of driving.
My weekly program includes:
  • Aerobic activity: Three aerobic exercise sessions of 30 minutes each (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), including five-minute warm-up (fast walking or trampolining), five-minute cool-down (stretching) and 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. The types of aerobic exercise I undertake include jogging, trampoline-workouts, energetic cycling and indoor rowing. I use a cardio-monitor to track my heart beat and stay in a range of 130-140 beats per minute, which is equivalent to 75-80% of my maximum heart rate.
  • Strength and endurance training: Two to three strength & endurance training sessions of 30 minutes each (Tuesday, Thursday, occasionally Saturday or Sunday). My strength training exercises will be based on routines shown here. I begin strength training today with this beginner’s total body workout.
  • Yoga/Pilates/stretching: Yoga or Pilates exercises to a CD 1-2 times a week for 20-30 minutes.
  • Pedometer: I wear a pedometer to assess my level of activity; I aim for 10,000 steps or more daily. (Read more about pedometry here.)
As I neither live nor work near a public sports facility, I undertake all physical activities in or around my home. This involves the following basic equipment: dumb bells of varying weight, an inflatable exercise ball, a large children’s trampoline, a rowing machine, a bicycle and a pair of sports shoes.

I keep a fitness diary (using this template) to chart my progress in the various forms of exercise I do. Each evening, before I go to bed, I decide on what type of exercise I will do the next day, defining clearly when I plan to do this, where and for how long, and lay out the appropriate clothes to wear. My husband has agreed to support me as my fitness partner; each week I show him my fitness diary and we discuss my progress.

If any of you wish to join me in my endeavours, I'd be delighted - it would be very motivating to have a (virtual) exercise-buddy! Since I will spell out exactly what exercise I do when and how, others can join in wherever they live. I look forward to hearing from you!


  1. Conner,
    you sent me a lovely message a few days ago and I have only now found the time to respond. Sorry about that, but I have read your postings and am very impressed with your plan. You are a wonderful writer I would love to include a link to your blog on my own. I would also like to comment on your progress as the year passes. Please let me know if you are interested. Best of luck to you. You are an inspiration to us all.


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  4. So, like my Daddy announced in connection with it, "Trust is the mother of deceit." Somehow or other, I was lukewarm to the concept. This will stretch your mind.

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