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Livestrong at the Y in Towson helps cancer survivors rebound

The Towson Y has a terrific new program offering health and fitness coaching to cancer survivors. I was fortunate to be part of the inaugural class, which wrapped up a 12-week session on Aug. 3. Livestrong at the Y is free and open to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer (in treatment or post) who is looking to get into a safe and regular exercise and wellness regimen.

The 90-minute group classes meet twice per week, and family membership to the Y is included during the program.

After extensive cancer treatments, I found my biggest foes in returning to fitness were lack of energy, loss of motivation and frustration with how much strength and stamina I’d lost.

I was physically and emotionally depleted and knew that getting more active again would help, but felt overwhelmed. I needed ideas, encouragement, accountability and a push. LIvestrong at the Y presented that, at just the right time.

Trainers Karen Wilhour and Emily Rice guided the class, with trainer Greta Hardwick filling in on occasion. Strength assessments were performed at the first meeting, and repeated in the middle and at the end. One-on-one meetings helped trainers pinpoint individualized goals (walk unassisted, lose weight, build strength, gain confidence, etc.).

We were a diverse group, with backgrounds involving different types of cancer, some years out of treatment and others just finishing or starting. The group quickly bonded over common struggles, asking questions and sharing advice, and forming a supportive camaraderie.

Together, we charted the course the class would take. Activities were adapted so everyone could take part.

We were taught a wide variety of exercises. We learned how to use the cardio and circuit training machines and track workouts on the electronic Active Trax program. Plus, we tried the TRX workout system, stability balls, foam rollers, yoga and even tackled the rock climbing wall.

We learned there are so many different ways to get stronger and feel more in control again. Every activity sparked inspiration in someone.

We also had special classroom guests: Chef Jan Newman, of Chez Gigi came to discuss healthy eating; Diana Fusting, EET and Reiki practitioner, facilitated guided meditation and yoga nidra, or a sleep state; Jennifer Cooke, M.Ac.,L.Ac., of Acupuncture Towson, performed auricular acupuncture on those willing; Troy Harris, owner of Unboxed in Hunt Valley, taught us self-defense and boxing moves; and Carole Sharp, LCSW-C, program director at HopeWell Cancer Support, came to explain Hopewell’s programs and invited us on a field trip to their beautiful facility off Falls Road, where we tried a Qi Gong movement class and healing images art therapy.

Livestrong at the Y reinforced the importance of developing healthy habits, setting goals and being accountable for prioritizing fitness, and gave us the tools to do it. I know this program will be helpful to many others in our community.

The Towson Y is now recruiting participants for fall sessions of the Livestrong course (up to 12 people per group). Contact Julie Lincoln at julielincoln@ymaryland.org for details on intake requirements.

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