Exercise

Important to the Internet Age Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I won’t even pretend to be one.

TCW: I talk about cancer, which sucks. Fortunately, I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, so there’s that.

About a year ago, I started practicing yoga regularly. Last winter, I started skiing. When the snow melted, I started rock climbing. Over the summer, after going to the doctor for my annual checkup, I realized I needed to lose a few pounds, so I modified my diet - ever so slightly - so that I could get on track to reach my target weight.

I’m the healthiest I’ve been in years.

When it comes to why I’ve gone through this turn-around, it actually has very little to do with vanity (though omg seeing my muscles starting to peek through is thrilling, to be sure).

The truth is, I have a family history of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Especially cancer. Over the last ten years, I’ve seen members of my family suffer from every sort of cancer you can imagine: breast, uterine, lung, colon… it’s all there.

For the longest time, I desperately wanted to believe that healthy people didn’t get cancer. So I used to exercise occasionally to avoid it. My reasoning was fairly straightforward: let’s say that everyone starts out with a number of cancer risk points. When you consume lots of antioxidants and exercise (even if it’s only every once in a while), you lower your cancer risk points… right?

Except I’ve seen who survives and who doesn’t. There are no cancer risk points (or at least, you don’t get to change how many you have). At this point, it’s less a matter of how do I avoid getting sick, and more of a matter of how do I tackle it if I get it. Furthermore, how healthy you are has nothing to do with whether you’ll get sick or not. How healthy you are when you get sick, however, has everything to do with whether you’ll beat it or not.

Some cancers are game enders - it won’t matter how in shape you are or how careful you are about your health during treatment. But other cancers have a much higher chance of survival if you start at healthy and stay at healthy.

By “healthy,” I very much mean consistently healthy. None of that exercise-when-the-gym-membership-is-cheaper-right-after-New-Year’s-but-whoops-it’s-February-and-these-oreos-sure-are-more-interesting sentiment. (Though I also think it’s totally reasonable to hang out and watch Netflix while eating a pint of ice cream every once in a while. Just remember to go to the gym the next day - it’s a worthwhile compromise :-))

The key is to find a form of exercise that excites you. There are loads of sports out there; I tried as many as I could until I found ones that I really enjoyed. And then I stuck with them - I’m doing my best to get good at them. I’ve made friends who do them, too. I track my input/output with an app. And I keep getting that little bit of a thrill as more of those muscles start peeking out.

Most importantly, the forms of exercise that I’ve chosen (yoga, skiing, climbing) allow me to step out of my head, even if only for a short period. It’s like meditation to me. The massive benefit is that I’ve learned how to breathe, which helps me lower my own stress levels (a skill that is super useful, no matter what the occasion). The greatness of those muscles are a distant second compared to the calming effects of my brain on endorphins.

I exercise so that I can be healthy enough to beat whatever comes… no matter when that might be.