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At-Home Exercise During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Published on September 2, 2020

What Are Some Good At-Home Exercises I Can Do?

Esther Schorr sits down with multiple myeloma survivor and avid runner Kenny Capps, and cancer exercise specialist Cathy Skinner from Thrivors, Inc., to discuss quality at-home exercise routines and how they've adjusted their workouts due to COVID-19. Cathy discusses the effectiveness of bodyweight exercises vs. exercise machines at a gym and demonstrates five exercises you can do at home. Tune in to hear more exercise tips.

This is part one of a two-part series. Watch Part 2: Getting into an Exercise Routine at Home 


Transcript | At-Home Exercise During COVID-19 Pandemic

Esther Schorr:
Kenny, I was going to start with you. How have you been staying active during the quarantine? How's your exercise routine changed if at all? I know you do a lot of outdoor exercises, but has that changed during this quarantine period?

Kenny Capps:
Yeah, sure has. I've had to sort of refocus what I do. I really was mixing up going in before things got shut down and gyms weren't open anymore and we were at home with people a lot more than we probably would like. I had to change how I did things and what I did. I was at the pool usually two or three times a week at the gym at the YMCA.

How COVID Has Affected Exercising with Cancer

Short runs in the mornings is what it started out with and sort of built from there. And so morning routines is one of the things that changed differently. That was probably the big one. And it wasn't until June that our YMCA pool started opening up for scheduled appointment times that we could go and swim.

And I had to say, and I know people nervous because of the immune system challenges and concerns about going to the pool. I have to say, I did listen to those a little bit and I'm on the advisory board at our local YMCA so they would meet me there at 5:00 AM so that I could have a fairly empty pool to swim. And even now it's not bad. Every once in a while I'll show up, I will go at 6:00 AM and make an appointment to go as long as there's not multiple people in a lane and everybody has to wear masks, but none of the fitness centers were open so none of the gyms in North Carolina are open except for that.

Esther Schorr:
Yeah, no. I do know you mentioned the pools, the YMCA pools. I know that locally to where we are, actually now it's open, but you make a reservation. There's a very limited number of people.

Kenny Capps:
Same here.

Esther Schorr:
I know at our end, just as another perspective, Andrew and I like to bike ride. That's been outdoors. We've been able to maintain that and we take a mask along. If we're passing people, we put those on. But the other thing we did was we discovered YouTube videos.

Basically, we discovered one particular thing on YouTube and there are many, called the Body Project and it's all low impact. You don't need, there's Andrew. You don't need any equipment to do it. And I have to say, there's a very attractive man and woman who happened to be married, who instruct and they have some nice lively music. When we're not outdoors, we've been using that and I've discovered some yoga videos like that.

Kenny Capps:
Oh that's excellent.

Esther Schorr:
Yeah. And then there's Andrew doing his crunches. And the other thing is that we have found using household items because dumbbells are nowhere to be found on the internet or in stores. We found soup cans work really well or wine bottles. And occasionally Andrew uses our dog who weighs 16 pounds.

Kenny Capps:
That's great.

Esther Schorr:
Sorry I didn't catch some video of that.

Kenny Capps:
That's really funny.

Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do With Cancer

Esther Schorr:
I think there is this adaptation going on, but there are a lot of choices. Cathy, I want to give you a chance to share some of the easy bodyweight exercises that you use and that you recommend for people. Maybe you could show those to us now, some ways that people can work at home.

Cathy Skinner:
Sure. I'd be happy to. And I would just add that what I've been doing for exercise during the pandemic is I think of the whole year as a season. I used to coach college women's volleyball and so if you know anything about athletics or college athletics, there's a pre-season and there's a season and a post-season and spring training. Every season around the year should be treated differently and look at fresh opportunities to refresh the body, refresh your routine and think about what's new. Being in the state of Minnesota, I'm riding my bike like crazy and I'm just riding, riding, riding until the first snowfall, which I hope won't come till October or November.

I'm a big fan of using your body weight or using props around the home. And I love seeing Andrew with the cans and Esther, I hope he's lifting filled wine bottles, not empty ones. If you can think of cans of beans or cans of soda or pop, depending on what part of the country you're in, you've seen me do things like bicep curls, but one of the areas that I wanted to talk about today were some of the perhaps more than neglected muscle groups. And to kind of mix up things that you've been doing already. I wanted to encourage you to find cans or some kind of hand weights and what we're going to do is work on shoulder raises. You can raise them to the front and you can raise them to the side. And if we're spending a lot of time on our computers, which we are, what we tend to do is create this forward rounded posture.

And if you're a breast cancer survivor, many times, it's an innate feeling kind of protecting or guarding your chest. And so that also happens, sometimes the tissue because of radiation shrinks, that also makes it tight. What we're looking for is with the shoulder work, we're trying to open up and get to the smaller muscle groups that maybe are kind of a little neglected. And so that could be a nice refresher.

The other muscle group that is sometimes neglected is the triceps, so the back of the arms. And there's lots of names that women like to give to this lovely part as we get older. But what we can do to get at that muscle group is you can actually use the edge of your chair, the palms of the hands are here and you can bend the elbows and then straighten them. And so while you're working the back of the arms, what you're also doing is opening up that chest. Now you might say that this is too easy, so you can extend the legs longer and straighter and then you can lower the hips and raise the hips. That will get immediately after these little muscle groups. If I was in the gym, my preference is that people would use free weights or their body weight more than a machine, if possible, because it's training your brain, your core and the whole neuromuscular system.

The other thing is if you've been following along or you're doing exercises quite frequently, a big favorite is the squat. Pressing the hips back, bringing the hands forward, you'll use your glutes, you'll use your hamstrings. But if you want to give it a little bit of a refresher, what you can do is a single leg squat. You literally bring up one foot, maybe just touch down with the toe and you do the same motor pattern, but on one leg. Because people are bored and they're doing the same thing inside for a long time, think about how can you progress it. And you might say, "Hey Cathy, my balance isn't that great." And I'll say, "You know what? Just put one hand on the chair. You can still do that single-leg lift and then you can go single squat." And what I'd recommend is the hand on the chair, that leg should be up. When you do the other leg, go to the other side of the chair, put the hand and lift that leg. It just biomechanically makes sense.

The other exercise that I love and this will be my last one that I'm going to share. It's something that on Patient Power I’ve described as a tabletop lift. It's a hinge at the hip and then you squeeze the hamstrings and the glutes and to stand hall. One of my favorite exercises gets all the big muscle groups. Now you don't have weights to progress it and make it more challenging, but you can do the single leg. You're going to reach that leg back, you're still going to hinge at the hip and you're going to do the same motor pattern, but only on one leg. And I promise your hamstrings and your glutes will talk to you and then the next day you'll be going, damn that Cathy Skinner. Because your muscles will be talking back in a beautiful way.

Esther Schorr:
It seems like Cathy, a lot of the stuff you just showed us, it goes from quite simple working individual muscle groups, but to sort of jump over the barrier of whether you feel comfortable or not going to a gym that's open or not open. There's still a lot of questions about how safe is that and what precautions. You're talking about using a lot of the muscle groups that you would do if you were working on the series machines, the sequencing machines you'll see. And you can work at your own level. That's really, really good. 

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