Lifting weights might sound boring and feel too much like work in the early stages. However, with a disciplined schedule, using appropriate exercises and techniques, the duration of a workout can be shortened. The results in strength and improved muscle tone are rewarding but the positive effect on bone density is a critical benefit for those living with multiple myeloma.
I began a month ago with the advice of oncology professionals at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who have treated my multiple myeloma for nearly ten years. In a recent post I mentioned that Dr. Robert Schlossman had reduced the frequency of a Zometa infusion from once every 30 days to a 60 day interval. Reducing exposure allows me to continue to benefit from Zometa while lessening the probability of complications. Certain exercise complements the bone strengthening effect of Zometa.
Nurse Katie Murphy advised me that walking, fast and with more arm involvement, produces impact, and thus promotes bone density in the legs, hips and back. For the upper skeletal region, the arms, shoulders, chest and ribs, she recommended a routine using light, handheld weights. I work toward completing five sets of my routine. Each set consists of five discrete exercises and I try to perform six repetitions of each individual exercise in the set. So my routine, with a 15 lb. dumb bell in each hand, follows:
1) Shoulder or 'military' press: (the entire five exercise set is done standing), six reps (repetitions) and return weights to the rest position at your sides.
2) Side Flies: From the rest position, six reps, extending arms, elbows locked to the sides and up until parallel with the ground.
3) Forward Flies: With one foot slightly ahead of the other, from the resting position, six reps, extend the weights forward and up with elbows locked, until hands are at about eye level. Return to rest position.
4) Upright rowing: Six reps, lifting along the line of the upper torso until the weights come together beneath the chin.
5) Shoulder roll: Six reps with the elbows bent and weights held to center chest. While keeping elbows tight to the ribs, roll the weights out and away to the side as far as is comfortable, then return weights to the center of the chest, forearms parallel to the ground throughout.
The key is to move from one exercise directly to the next. After completing the first set, take a couple of breaths and begin again almost immediately. When you are able to do five complete sets, 150 total reps without stopping, move up in weight.
Out of concern for my technique a friend recommended a long running PBS exercise program called "Body Electric", which I found on line. Its Founder, Margaret Richard, leads viewers through a series of exercises using light weights and strict adherence to proper form. This avoids injury and optimizes the effect of the workout. I procured the latest dvd, and although Ms. Richard claims to be my age, (she appears to be much younger), I have to admit, I was unable to match her endurance and strength as I began the program.
Though I'm not able to work out as hard as I used to, I feel better doing what I can. As important, I feel a sense of satisfaction, flying in the face of this beast we call multiple myeloma.