One of the most difficult aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is adapting your exercise, diet, and activities to your body's changing capabilities. There are countless reasons why our body may not work the same as it used to. Injury, surgery, having children, and even the natural aging process can change our body's ability to function. It could even be something as simple as not getting a chance to exercise for a while.
In my experience, if I don't do arm exercises for a couple weeks, I have to ease back into a routine to avoid straining myself too much and risking injury. When I am in good practice, I can do two sets of 30 wall push-ups (elbows in then elbows out). But if I even go two weeks without upper body exercise, I need to start back at 15 repetitions on each set, rather than the full 30.
And what if you have just had surgery? Many exercises on the blog are related to recovering from or preparing for surgery. I always show you how to do the exercise with no resistance, because adding resistance when you are weak after surgery is dangerous. You have to accept your new level of ability, and slowly work your way back up to your previous capability. Even if you are not strong enough to completely lift your arms, or if you have very low range of motion after an operation, do not feel ashamed and do not push yourself to get better too fast. The wise thing to do is to be confident that you will get better with time, and stick to your new routine very closely.
Recently, I had a blog reader ask me how they should do the breast cancer exercises when they aren't planning on having surgery. Should they do them the same? Differently? Should they bother to do them at all?
My answer was, of course they should do them! These exercises are not just for surgery, but for getting oxygen and healing energy to the site of the cancer. The difference is, what is your 80% level when you have not had surgery? 80% effort after surgery might mean just stretching your chest a tiny bit while lying in bed. If you aren't having surgery, but are going through chemo, 80% effort may be doing a few chest exercises for 10 minutes while sitting in a chair. If you are completed treatment and are feeling healthy, 80% effort could be chest and arm motions with some 5lb weights in your hands, while standing up.
It's all about recognizing what your ability is at this stage of your life, and doing the right amount of exercise to maximize healing and minimize your chance of further injury or illness.