Offensive Thinking

Brain tumors suck. Hi, I'm Patrick btw. This is my cancer blog. My "normal" stuff is over here.

Controlling Your Body

My pullup bar, one of the few pieces of equipment that really make sense to have
My pullup bar, one of the few pieces of equipment that really make sense to have

Hey everyone, long time no post, sorry for that. I’m still alive and feeling great, and it’s currently my tumorversary week! Exactly two years ago, on 23 February 2011, I had my first surgery. So many things have happened in that time, and I’m really glad to be here to experience it all, feeling better than ever, health-wise. Speaking of which, this is what I want to focus this blog post on, something I already hinted at in the last one.

I was always reasonably active in my life, participating in various sports. The main things I’ve done is to play basketball during high school (“gymnasium” in German, not meaning a gym). Later, at university, I started competitive dancing. Obviously, having major surgery because of a brain tumor threw me back a little in that regard, having to relearn how to use the right side of my body.

Bodyweight Training

I’ve always dabbled in bodyweight exercises though, on and off again and never really seriously. After the craniotomy in 2011, my biggest concern was to literally get back on my feet. I think I did quite good, going from lying in bed barely being able to lift my right leg in the air a couple of inches to walking out of the hospital in about ten days. At some point I also started dancing again, which proved to be a nice physical therapy.

At some point though, I started to get interested in bodyweight training again, mainly because it enabled me to train at home. I don’t like wasting time commuting to and from a gym. If I remember correctly, I started exercising around the beginning of 2012, and to do so continously about mid-2012. Having learned from what I experienced myself, I started to change my training habits slowly. At first, I always worked out after coming home from work. But as you all may know, life itself too often gets in the way, so at some point, I switched to exercising in the morning, to have fewer excuses to miss a workout. With my current workout schedule, I get up at 5:15 three times a week to do a one-hour workout, including warm-up and flexibility work. I’ve started to add a 12min “posture fixing” workout today for my rest days, as I sit on a computer for about eight hours a day, giving me the proverbial computer guy slouch. The normal workout and especially dance training (which I still do, although not as often as my partner and I would like to, for various reasons) already do their fair share of fixing that, but doing some additional, targeted work can’t hurt, can it? Actually, it does, but in a good way…


Nutrition is also very important. Since I met my wife, I’ve adopted healthier eating habits, although it was never really bad like in “only fast food and takeout every day of the week”. I’m also a pescetarian (vegetarian who eats fish and seafood) and my wife taught me a lot about quality food. The only thing I didn’t do was eat enough. See, I always was the skinny guy who thought he would never gain weight. I’m almost 190cm (about 6"2) and weighted around 64kg (about 141lbs) for most of my (adult) life. After surgery, I dropped down to 62kg. That’s way too low for my height, but I never had any health issues with being too much of a lightweight. Recently though, I educated myself about nutrition and the myth of people like me who think they cannot gain weight. It’s amazing how off we are when we estimate how much we eat. I was totally wrong in thinking I ate normally like everyone else when in fact, I ate not nearly enough. It’s a simple equation of calories in versus calories out. Now that I conciously started to eat more and track at least a little bit what I eat and how much, I consistently gain weight. Together with the strength training I do, I’ve upped my weight to around 70kg (ca. 154lbs) right now, starting from last year October. My current plan is to continue and try to add about 1kg per month this year.

Controlling Your Body Despite Cancer

Somewhere in the process of implementing my current training schedule, I realised what mainly drives me in doing all this, and that’s where we get back to the main focus of this blog: Having cancer often leaves you with this feeling of helplessness, as you cannot really control what’s happening to you. Getting myself in shape and eating healthy are two things I can control, so this whole thing gives me the feeling of at least being able to do something. It gives me control over my body, which I somehow lost with the cancer diagnosis. I never know when my next hospital stay will happen and what treatment I might need next. What I know is that it’s going to be taxing on my body, be it another surgery, chemotherapy or radation, to just name the standard treatments. Preparing myself for the eventuality makes me feel better and is one big part of the motivation that makes me get up at 5:15 in the morning and give it my best shot.

So, regardless of cancer or not, get out there, work out and eat healthy! There’s no excuse not to, there are workout programs (I’m including any type of sport here, not only programs for bodyweight fitness or the gym) for almost everyone, regardless of fitness level or handicap. I’ve yet to meet someone with a valid excuse for not doing something. It also doesn’t have to be cancer that drives you, there are a myriad of other reasons. Just make sure you’re doing it for yourself, not anyone else. Motivation has to come from inside you, not only from others. To bring this blog post to an end, here’s a link collection of resources that helped me along the road and continue to do so, in no particular order:

  • Nerd Fitness If you’re a nerd like me, you’ll find ideas like the Konami Code Workout very intriguing.
  • Bodyweightfitness Subreddit Aah, Reddit, the source of so much (weird) stuff. Have a look at this Subreddit’s FAQ, it’s really good.
  • You are Your Own Gym Despite the flashy marketing website, the book is surprisingly good and I followed its workout program for quite some time. I can still recommend it for everyone who wants to follow a solid overall bodyweight workout. It’s also not very expensive.
  • Overcoming Gravity This book won’t give you a workout program, but rather the knowledge about how to make your own program, so I wouldn’t recommend it for the beginner. It’s also quite expensive, but includes chapters about injury pre- and rehabilitation and a lot of information about the science of movement. Some information is dubious though. He especially hits a nerve with me whenever he’s talking about seeing a chiropractor if something’s wrong. I’d rather have you going to a real medical practitioner and not someone practicing pseudo medicine. I don’t want to go into the details of pseudo science/medicine here, I guess I’ll write a blog article about this in the future.

This blog post was also partly inspired by Liz’ post from last year. I wrote my blog post about the loss of muscle memory and published it on the same day, but my post didn’t go into the details of my workouts, so I thought I need to elaborate on that a little bit.