Starting From Ground Zero After Cancer


New Member
Feb 11, 2003
What's up folks... so i was a lightweight rower in college, then i got metastatic testicular cancer, DVTs (clots) in both legs, which was a 2 year ordeal, much of it spent in bed. since i am so out of shape and have reduced lung capacity, leg muscles, etc, i'm wondering if i should start lifting weights and jogging for a few months before starting to cycle, or if it's better to just start logging the miles. i'm 26, 6'2", 200 lbs, about 20% body fat (i think). medically i'm cleared for intense exercise.

For some of you exercise gurus, what would be a good 6 month plan starting with very low intensity /duration workouts and building up slowly? right now one flight of stairs gets me out of breath.

B/t/w i just bought a trek 5200 and am waiting for it arrive at my LBS. Thanks...
Hey Powder, glad to hear you are on the road to recovery.
If I were you, I'd start with overall body conditioning. This will consist of a mixture of gym work (resistance training), cardio work (spinning or rowing) and LSD rides (long slow distance). The LSD rides will provide cardio exercise and also condition cycling muscles. Start off by doing a few miles, and then gradually increase the mileage as the body becomes fitter and the legs stronger.
Once a good fitness level has been reached, start incorporating intervals such as sprints and hill climbs into the cycling training routine. Gradually start concentrating more on specific cycling training once the interval phase has been reached i.e. most of the training should consist of riding your bike.

Start paying attention to your nutritional plan too. A good, healthy eating plan will assist with the training and recovery.

Thats what I would do.
Hi Powderfinger.
Welcome to the Forum and congratulations on your recovery so far. Tell us a bit more about yourself. Where are from? Have you been a serious cyclist before? Basically I agree with VO2, with some modifications. In 1999 I had heart surgery followed by a bad time in Cardiac ICU. Like you I was at “Ground Zero”. Weak as a kitten. It took me a year or so to get back to basic fitness. I’m an old guy with diabetes, which slows down the recovery time, so with you it could be quicker. But basically the procedure is the same.
You appear motivated to get fit again. You’ve been cleared for intensive exercise, good. That is also good, but it is not so easy to get your mind right to do that after a serious illness. You’ve bought a bike, also good thinking! Next as an urgent priority, I would get a top of the range heart rate monitor (HRM), such as a Polar S720. I say this because if you start taking fitness seriously then you’ll buy one anyone. When you get over the shock of the price and decide on something cheaper then go for the basic bottom of the range model, because I guarantee you WILL want to upgrade it eventually! A HRM is a great aid to training and also a great motivator.
You’ve assessed yourself. You are very unfit, your breathing is bad, and your muscles barely exist? These conditions are going to limit how much you can do however strong the spirit. Get on your bike as soon as it arrives, (get it fitted properly first). Cycle as far as you feel able to and still be feeling comfortable, ie not too out of breath or tired. Cycle SLOWLY, don’t try to break records. Monitor your heart rate, try to keep within 60-70% of your maximum HR. (A very rough guide to your maximum HR is: 220 – your age, ie 194 beats per minute). Record how far you went, how long, how you felt, weather conditions etc. Keep a log of everything you do. There’s a good free log available at which you can also use for running, rowing, swimming or whatever. Do this 4-5 times per week. Try to extend the distance each time, don’t worry about the speed or your HR but try to keep within the 60-70%. After two weeks of this you’ll probably find it too slow but keep at it just increasing the distance if you find it too easy. This will start to improve your cardio vascular fitness. You muscles will start to grow and also keeping to this speed will help you start losing a little weight. Concentate on your breathing, when you’re start getting short of breath take deliberate deep regular rhythmic breaths. Make a noise about it, in and out, filling your lungs each time. At this point you need to build stamina rather than strength. Check your log once a week against what you were doing a week ago, you will be surprised how you start to improve.
At this level take it easy on the resistance training. Go for “weight training” (light weights x high repetitions) rather than “weight lifting” (heavy weights x low repetitions). Start with 2.5 or 4Kg weights x 20 reps, then gradually work up to 70-80 reps. Keep to a good healthy diet, use the Glycaemic Index (GI) for advice. Get enough sleep, at least 8 hours. If you need to party keep it to once a week.
And that’s about it to get some basic fitness. Once you can do an hour or two on the bike like this then you’re ready to follow a strength and speed training plan.
All you need at this point is motivation and commitment. Remember it took two years for you to get into this shape, don’t expect to get fit again in two weeks! Make regular time for training and adhere to it. Try and find a training partner. Maybe your wife or girlfriend? (Or someone else’s wife or girlfriend!)
If you want any more advice just ask. There’s an awful lot of helpful people and a wealth of experience on this Forum.
Thanks for the advice VO2 / Oldtimer...

That's funny about the Lance book... When I was initially in the hospital they were giving me a 60% chance of survival...! so i'm sitting there reading his book and watching him win the TDF June/July 01... encouraging but totally bizarre. so i get home from the hospital and there are about 8 copies of the book that people gave me.