Training

How One Woman Tackled Her Cancer Recovery Journey

It’s always been our mission to fuel your ambition — but the incredible Ruth Naylor took this one step further in her journey during post-cancer recovery.

Ruth believes that, although medical treatment is of course the reason for her cancer remission, exercise gave her the mental and physical strength to persevere through her recovery journey.

Ruth’s Story

Ruth Naylor, a 33-year old from Cheshire, was a successful business woman and mother of two young children. She considered herself to be fit and healthy — until she became one of the 360,000 people who are diagnosed with cancer each year.

Ruth was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is a type of blood cancer that starts in the white blood cells. It affects around 1,950 people each year in the UK.1

Now a year on from her initial diagnosis, Ruth has been given the much awaited news that she’s in remission — and she believes that although her road to recovery began with the first round of chemotherapy, it was helped massively by her lifelong passion for exercise.

Exercise gave me the physical and mental strength to persevere. For me, putting my trainers on and getting to the end of the road on those very dark days made everything seem possible again.

Documenting her journey on Instagram (@ruthnaylor7), Ruth hopes to play a part in raising awareness — not just for cancer, but for how exercise can be a “critical component of cancer care”, giving both physical and mental strength to persevere through medical treatment.

 

One of the ways she did this was through completing a specially tailored 12-week recovery and wellness journey — designed by Hale Country Club personal trainer, Tom Pitfield (@tompitfield7) and supported by Myprotein.

As a former fitness lover, Ruth was already educated on the benefits that exercise could have, not only on physical and mental health, but for a healthy sleep pattern too — something that she missed after sleepless nights on chemo. She decided to take on the challenge of the 12-week programme, with the following intentions:

“I don’t believe in ‘beach bodies’ but I do believe in healthy bodies, and I owed it to mine to treat it well. No unrealistic objectives, just a busy mum willing to work hard to try and put her life back together. I want to show people what ‘recovery’ looks like — for all those spat out on the other side of trauma, with no structure and little comfort, I want to show that you can still achieve things that you want to.”

 

The 12-Week Programme

This was certainly not a straightforward, one-size-fits-all training programme, as personal trainer Tom Pitfield explains.

“My main concern was that Ruth’s appetite had completely disappeared as a result of her treatment. I wanted her to find her love for food again, mainly to give her body chance to recover and rebuild, and also to achieve longevity out of this programme.

My first priority with Ruth was not to worry so much about the calories but to get her to eat three balanced meals a day. Getting her to start thinking about food again and appreciating the importance of feeding the body correctly, was key to progress, especially with us putting more demand on her through exercise.

Once I could get Ruth to realise how much better she felt after feeding herself properly, a nice cycle of meals and exercise soon followed. In the third week, she asked me if could she have extra food as she felt hungry, and I knew we’d cracked it. From that point I still had to keep her under control, but this was a great challenge to have, to see Ruth enjoying her food again.”

Ruth’s diet changed drastically during the 12 weeks, with her starting off only just able to stomach 800 calories a day at best, but ending with her consuming at least 1600 calories a day on a high-protein diet with plenty of fresh and organic ingredients.

  Ruth’s Diet Before Ruth’s Diet During
Breakfast

 

Nothing

 

        Porridge and fruit
Snack  

Nothing

Carrot sticks and hummus
Lunch  

Bagel with butter

Salmon stir-fry with broccoli, soy and ginger
Snack

 

Plain crisps

 

Impact Whey Protein shake with oats and almond milk
Dinner Soup and small bread roll  

Grilled chicken, rice and vegetables

 

In terms of exercise, the programme started gradually, with sessions of gentle jogging and light weights. Ruth slowly began to build up her strength and went from chest-pressing 3kg to 14kg in a matter of weeks.

It took a while, but I think I love my body a little bit again.

Tom explains the slow and steady progression:

“In the early days, we took every detail into account before a session – her mood, how she’d slept, her appetite, any soreness. Sometimes she would wake up feeling fatigued, but other times she’d be full of energy so her training would be dependent on these factors.

Ruth had next to no coordination or balance so we had to work to regain this, but after 3-4 weeks her body began responding to food, training, and recovery.

In the 12 weeks we trained together, Ruth’s lean mass went from 53.9kg to 58kg, so she lost a significant amount of body fat but increased muscle tissue which meant her metabolism was working much more efficiently.

Gaining lean muscle and dropping body fat — it’s the ideal situation for anyone looking to improve body composition.”

 

The Results

Although there were impressive changes to her physique — including gaining 4kg of lean muscle mass and decreasing body fat percent from 19.6% to 12.6% — the programme’s success went far beyond that.

“To feel physically stronger than I have done for a long time is what keeps me going.  I can see a difference in how I look but more importantly I feel different. To think that only a few months back, I could barely get up the stairs, I can now appreciate the wonder that is the human body — but more so, the power of the mind.

Just 8 months ago I was stuck in a 14 day cycle of chemo hell, unable to sleep for weeks at a time and wholly reliant on medication to keep me going. I craved a body which wasn’t consumed with drugs, so after receiving the all-clear I sought natural therapies in a bid to resume normality in my daily routine and control of my body.

It took a while, but I think I love my body a little bit again.”

And the journey doesn’t stop there. Ruth, now an ambassador for Cancer Research UK, is continuing her strength training and is starting to train for the 2019 London Marathon. Her incredible story and ongoing determination is an inspiration to us all.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.


  1. Sourced from Cancer Research UK.

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Lauren Dawes

Lauren Dawes

Writer and expert

Lauren is an English Literature graduate originally from the South. She’s always loved swimming, has discovered the power of weight training over the past few years, and has lots of room for improvement in her weekly hot yoga class. On the weekends she’s usually cooking or eating some kind of brunch, and she enjoys trying out new recipes with her housemates – especially since shaking off student habits, like mainly surviving off pasta. Above all, she’s a firm believer in keeping a balance between the gym and gin. Find out more about Lauren’s experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-dawes-b4416aaa/


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