Sherri McMillan

Pink Power – Training Post Breast Cancer Surgery

2016 Girlfriends Warm UpWe probably all know at least one person who has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I personally know a great deal of women who have been diagnosed including many of my best girlfriends. We started our Girlfriends Run for a Cure, now in our 11th year, for one of our girlfriends Joleen Skarberg, who continues to race it every year with her daughters, sisters, cousins, nieces and best girlfriends. We have been able to raise $450,000 and are hoping to break the half a million mark this year. All of the funds raised over the years from events like ours is one of the reasons that women now receive better diagnosis and treatment and go on to live strong and healthy lives. Joleen is a true testimony to that! I hope one day in my lifetime we can all see a cure for all forms of cancer!

Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with Breast Cancer realizes that the cancer experience does not end the day that treatment ends. You want to get back to your normal life and put cancer behind you but at that same time, you’re dealing with all kinds of post-Cancer Treatment effects that affect your physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Breast Cancer Surgery and Treatment will typically result in pain, tightness, reduced range of motion, weakness, postural deviations and decreased bone density. When starting an exercise program after Breast Cancer surgery and treatment, the goals will be to reverse the negative affects of killing cancer…which can cause other secondary issues. An effective program will function to restore strength and flexibility to the affected areas, minimize the development of scar tissue, reduce pain and swelling and minimize the loss of bone.

Post-Breast Cancer Rehab:

The type of Breast Cancer treatment and surgery will determine a woman’s recovery, how her body is affected and the post rehab process so you will need to work closely with your therapist or a trainer who specializes in post-Breast Cancer rehab.

You will want to get the go-ahead from your physician to begin your exercise program but typically you can begin a light post-rehab program a few weeks after surgery and a more aggressive protocol an average of 10 weeks post surgery. Work closely you’re your physician and therapist to determine effective and safe protocol.

Range of Motion

Initially, you will want to focus on ROM at the shoulder. You can start with holding each stretch for 15 seconds x 3-4 sets. Most women are very protective of the affected shoulder so ease into the stretches avoiding pain and gradually progress the stretch as the tissues allow. As your range of motion improves, you will be able to go deeper into the stretches. Here is a variety of stretches to start with:

Muscle Conditioning

As her range of motion improves and pain subsides, it is very important that she start a strength training program to minimize muscle atrophy, improve strength, enhance bone density and prevent posture deviations and muscle imbalances.

She can start with little or no resistance and then slowly add resistance as her body manages the load. Start with 1 set of 8-12 reps of a variety of exercises for the lower body, upper body and core.  She can increase to 2-3 sets or increase the number of exercises she performs. It’s a good idea to rotate between Lower & Upper Body exercises to allow for recovery in between sets and to help prevent lymphedema.

Since certain muscles and joints will be more affected from Breast Cancer surgery and treatment, exercises to strengthen the lower and middle trapezius, rotator cuff, rhomboids, lats, chest, shoulders, and core will be very important for the Breast Cancer Survivor.

A list of good specific Post-Breast Cancer Strength Training Exercises include:

If you unfamiliar with any of these exercises, be sure to consult with a therapist who specializes in Post Breast Cancer Rehab to ensure you are performing the movements correctly and safely.

Although you are never the same after Breast Cancer, we have many clients who have gone on to live incredibly healthy, fit, rich and adventurous lives post Breast Cancer – and some are actually in even better shape now because they’ve taken a very active role in their overall health and well being. Here’s to reaching for your Personal Best!

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

Girlfriends Half Pic 2016If you would like to be a part of a few thousand women walking or running 13.1 or 6.55 miles to raise money for Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment & Research, please join us for the annual Girlfriends Run for a Cure on Sunday October 15th. It is one of the most amazing and positive experiences that you could ever be a part of.


Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details. 


Sherri McMillan, holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 20 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year – Runner up. As a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” & “Fit over Forty” and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs, she is a spokesperson for Nike, Twist Conditioning and PowerBar. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S.A. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training a training studio in Vancouver, WA and can be found running, biking, or hiking with her daughter Brianna and her son Jackson.