Fit for Survival: Eagle County fitness classes for cancer survivors |

Fit for Survival: Eagle County fitness classes for cancer survivors

HL breast cancer workout 2 KA 5-16-11

People who’ve been close to death have the best attitudes about life, say trainers running fitness classes for breast cancer survivors.

The Eagle Ranch Fitness Club’ Jessica Santoro is running Breast Cancer Survivor Fitness Classes at the Eagle Ranch Fitness Club. It’s part of an overall program by the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, called Fit for Survival where survivors of all types of cancer can get specialized and personal training and instruction.

“Cancer patients understand how short life can be,” said Dustin Buttars, an exercise physiologist with the Shaw Center. “They show up every day, and with the most positive attitude I’ve ever seen. It’s inspiring.”

Prior to coming to the Shaw Center, Buttars had his own personal training business in Fort Collins, specializing in working with cancer patients in that area. He contacted the Shaw Center and it turned out they were looking for an exercise physiologist. They’ve had Fit for Survival in place since 2007, he said.

Hillary Petrowski was among those who came up with the idea. She’s a personal trainer at the Eagle Ranch Fitness Club.

She told Buttars and some others about it. He landed a grant from the Susan G. Komen/Aspen foundation to pay for the participants to take the class.

Buttars had already trained Santoro, who earned her degree in exercise physiology with a certification specializing in training cancer survivors.

Julie Bach got involved. She owns Skin Deep spa in Eagle and is involved with the breast cancer community in Eagle County and beyond through her foundation, Spa4thepink.

At Eagle Ranch, the Breast Survivors Fitness Class is for patients who are in treatment or are done.

“All cancer patients are welcome to come, but they need to come with the understanding that the class is for breast cancer patients,” Santoro said.

There is a difference between treating cancer patients and other clients, and between breast cancer patients and other patients, Santoro says. That’s why everyone gets their own workout schedule.

“I write out a lesson plan for each patient,” Santoro said. “We may have one who’s been out of treatment for a year and one who’s going through it right now.”

Full body exercise is important in fighting cancer and staying cancer free, Santoro said.

“Cancer likes to travel through fat cells,” Santoro said. “When we have fat cells, we’re giving cancer more opportunities.”

Many of the side effects of cancer treatments can be countered through exercise, and exercise helps give the body energy. Fatigue is common, as is nausea, weight gain and any number of other problems.

“We’re all busy and we all have things we need to get done,” Santoro said. “We don’t want to lay around with fatigue.”

It’s important for cancer survivors and those still in the fight to be with trainers who know exactly what they’re going through, Buttars said

“The goal is to keep their quality of life as high as possible during and after treatment,” Buttars said.

The instructor is trained to work with cancer patients and understands what they can and cannot do.

If it’s a breast cancer patient in a standard class, her range of motion will be reduced and she cannot raise her arm over her head; she cannot support herself in the push-up position, he said.

“It’s all individualized,” Buttars said. “We do an assessment so we know where they’re starting. If they go to some random fitness class they won’t get that kind of individualized attention. We want to make sure they don’t get scared, burned out or hurt.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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