Synergy Fitness Club of Merrick, which raises funds each year at this time for breast cancer and donates its proceeds to the Susan G. Kumen Foundation, has turned its gaze toward an employee who is undergoing treatments for breast cancer. Rather than raise funds for the Kumen Foundation, any proceeds this month – and this year – will be given to the employee to help her and her family meet their financial goals during this time.
But the fitness club has raised the bar substantially higher toward this compassionate endeavor, having begun an exercise class on Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. specifically for cancer patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer – and other cancers.
Under the guidance of personal trainer Rusty Russo, a three-time cancer survivor who became a body builder and won a title for his efforts, the aim of the exercise classes is to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy – or who have undergone chemotherapy – ease back into a regular daily routine that helps build self-esteem while it helps focus on overcoming the disease.
“I am a three-time survivor of cancer,” remarked Russo to Your NewsMag recently, “and I have undergone chemotherapy for lung cancer.” Also stricken with thyroid and neck cancers, he understands intimately the effects chemotherapy can have on the body. “Bone pain, fatigue and nauseousness” were all debilitating characteristics of chemotherapy that kept him laying low on the couch.
Determined to overcome his weaknesses, being a personal trainer gave him a distinct perspective on the joys of exercise in overcoming both mental and physical challenges. “I believe the endorphins released by the body during workouts provide a way to build one’s self-worth as it helps to fight against the disease,” he said.
He said that after a week of chemotherapy, he would attempt to get three weeks in at the gym, in between treatments.
The classes, which come in five-week, 10-week and 15-week packages, are held in the aerobics room of Synergy Fitness at 125 Merrick Avenue in Merrick. Russo wished to make it clear that anyone signing up for this class does not have to be a member of the gym.
With the exercise regimen getting the blessings of the American Cancer Society – because he had held the class once before for up to 15 people, many of whom resumed normal activities – Russo’s approach to exercise is to begin with very light stretching of the muscles, to get patients re-acclimated to their bodies. “We’ll use rubber bands for resistance, for example, and we’ll do ab crunches and workouts, we’ll use the medicine balls and maybe some free weights.”
He points out, however, there is no schedule of how or when a patient should attain a certain goal. “Once a patient gets going, feels the blood flowing in them,” he believes they can set their own paces as to what they wish to accomplish. But, he also believes, as he has experienced it himself, healing of the body takes place using exercise as the main facilitator.
He will encourage patients to exercise at home by stretching every day, so the exercise is not just a once-a-week event at the gym.
He spoke of feeling good enough after his treatments had ended to get serious about working out. “I worked out two hours every day for 23 months and entered the Eastern Body Building competition.” He said he took third place in the competition.
“I competed in the Mr. and Mrs. Jones Beach contest” as well.
Having been cancer free since 2006, he urges cancer patients to consider the exercise class that can help strengthen their self-esteem as it works to repair damage done to their physical strength as well.
For information on the twice-weekly class, call Russo at 978-5699, and inquire.