Fitness inspiration Jeanne Ballard, age 70, has enjoyed a healthy fitness routine for several decades, but a cancer diagnosis at 53 took her workout routine in an unexpected direction: rowing on the water with a team of strong women.
What is your fitness routine?
My fitness routine is pretty regimented. I do a 1 hour strength and weight class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I row in the dragon boat with my team of cancer survivors on Tuesday and Saturday. I also have a large vegetable garden that is a tremendous workout to maintain in the summer, and in winter I do a lot of water aerobics and swimming. I also walk.
Tell us more about the dragon boat team.
My dragon boat team, better known as my pink sisters, are a tough bunch of ladies who have all been diagnosed with breast cancer. We support each other when times are bad and celebrate when they are good. Dragon boating was started quite a few years ago to help with lymphedema (swelling caused by a buildup of lymph fluid in the fatty tissues just under the skin). Rowing the boat helps us get stronger and also reduces the side effects of a mastectomy. We race numerous times a year in Dragon Boat Festivals and are actually going to France for an International Breast Cancer Competition where we will compete in 500-meter races.
What is your daily diet?
We eat primarily from the garden in the summer. I also eat a lot of chicken and fish, but not much red meat. I have been known to sneak in some sweets! A typical day of eating is coffee first thing in the morning, and a very late breakfast or early lunch. Dinner is usually salad, veggies, and some protein. I do eat a lot of eggs. My daughter would laugh and say that I left out the fact that we eat cottage cheese and tomatoes every day in the summer.
What about emotional support?
I use my dragon boat team and my family to bounce things off of. The girls in the boat have all had breast cancer so we know the fear that comes with that yearly mammogram or MRI. I was never one for the typical sit in a room support group. It just wasn’t my thing to sit and talk about my cancer.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get fit?
If you are just starting a program, I’d say walk, and then walk farther, and keep adding on to the distance. Then start building your strength. Practice getting off the floor without holding on to something. Just keep moving!
Having had a major illness really makes you look at the things you can control. I can’t control cancer but I can control how I live.
By Jeanne Ballard | Photos by Melissa Donald