Need Ways to Add Exercise Into Your Life? CTTS Can Help!

We all know we should exercise, and the data shows that cancer treatment is tolerated more easily, and cancer survivors experience fewer recurrences of illness if they exercise regularly. But the reality of our modern world is that so many other demands pull away from our time. This is extra true since the beginning of the pandemic, and amidst all of the conflict and stress in our world right now. If you are like me, your bandwidth for what it’s possible to accomplish in a day feels much lower than normal. I think this is extra true for cancer survivors. So, how do we integrate movement into our lives? My name is Erinina Marie Ness, I’m a BRCA1 breast cancer survivor, an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, former professional trapeze artist and am acting president of Capital of Texas Team Survivor.

Team Survivor is an organization that offers over 200 different exercise classes a week for free to any woman-identifying or nonbinary cancer survivor of any cancer, no matter what stage of survivorship.

Over the 12 years that I’ve been coaching, I’ve learned a few things about what keeps or stops people from continuing with their fitness goals. I can narrow it down to just three major factors: time, motivation, and accountability. Let me share some tips with you about these big three, while I tell you a little about our Team Survivor.

As I said above, time is at a premium. So fitting in movement takes some creativity and a commitment to a little bit of planning. Some strategies I’ve seen work well for people are to plan active dates with friends and family, to block off a meeting or appointment on their work calendars so that no one can schedule over it, to combine exercise with other tasks, or to plan to wake-up a little earlier or stay-up a little later than the rest of the household. I can tell you as a coach, a secret about most trainers and instructors in the industry is that even we have to plan some time for our own movement, or each day’s demands will quickly pull that time right out from under us. 

We try to make this easy for our members at Team Survivor by offering a variety of over 200 free classes each week. We offer online and in-person classes throughout Austin and the surrounding areas, with times throughout the day, everyday. It’s free to register, and classes are always free to our members.

So, once you’ve made a schedule for yourself, we need to talk about motivation. What is it? Sports and Behavioral Psychology is a field filled with research and models on motivation. But let’s just boil it down to the basics. Motivation is what drives you towards what you want. Personally, I think it’s the most important factor in living the life you dream of, whatever that means to you. I see it as a combination of what stories you tell yourself about yourself and your life, how you confront pain or challenges, and of course your desires. 

Every New Year’s, people make fitness and health goals. I actually hate that time of year. Why? Because every February, most of these people have abandoned these goals and are left with guilt and feelings of failure around exercise. Shame creates powerful stories about ourselves that then become hard to break. But the resolutions themselves aren’t the problem. The problem is not knowing how to hack our motivation. Doing so is unique to each individual, but some of the big ones to consider are - starting slow so you don’t burn out or get injured, exploring different movement options until you find something that you enjoy, working with a coach, listening to how you talk to or about yourself, and setting regular check-ins to evaluate your progress without judgment. I mentioned exploring different movement options, and finding the right movement is a key aspect of sticking with a movement practice. If you force yourself to run a treadmill everyday and you hate it, and your knees hurt, it’s totally okay to break up with running and try something else. Running won’t care, but you will. This exploration can be especially important for people who have gone through cancer, as our bodies and lives have changed and movement we have done in the past might not be as accessible or even enjoyable as it was before. 

Team Survivor can help with this exploration process by offering so many different types of activities, such as rowing, multiple types of dance, running & walking, cycling, yoga, pilates, strength training, boxing, zumba, and more. Plus we are always adding more classes as our members request them! We also offer special events, like races, regattas, flying trapeze or pole dance. Check out our interactive calendar here. You can filter your search by location, type of exercise, or day of the week. 

Accountability is another important factor in gaining motivation. The most tried and true accountability factor is finding a buddy to keep you in check. It’s best if you work out together, but I’ve also seen it work well when buddies text each other weekly to check-in on the progress of their goals. Most people might not have an accountability buddy right off the bat, and in this case, committing to your coach or instructor that you’re going to show up for a class can work too. When starting out, I recommend in person classes if possible, because you’re more likely to meet other people and form relationships. But different personality types do better with online or in-person training, so experiment with what works for you. And of course, setting alarms, reminders, or making yourself a good old-fashioned star chart can also provide accountability. Some of our members tell us that they prefer going to a fitness class with other survivors than going to support groups. I’m not much of a support group person myself. If that’s you, we offer some classes that are only for cancer survivors, such as the classes we sponsor at Moving Beyond Cancer Collaborative, Team Survivor specific Rō Fitness and Austin Rowing Club classes, and coming soon - cycling at the YMCA Townlake

To access any of our classes, be sure to register with us first, then follow the instructions on our calendar page for the class that you want to attend.

Not sure where to start? We offer free fitness consultations for our members to help them navigate all of our offerings and to choose the classes that are best for their individual goals. You can reach out to me directly at or to set up an appointment.

Erinina Marie Ness is BRCA1 breast cancer survivor, an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, former professional trapeze artist and am acting president of Capital of Texas Team Survivor.


If you or someone you know is facing breast cancer and could use our support, please visit our website or call our helpline at 512-524-2560.

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