Fitness from the inside out

Personal trainer Debra Shampine coaches more than just physical fitness.


A fitness professional, Debra Shampine said she's always enjoyed sports but was never "the best athlete or anything like that."

"I just loved getting out there and running around. It was just fun."

So it should come as no surprise that Shampine owns Dynamic Fitness Systems in Walla Walla, where she's parlayed her love of an active lifestyle into helping others become more physically fit and self confident through exercise.

But as co-founder of the Cancer Community Renewal Project, the Pendleton native goes one step further and also promotes exercise and relaxation to help cancer survivors cope and aid their healing.

"My cancer patients, in chemo, their energy is down in the mud bog," she said. "Chemo is a form of poison, although the mixtures are getting much better, now they target the cancer rather than hitting everything."

For a cancer survivor, Shampine said, "getting started with post-rehab exercise is affirming you're alive, an affirmation of life It's about building post rehab strengths and not re-injuring (yourself)... .

"If you look up ‘health' in the dictionary, it's just defined as the absence of disease," Shampine added. "Now it's not so cut and dried; there's more focus on functional training."

Functional training simply means getting back those skills needed for everyday living, she said. "Can I do those things that I need to, bend to pick up keys I've dropped, or reach something on the shelf? Happiness comes from being able to do things in your day to day routine."

The idea for the Cancer Community Project came in 2000, when Shampine, her cousin and a friend were bicycling in the Grand Tetons as a benefit for breast cancer survivors.

"We got the idea for the Pendleton area: Let's see if we can get some grants to help cancer patients," she said. "There was a gap after care, post rehab. We wanted to be the liaison after the medical healing, to help physically and emotionally. We try to work closely with physicians. So far we've had about 250 people come through the program."

The project, which maintains a web site at, has since spread nationally. She hopes to bring it to Walla Walla in a coordinated effort with local hospitals and physicians.

Shampine currently works with cancer survivors at a health club in Pendleton. In Walla Walla, where she now lives with her husband Paul, she operates her Dynamic Fitness Systems personal training business at the Rose Center mall at 688 W. Rose St.

According to Shampine, disciplined personal training can benefit not only cancer survivors but others as well.

"A fitness trainer is not just for Oprah," she said. "Everybody can benefit."

Many clients come to her for improved fitness, which at the same time can lower stress levels.

"Most people do like their jobs, but with each of them there's a certain amount of stress," she said. "Come in for 30 to 60 minutes, it's time for them to stop thinking about it and decompress from your day. There's someone here to make sure you're safe; you have one-on-one attention on your healing process."

She acknowledges that time to do all that needs to be done in a day "is a huge factor in people's lives now," but even carving out a little for one's self "is so important."

Every little bit counts and you can also get active during your work day. Walk to a co-workers desk instead of sending an email, take the stairs, take a break and get moving. Shampine said these little bursts of exercise through out the day add up.

"Start by getting a physical from your doctor," she said. "If you haven't been very active, make sure everything's OK, don't ignore anything ... If you're over 40, err on the side of caution, your joints are not like they were when you were 20."

And take it slow at first.

"Bodies adapt gradually, but we get impatient - we want it now," she said. "But if you hurt your knee, then where are you?"

No matter if cancer recovery is what motivates a person to exercise or just a desire to get into better shape, Shampine said the benefits extend beyond the physical and can provide improvement in overall well-being.

"It's more wholistic, you feel better, have less stress," she said. "It's an emotional outlet."

Even if the result is sleeping just little bit better because you're tired from exercise, Shampine added, it's worth it.

Karlene Ponti can be reached at 509-526-8324 or

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