For someone that exercised pretty much everyday to then suddenly not being able to exercise at all was difficult. In July 2016 I went into hospital one night with stomach pain, 2 days later I had my appendix out. Luckily I did have keyhole surgery so the recovery time was much shorter than open surgery, but still, I went from training most days to not being able to train at all! I lost muscle, I had to pull out of my first half marathon race, I had to take a step back in my little goals. It was frustrating not being able to exercise or work at my peak fitness level, but I was determined to get back into training as soon as my body could. I didn’t rush or push myself, I started small and listened to my body.
In this blog post I’m going to share my journey of getting back into fitness after my operation and how I managed to do a 10k run (with a PB!) 3 months post op.
After my operation the doctor told me no exercise or heavy lifting for 2-4 weeks, this sounded pretty short and I didn’t want to risk anything especially as I was going on holiday not long after. So I didn’t do any exercise for 4-5 weeks, apart from the occasional stroll around town. When I did start back again I avoided doing any ab work or anything high intensity, such as HIIT or boot camp.
I really limited myself to begin with, I started with light cardio just over 5 weeks post op and I went for a little jog, but only 0.7 miles. I went to the gym to walk fast on the treadmill (on an incline of course!). I also tried a few squats and lunges with no weight or jumping. I realised there were certain things I should not attempt for a while, this being abs/core work and anything high intensity. Even working on my upper body proved to be difficult as you use your core strength too, such as pull ups, push ups, shoulder presses. So I focused on my legs at first, keeping it simple.
I knew I couldn’t jump straight back into everything and be right back to my peak level of fitness, so doing it step by step was the best idea. I added different exercises into my gym sessions each time and built up more and more time spent working out.
I didn’t rush, I stayed at a comfortable level, pushing myself a little each time. I tried new things such as jump squats instead of normal squats, I tried a pull up with assistance, some simple slow penguin crunches. If I felt something was too much or too soon I would stop. It’s important to listen to your body, if you’re working hard you might hurt/ache but you should be able to distinguish between injured pain and exercise pain. During my recovery my stomach (where my appendix was) would ache now and again, like a pulling feeling, probably because things have been fiddled with and moved around in there! If I over did it, even walking too much, it would hurt. After painkillers and rest I would feel fine again. The pain eased off over time, so it was easier for me to progress with training and try more things.
Its hard to get back into exercise with any time off. You feel like you’re out of breath and want to give up sooner, this is one thing I did struggle with at the beginning. I knew I couldn’t do as much as before, and it was frustrating at the start spending most evenings not doing anything (so boring!). It was also frustrating and annoying of how tired and worn out I got so easily. However, this was also motivation to carry on going as it reminded me how much I am capable of. I always forget this, I hardly ever stop to think about how much I have achieved and how far I’ve got. I remember the time I couldn’t do a push up, now I can smash out more than 20 and think nothing of it. I only got to where I am because of myself. So with keeping all this in mind through my journey it made me push myself, not just physically but mentally too.
7 weeks post op I was going on holiday for 2 weeks. I did take my running stuff with me just in case I wanted to run or do a workout, but I didn’t, mainly because I couldn’t face running in the heat and to be honest I didn’t really have time! We did do a lot of walking, including a long hike up a 9,892 ft mountain. Considering I had only just got back into exercise this was a pretty good achievement for me. The walk itself got quite difficult, especially with the oxygen level being low, I felt head-achy and queasy. But it was totally worth the challenge and views!
Before my operation I had been training for my first ever half marathon, yet I knew right away when I was in hospital that I would have to pull out as it was only a few weeks away. I was gutted but knew I could enter another one soon and train again once I recovered. One thing that helped a lot with my motivation was entering the 10k at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival. This was 3 months post op, 3 weeks after my holiday. Even though I could run a 10k before, the thought of doing it whilst getting back into fitness was quite challenging. It was very motivating having this little goal to work towards and with each run I did before the race I felt more and more confident that I could complete it, as I found myself keeping to a good pace and built up my distance each time.
The route of the 10k looked quite easy; flat along the seafront and a loop back on yourself. I wasn’t expecting a PB at all, I would’ve been happy to finish under an hour. But somehow I did it! I looked down at my watch near the end totally confused at why my time was saying 54 minutes, and i finished at 55:07. So chuffed with this I just couldn’t be happier!
I wouldn’t say I’m completely back to my peak fitness level, but I’m getting there and very surprised at how quick it was to get back into everything!
So the best advice I could give to anyone getting back into exercise after an operation is to limit yourself, take baby steps, listen to your body, do not get frustrated and to just keep going. It might make you appreciate what your body is capable of!