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09.01.2019- Getting back into exercise after surgery

Wednesday, 9 January 2019


Without a doubt, the biggest event of last year for me was finally getting my painful periods sorted out. I've posted all about getting my undiagnosed ovarian cyst removed here, and, eight months later, I'm still figuring out exactly how recovery works- and very much taking one day at a time. Although my surgery wasn't open, it took a lot longer than originally anticipated, and I've been quite surprised at just how long it's taken my body to get back to feeling normal- needless to say, it definitely hasn't been a speedy springing back into action. I still get quite tired, and twinges now and then are very much still a thing- as are the four scars on my abdomen which are fading very slowly. Being forced to take things easy wasn't something which I'd necessarily factored into my plan for recovery- especially as I thought I'd be in and out of hospital within an afternoon to start with- but one of the toughest things since last April has been getting back into exercise. 

If you'd have told me when I was at school (periodically hiding in fear of Sports Day) that I'd miss running, there's no shadow of a doubt that I would have full on lolled in your face. Back then my idea of exercise was demolishing a box of Jaffa Cakes as I was doing my homework, but since getting into a regular fitness routine (and specifically running from about 2012 onwards), I've really noticed a difference in how I feel- both physically and mentally- when I miss sessions. I get really cranky when I can't get outside to run- so the prospect of being laid up after my op rang a little alarm bell in the back of my head.

Having said that, post-surgery, the thought of engaging in any sort of physical activity other than trying and failing to stand up couldn't have been further from my mind. After getting home from the hospital, I couldn't do anything for myself to start with, and had a good fortnight of building my stamina back up again, especially as I waited oh so patiently for the carbon dioxide I'd had pumped into my abdomen to disperse, and for the associated nerve aggravation in my shoulders to calm down. Day after day I was getting my strength back and making progress- from being able to walk up and down the stairs one day to being able to amble down the road the next. It was ten days after my operation that I pulled on my running leggings and attempted a short jog- in hindsight it was probably a little bit too soon, but it was actually quite a relief to be able to get outside in the fresh air and test myself- realising my limits as much as anything. 

From this first run, I knew that first and foremost I needed to pace myself- and be kind enough to allow myself the chance to recover slowly rather than pushing too soon and undoing my healing. Key to this has been channeling my time and energy into activities other than running- including yoga- and investing in the right sort of kit. Lululemon's On the Fly running leggings have been an absolute godsend, firstly because they're so comfortable, and secondly because of the high rise, super supportive fit, without an elasticated waistband to aggravate my scars when I'm on the move. Their sports bras are also a total revelation- offering all of the support with none of the discomfort. Finally- and as ridiculous as it might sound- motivational slogans on t-shirts have really helped me to get back in the groove, and give me that extra boost when I'm struggling. 

I think above all, the last eight months or so have made me really appreciate how much of a gift a working body actually is. Yes, I still have some aches and pains, and having seen a physiotherapist about the associated pain in my shoulders, I'm still super aware that I'm still very much a work in progress- and will be for a fair few months yet. As cheesy as it seems, prioritising looking after myself has been key through all of this- whether that be relaxing my own expectations of what I'm actually capable of doing or having a deep tissue massage when my back and shoulders are crying out for it. I've also had a couple of acupuncture sessions and am really keen to continue with it more frequently. I'm now back running as regularly as I was before my operation, and although I've never been about flying through circuits as fast as I can or running to lose weight, I now more than ever appreciate just how important it is to dedicate half an hour or so to getting my mind and body on the same page- and never take for granted being able to put one foot in front of the other.

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

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