Getting Back to Exercising After a Major Surgery

“The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

I listened to my surgeon’s advice about getting up and moving around during recovery. I started out with small walks around the house while I was homebound, and builds up to walking my dog outside and down the block. The moment I was given the go ahead to leave the house, I was grateful.

I was grateful for the opportunity to breathe in fresh air, grateful that I could finally stand up straight (I was hunched over for awhile during my recovery), and grateful for the exercise. I allowed myself to be happy during those moments of gratitude.

And still, at times I found myself frustrated that I was nowhere near where I was before the surgery (from a fitness and energy level perspective). I was especially annoyed that going up a flight of stairs left me winded.

So naturally, when the surgeon cleared me and told me I could resume exercising and lifting weights, I was ecstatic. Little did I know, this would be the beginning of a challenging journey. When I walked through the doors of the fitness center for the first time after my surgery, I could feel the anxiety rise and tighten in my chest. It was a combination of excitement and fear, both of which I could label, neither of which I found to be unusual, but certainly, the anxiety felt uncomfortable.

I chose to invest in personal training sessions because it had been a while since I had been to a gym. I needed some direction and a reminder of what I needed to build my strength and endurance back up. I decided to start with 30-minute sessions and boy am I glad that I started with those instead of hour-long ones! They were more affordable and I could honestly only physically handle 30 to 45 minutes of exercise.

My first several visits were rough. I was shaky and uncoordinated. I needed to take lots of breaks. These are not judgments of myself, these are just the facts. Emotionally, I found myself frustrated and bummed because I think I was expecting more of myself. It was that struggle between the ideal self and the actual self. I practiced grounding techniques, bringing myself back to the “here and now,” and gently reminding myself that I had just gone through a major surgery and it was OK to be where I was. I come back to this over and over again, using coping statements instead of beating myself up, and found this has really helped as I continue to go through this journey of recovery.

I’m not making any recommendations as far as how to get back to exercising after a major surgery. I’m only sharing my personal experience here. Always listen to your doctor’s orders. However, if you are struggling with processing limitations and challenges, and/or setting goals and follow through, counseling can help you with this. Support, encouragement and empowerment is crucial at times like these. Please call me at 630-797-9192 for more information or to schedule today!

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