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6 Things I Learned About Working Out After Ostomy Surgery

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Your ostomy surgery didn’t take your body away from you, and it didn’t change who you are as a person. It simply changed your body and made you more unique. Personally, I now feel more in control of my body than I ever did when I had ulcerative colitis.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

I still remember one of the first questions I asked my doctors before my ostomy surgery was: “Can I still work out with a ostomy bag?” They told me of course I could, but I needed to stay away from contact sports and heavy weight lifting.

I thought to myself, “Man, I’ve been doing MMA for six and half years. What a waste to not even be able to spar anymore.” Now I’m not advocating contact sports for ostomates, but I did a ton of research and found a boxer in Thailand, who also happens to be in his 50’s and had an ostomy just like mine and was taking down fighters who were much younger. I figured, “I guess that answers my question about whether I can work out or not!”

Before I went back to the gym, though, I researched as much as I could. Hernias can be one of the biggest worries for ostomates who lift weights. Please make sure to follow your doctor’s advice about waiting to go back to the gym. You’ve just had a major surgery, and your body needs time to heal. Start slow and go on walks in the park. When you feel up to it, test yourself at home first and slowly work your way back to the gym. I was told I needed to wait about six to eight weeks until I could resume weight lifting. I waited 10 weeks just in case, even though I really wanted to be back in the gym.

I was still a model when I had surgery. Even though they were just part-time gigs, I needed to stay fit. Not only that, to prevent leakage and issues with your pouches, it’s best to stay fit. The one time I gained weight from antidepressants, my pouches had a hard time sticking to my round stomach.

Wait extra time before resuming any kind of core workouts and listen to your body. If something hurts, play it safe. I’m not saying not to push yourself. What I’m saying is we all can walk the same path even if it takes some of us a little longer to get there. I’d much rather go slow with weights and take longer to get fit than deal with serious issues and potentially even go through surgery again.

Here are six things I learned about working out after ostomy surgery.

1. Get a belt.

This has been one of the most important things for me. I personally use a vertically placed Stealth Belt. It just what works for me. There are many other companies out there that have belts that will support you while you exercise. Talk to your ostomy nurse or surf the web to find out which one will work best for you.

2. Hydrate.

As ostomates, we don’t absorb water like most people. From my understanding, a lot of that happens in the large intestines, which you may be missing or missing parts of. I had an ileostomy and drink at least two to three times as much as I would have otherwise. Please talk to your doctor for more information.

3. Empty your ostomy bag before a workout.

It can get a little annoying to have to stop in the middle of a workout — especially when you’re in the zone — to run out and empty your bag. 

4. Get a gym partner who isn’t going to push you too hard.

I know this sounds counterproductive to what a gym partner should be doing, but it’s important. A gym partner who drives you too hard could lead to an injury. You want someone who will push you but also understands your needs at the same time.

5. Avoid contact sports without at least having a guard on.

If you’re going to participate in any heavy contact sport, wear a guard! That goes for anything heavy like boxing, MMA, football and rugby. And you need to check with your doctors first. My doctor wouldn’t clear me to fight in a TV show I was in.

6. Practice working out at home first.

It sounds tedious, but it will get you a little more comfortable about your workout routine before you go back to the gym surrounded by people. Remember, your body is different now and you need to utilize it differently.

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Originally published: November 28, 2016
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