First I want to make something clear, you already have your body back! Your ostomy surgery didn’t take that away from you, it didn’t change who you were as a person and individual; 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.
I’ve been wanting to write this article for a long time, I remember one of the first questions I asked my doctors when my ostomy surgery was being scheduled was: “Can I still work out with a 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 6.5 years, what a waste to not even be able to spar anymore”. Now I’m not advocating contact sports for ostomates, but I went home and did a ton of research and found a Boxer in Thailand (who also happens to be in his 50’s) who had an ostomy just like mine and was taking down fighters who were 19-20. 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, one of the biggest worries for an ostomate with weight lifting is going to be a hernia. FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE ABOUT WAITING TO GO BACK TO THE GYM, your body needs time to heal; you’ve just had a major surgery. Start slow, go on walks in the park when you feel up to it, test yourself at home first, slowly work your way back. I was told I needed to wait about 6-8 weeks until I could resume weight lifting, I waited 10 just in case (even though I was dying without the gym in my life).
Now I was still a model back then, just part time gigs though so it wasn’t as important, so I needed to stay fit. Not only that, with ostomies to prevent leakage and issues with your pouches it’s best to stay fit. The one time I gained weight from Anti-Depressants (SSRI’S), my pouches were having a hard time sticking to my now round stomach. Wait extra time before resuming any kind of core work outs 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 abs and take longer to get fit then deal with serious issues and potentially even go through surgery again.
TIPS: 1. Get a belt! Depends on your comfort level really, I personally use a Vertically Placed Stealth Belt; that’s just what works for me. There’s many other companies out there that have belts that will support you in your exercise and this has been one of the most important things for me. Talk to your ostomy nurse, surf the web etc., Ostomy Armor, Stomaguard, Phoenix Belt, Comfizz; there’s lots for you to choose from!
2. HYDRATE!!! Very, very, very important; we as ostomates do not absorb water like most people because a lot of that from my understanding happens in the Large Intestines (which you may be missing or missing parts of). If you have an Ileostomy like me and you’re missing the entire thing I would strongly suggest drinking at least 2-3 times as much as you would otherwise (talk to your Doctor or Ostomy Nurse for more info).
3. Empty your bag before a workout, it can get a little annoying to have to stop in the middle (when you’re in the zone) to run out and have to empty.
4. Get a gym partner who isn’t going to push you too hard, I know that sounds counter productive to what a gym partner should be doing but it’s important. A gym partner who drives you too hard could be leading you to injury, you want someone who will push you but understand your needs at the same time.
5. AVOID CONTACT SPORTS WITHOUT AT LEAST HAVING A GUARD ON: That goes for anything heavy like boxing, MMA, football, rugby etc. You NEED to check with your Docs first too, they’ll probably tell you not to do it (mine wouldn’t clear me to fight in the TV Show I was in), but I figure hey people make their own decisions. If you’re going to do any heavy contact sport WEAR A GUARD!
6. Practice working out at home first, it sounds tedious but it gets you a little more comfortable for when you’re in the gym surrounded by people. Remember your body is different now and you need to utilize it differently.Anyway that’s all I’ll put in this guide, I will definitely be writing an article about my personal fitness routine and what workouts I personally do soon though!
Hi Saleem! I am so grateful that you are writing about this topic of exercise. I also have an ileostomy. How did you approach abdominal exercises and core work when you started working out? Thanks