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How to build up your fitness after hysterectomy – Karen’s story

Before my operation, apart from having some large fibroids and anemia, I was pretty fit and had good core stability. I believe that having good core stability is the key to success as you can work all the other parts of your body whilst your abdomen stays still.

The day after my operation I started doing the basic Pilates warm up exercises in my bed, even with the catheter in, just to keep all my joints mobilised.

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Days 1 – 14 I increased the amount of Pilates exercises I was doing and was outside walking for at least 20 minutes twice a day. I never took any painkillers before I exercised so that I would know if I was over doing it. I did get some abdominal pain whilst walking, but if I sat down (on a chair, log or wall, not the ground) it would disappear within 5 minutes.

Days 15 – 21 saw the most dramatic improvement. I was doing most of the basic pilates mat exercises except for the ones which are performed in the prone position (lying face down) as this put too much pressure on my still swollen abs. However these can be done standing up although your back muscles don’t work so hard. I also started swimming and by keeping my abs contracted to support my spine I was able to swim for 20 minutes with no problems. Although initially the scar felt it was pulling the feeling was short lived. I swam front crawl most of the time but was able to swim breast stroke and back crawl. I had also increased the length of time I spent walking to an hour each day but I was still having to sit down en-route when I got ab pains. I also made sure that when I had finished exercising I lay down and rested for 20 minutes.

Days 21 – 26 I really had to start building myself up as I am self employed and my classes were due to start on Day 27. I was increasing the intensity of the pilates exercises and doing them for an hour each day, I still could only walk but the rests during the walk were not so frequent and I was increasing the amount of lengths I was doing in the swimming pool but still only doing a 20 minute session and I incorporated some aqua aerobic exercises.

Days 27 – 36 My classes commenced with Aqua aerobics and Pilates. I had devised a low impact routine for the aqua aerobics where one is treading water for a lot of the time and doing lots of movements with your limbs whilst keeping your core still. This provides a good workout without pulling on your abs. I was also able to do low impact aerobics but it should be noted that this was on a wooden semi-sprung floor and I wear good quality trainers for aerobics so the impact was much more reduced than if it had been on a concrete floor. I also started cycling so I could go out with my personal training clients whilst they ran. The cycling put no strain on my abs at all although as I moved my leg upwards it would press into the inflamed area above the scar which felt most odd. I still lay down for 20 minutes after exercising.

Days 37 – 49 I continued teaching and decided to try to increase what I was doing. I tried to play tennis. This was not a good idea, serving really pulled at my scar and the stop starting was no good even though I was wearing support pants. I also started running on farm tracks. I wore support pants for this as well to help support my abs. As long as I kept on the paths I was fine but I got quite a severe ab pain when I ran on tarmac.

Days 50 – 58 I continued teaching and even performed a small amount of high impact moves in the aerobics class. I included about a 200m stretch of running on tarmac in my 5 mile route with no ill effects. On day 58 I also played tennis for 2 hours with no problems. I still however only do a few repetitions of the prone pilates exercises as it still puts a lot of pressure on my scar area.

Although I am not up to full speed I would say physically I am in good shape and feel that some of your readers may be relieved to hear that it is possible to exercise without damaging yourself relatively quickly after the operation as long as you listen to your body and stop if it starts to hurt. The key to my success I would say is my pilates training being able to keep my core stable whilst moving other parts of my body meant my abs were much less likely to suffer. And I would suggest that anyone wishing to exercise should go to a qualified pilates instructor and ask them to check that they can keep their core still, keep their back in a neutral alignment whilst doing pilates exercise. It is important that some one checks you personally as if you go to a large group pilates class it is possible that you are doing the exercises badly if the instructor isn’t coming around and checking you all the time.

Please bear in mind that Karen is a fitness instructor with ten years experience and if you’d like to contact her, you can do so by email on karen@grabowskionline.com.  Her experience will not be shared by everyone.

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in my own words book coverNow available on our online store and all other online book store’s. In My Own Words: Women’s Experience of Hysterectomy is full of many other real-life stories from women the world over.

Other people’s stories help women feel less isolated. They show that they aren’t going mad, missing the point or stupid.

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Linda Parkinson-Hardman

Transformational coach and founder of the Hysterectomy Association. Professionally I'm an information scientist who specialises in the adoption and engagement of digital technologies. I am a writer and author of nine books to date, and I've edited a further seven; phew what a lot for a Thursday afternoon :-)

This Post Has 18 Comments
  1. I have used tumerick milk coconut oil warmed up twice a day & feel great after 4 weeks .I had a abdominal insesion removing my uterus & tubes keeping overies & cervix .I was a very healthy person products op which I believe has helped me recover so quickly .I have jogged a 10 km at 5 weeks and feel fine .I now intend to run every other day .

  2. You need to see your GP to get it checked out sooner rather than later.

  3. I am two months post op after total abdominal hysterectomy surgery. Till twö days back I had no side effects. Now I am having pain in left groin. I do 40 minutes walking. I am afraid this groin pain should lead to hernia. Or Is this a common pain?

  4. I did not have a hysteectomy (though it has now been recommended that I do), but had an abdominal unilateral salpingo oopherectomy. I gather the recovery and recovery times are similar. I did not do preparation as it was emergency surgery for ovarian cancer that I was not aware I had (I went to hospital with abdominal pain).. For the first month, I found even short walks tired me quickly More than ten minutes). Now I am six weeks, I have been ‘signed off’ for gentle exercise such as yoga. I have also been doing taii chi for a couple of weeks. Because I still tire quickly, I have been trying to get my fitness back up (I was very fit before) by doing short bursts of exercise each day, such as using a fitness step. This is helping immensely. I have also been using an acupressure mat every day, which I found eased tension and stiffness in my back, particularly from the initial time where there were long periods of sitting. Also of course, pelvic floors religiously! I have now got kegel weights to assist in this.

  5. Hi Joan and thanks for the lovely compliment 🙂 As for pilates, it is one of the best all round exercises after a hysterectomy, but you probably wouldn’t want to start it immediately anyway. You’ll probably want to give yourself a couple of months at least before going back to it. Might be worth having a chat with your instructor as they’ll be better able to advise you in accordance with their insurance requirements too.

  6. Linda. I found your blog interesting since it is the first one I have seen that talks about more than driving and shopping after the operation.
    I am due to have my total abdominal hysterectomy next month. I only went to the doctor because I felt a lump in my tummy but they found 2 large cysts and a fibroid so everything will be removed. I currently do 12 exercise classes a week including Step and Body Attack which I love. I mix these with Pilates and Body Balance and am considered to be very fit. I am planning to suspend my gym membership so I am not tempted to go back too quickly – but do you have an idea when I could go back to aerobics-type exercise classes. I also cycle a lot – so am interested to see that other ladies can do that with no problem.
    I was wondering about pilates because in class we pull in our abs muscles and do situps – is that safe with all those stitches?
    Thanks for any advice you might have. Regards.

  7. i am 4mnths post opp and getting frustrated at not knowing what exercises a can do to help me get back to normal! i have been swimming since wk 7 and am back to work but if i am on my feet for more than four hrs at a time i feel like my pelvic floor is too weak too even contract. if any one can suggest some exercises that will stop the feeling that (altho nothing is there to fall)it still feels it is going too!!:( by reading the previous posts it sounds like pilates is the way forward. would all instructors know how to advise after this sort of surgery?

  8. Gosh, I think I’d probably ask the pysiotherapist attached to your GP surgery about that.

  9. Hi I have a pilates machine and just at beginners stage pre-op. I thought I could not continue with pilates post surgery, because of use of core muscles may cause damage. Is it safe to use ? Thanks x

  10. Thanks for your story, which is very helpful for me. I’m encouraged to read that you began swimming in the third week. The info leaflet that I was given suggests no swimming for six weeks. I am a fit swimmer (did a 5km charity swim 2 days before my op) and can’t help feeling that swimming would be a very good recovery exercise.

  11. Had a bikini cut tah 2 months ago. Biking and spinning were my fav exercises before surgery. Recovery has been slow- just able to walk 1 1/2 miles the other day. Wondering if it would be stupid to go back to spinning anytime soon? I worry about causing damage but want to get back to exercise. Would love any thoughts of other good exercises-no Pilates classes around here

  12. I had my hysterectomy (they took everything they possibly could!) in June 2011 and I’m still not fit. I joined a gym and this was a disaster as after each session (which was formulated by a personal trainer) my body vibrated for about 2 days, making me feel really unwell. I’m now almost 8 months post op and the most I can do is go for a brisk walk before I get the shakes. My Doctor says that my body isn’t recovered enough for vigarous exercise (due to some post op complications), but I feel I should be. It’s a frustrating time as I was very fit and a regular runner before this. If anyone can make any suggestion s I’d be really grateful. Good Luck!

  13. I have just started swimming as well as basic Pilates, the latter being a first for me. I find that the exercises for beginners can be very gentle & are a great way to build up strength & stamina. Pilates is a great exercise for post op when you are recovered enough & are able to do it. 🙂

  14. I am due my Total Abdo hyst in 3 weeks. I have been fit until recently, when pelvic pain has stopped me exercising regularly.
    Is it too late to start Pilates? I don’t even have a clue where I could get some individual advice.

    Thanks
    Frances

  15. I wish I had found palate before I had my hysterectomy, I was sent out of hospital with a booklet with a couple of pages of exercises, no follow up at all after surgery. I followed the instructions, and kept as active as possible, but had no way of knowing if I was doing the exercise in an effective way. I was lucky I have some insurance cover, so I was able to ask for some private physo. The person I chose is palate trained and has worked out a program for me based on basic pelvic floor and core exercises, the effect is staggering, I can now tell when I am doing the exercise in the right way and as a spin off my posture has also improved. I also do a weekly aerobic class and ti chi, I feel that variety is important if exercise is fun rather than a chore. I am 71 this year but I can keep up with the class with an age of around 35/45.

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