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Recovery and how to stay sane

Alright, now that have worked on a little checklist of what decisions we need to make pre surgery, let’s talk about what else it does to our body, and mind especially after waking up from your anaesthesia. 

The Moment has come.

You wake up, you look down on you and there they are…those beautiful mountains sitting on your chest. If you decided to go under the muscle, you will potentially feel a bit shocked because they are right up in your face. They will sit a lot higher initially until they start dropping, so don’t panic!

You will feel tired and drowsy, but hell you will feel happy and relieved…you did not only make it through a major surgery, you also finally get to look down on what you were waiting for so long! 

The tightness.

And once you have sorted your emotions, you will feel the tightness on your chest. I read so much about it before I had my surgery and people were describing it like an elephant sitting on their chest. I wouldn’t call it like this but I guess everyone is different here.

For me, and this probably because I go to the gym, it felt like I had the biggest and best chest workout in my life and I can feel my muscles stretching all the way from one side of my body to the other. That tightness will last, oh yes, get used to it!

All I want to add here: stay on top of your pain meds, no need in skipping any, you don’t need to prove anything to anyone…take them all! I set up a schedule for all my meds in my phone (Health app for all iOS users here) so your phone literally reminds you every time you need to refill. 

Did I miss the gym?

I obviously knew beforehand that training would be off the table for a while and I tried to prepare myself mentally for it. But of course, you don’t know how you will actually feel. 

So, did I miss working out?

No, I did not!

Going to the gym and training was literally the last thing I was thinking about…all I wanted to do was lying on the couch and sleeping. I am a person that always needs to do something, I am always out and about but this was different for me. I had no urge to get up and do anything. I was happy where I was: on the sofa, watching Netflix, scrolling on my phone and snacking. 

Give your body what it needs…

…time to heal! And eat…keep eating. Don’t think just because you are sedentary for a few days and won’t be overly physically active for the next weeks, that you need to put yourself on a diet and shred. Your body needs all the nutrients it can get in order to heal.

If you don’t fuel your body, then your recovery will take longer, the time you have to take off the gym will increase and on top of that you also run the risk of complications. Trust me, you won’t get fat! Especially if you have been training before and when you have a good relationship with food, you know what’s good for you and what is not.

I, for example, didn’t even track…for the first time in years. I did pre-cook a few things to make life easier but besides that, I ate intuitively. I know what a portion size looks like and where to get the most nutrients from. But hey, if you feel like ice cream, have some ice cream, you deserve it

Moving around.

So, how did my activity looks like? For the first couple of days all I did was walking from the sofa to the bathroom and back, multiple times a day.

After three days, I had my first little walk outside to get some fresh air…it also gave me the certainty that we weren’t in another lockdown (hahaha). And from then on, I slowly increased my walking…from a lap around the house to a walk around the block. I am not talking about the daily 10k steps, I am talking about very slow strolls to support blood circulation. 

My mental insanity.

Again, everyone is different and I can only talk about my own experience. It is important to be aware of the psychological and emotional impact the surgery might have on you – and I am not only talking about the positive emotions like excitement or anticipation; I am also talking about the anxiety, the depression, boredom or uselessness to only name a few…and trust me, I went through every single one! 

While the first few days are easy in the sense of resting because your body is too tired and exhausted, you are under the influence of medication, you feel this enormous tightness on your chest and you don’t necessarily feel like jumping around, your mind might get ahead of you.

I got to the point where I was extremely bored and depressed. I had watched everything I wanted to watch, scrolling through Instagram reels wasn’t satisfactory anymore and I was stuck at home. I was in the middle of the ‘boobie blues’.

I contemplated if I made the right decision…I couldn’t go to the gym, I couldn’t go outside on my own, I couldn’t take Hazel for a walk, I couldn’t even make myself breakfast. I hate being useless and I hate depending on others. I was in this mix of emotions for quite a few days and it seemed endless. Keep telling yourself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and how great life will be once this is all over.

The return

First of all, recovery will be different from person to person and your surgeon will give you the right instructions when it comes to going back to the gym and into training. If you look through the internet like I did, there are hundreds of different opinions online so it is crucial to listen to YOUR surgeon and YOUR body. Your surgeon is the expert, you just paid a good amount of $$$ for this surgery, so don’t f*** it up by running into exercising too quickly.

If the internet says you can start running again after three weeks but your surgeon says no or maybe you don’t feel like running after three weeks, then simply don’t

I had my first check up with my surgeon 5 days after my surgery and she told me I could start again with lower body workouts and light cardio. For me as a ‘gym addict’ that was exactly what I wanted to hear. But I also knew that overestimating myself and underestimating what my body just went through will cause more issues in the future than just ignoring it and training through an injury (as I have done in the past so many times).

So I gave it a full week and then slowly started walking on the treadmill, avoided sweating to my best capabilities and added some banded side steps and light upright leg press. It just felt good to get the body moving a bit but I really didn’t want to push it any further. 

I surprised myself.

I didn’t go as hard as I thought I would be. I am now 5 weeks post op. I am back to a somehow normal routine…lower body only of course. I take more time for my sessions and I also have more rest days. I do 2 cardio sessions a week, this being stationary cycling, stair master or treadmill…no jumping, no running, no burpees and whatsoever.

I have increased the weights on the machines and I am also using more machines by now. So think of anything that could destroy your legs: hip thrust machine, leg press, squat machine, leg extension, hamstring curl, calf raises, and the list goes on and on.

Did I struggle?

Hell yes I did, I had a real LOW!

The first couple of weeks it was all about getting my body back into moving and I was still quite in a lot of discomfort, especially in the morning. So, staying in bed instead of getting up to train wasn’t too hard.

But the more the pain reduced and the more independent I became, the harder it becamel. I wanted to do so many things – we literally just started in a new gym and they had the best equipment you could ever imagine – and I wanted to try all those fancy new machines so badly.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because I wasn’t able to lean my body weight onto my arms, I couldn’t hold on to things to strongly, I couldn’t lean over too much just yet. Nik needed to load up the machines with plates for me because I wasn’t allowed to lift more than 4kg.

So yeah, I got to a point where I was sad, depressed and hopeless….I was even close to give up. I saw no point in going to the gym every day and just being a burden for everyone. 

But I am here, and I made it through this time. So, let me tell you: DON’T GIVE UP! This situation is temporary and you will be back in no time! 

Want to know what happened next? Read my latest update here.

In all those posts I can only talk about my own experience but if you want to hear other fitness girls about their recovery, check out my interviews with Harriet Harper (over the muscle) and Kazzandra Fetters (under the muscle) – link IG accounts