*Firstly, I’m not a PT or a doctor, so if you try any of these workouts [see bottom of the page], be careful and remember this works for me, but might not for others. This blog is to instil some confidence that you can workout with an ostomy bag*
Before I was diagnosed with IBD I was a fitness freak. I was exercising too much and too hard to achieve something totally impossible. I wanted to be thin and tall, but with a peachy bum and rock hard abs all at the same time. Nothing was ever good enough, and back then I really hated my body. I was trying to change what I looked like to fit an image I thought society wanted me to be. As my IBD diagnosis rolled around in 2017, I didn’t see the physical and mental damage I was doing to myself until I couldn’t do it anymore. Before my diagnosis, I would get up at 6am to go for a run and complete a two hour gym session, but as my colitis waged war on my body I couldn’t stand long enough for the kettle to boil. When my angry colon took over, breathing was exhausting, and I couldn’t hold a ten minute conversation without falling asleep; so I wasn’t about to squeeze into running gear. Then, my surgery rolled around and as my stoma nurse was placing the dot where my stoma would go, she asked me if I liked sport; a subject I hadn’t thought about in over a year. The very prospect of walking again was exciting [see the video below where I walked four days after my surgery], let alone picking up a weight at the gym again.
I started small by walking on my own for the first time in months. This turned into strengthening exercises the hospital gave me, and then around 4 months after surgery I decided I wanted to swim. For the first time in almost five years, I was about to get into a public pool. I bought a high waisted bikini to hide as well as support my bag, and I literally jumped in. I took it slow, starting with 10 lengths of ‘mum-breast-stroke’, and each week I upped it slowly. After a month of swimming once a week, I was pushing 50 lengths!
Back at university and after five months of swimming, I felt brave enough to hit the gym! I gave up swimming while at uni and now focus on my gym sessions. I wear a support waistband [see below from Comfizz] that goes around my stomach under my gym kit, and puts pressure on my stoma area to reduce the chance of a hernia. Getting a hernia is more prevalent in ostomates because of the weakness in the abdomen where your intestine pokes through the stomach. This means I have to be more careful when I’m doing any exercises that could put strain on my stomach area.
After almost a year of training, with swimming and daily gym sessions, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been; both mentally and physically because the difference now is my mentality going into my sessions. I train to keep myself healthy; it makes me feel good about myself, and I workout for nobody else other than myself. I trailed through the fitness nuts on instagram, and I’ve created a good routine that suits me perfectly. If you want to start getting into the gym, I would start with Instagram (or get a PT! But I’m a student and Instagram will have to do!). There are tons of amazing fitness gurus out there videoing their workouts in the gym or at home. I watch their videos and tailor each exercise to suit me. I started small with walking on a treadmill for 20 minutes and stretching twice a week. Then moved onto using small 4kgs weights and doing a 30 minute session three times a week. As the months have gone on I’ve gotten stronger and more confident to build my routine, to suit my body and push myself too.
It’s taken me nine months to formulate a workout that’s effective for my body. I try to hit the gym at least five – if not six – times a week. My favourite workouts are legs and bum because they’re more fun, and they don’t put too much pressure on my stomach area. You can do ab workouts with a stoma, but you have to be smart! I mix my arm and ab routines together, so I don’t push my body too far. I don’t want to risk getting a hernia, so I keep them short and sweet. If you don’t feel like you’re strong enough or you’re not confident enough to start lifting just yet, walking on a treadmill for 20 minutes is where I began. Fitness with an ostomy is possible but us ostomates have to be a little bit more careful! So by all means, hit the gym, but remember to take it easy and tailor your sessions to suit you!
My main goal is to get back on a horse! I started riding when I was three years old and grew up with horses. I haven’t ridden in four years and I miss it more than I can express. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to get back in the saddle, but for now the gym is just fine!
Below is my current gym routine.
*Again, remember to be careful and tailor your sessions to suit YOUR body! I’m not a PT or a doctor so please consult a pro before you do any of these*
Stretching is one of the most important parts of a workout! I warm up and cool down by stretching for 10 minutes with 10 minutes on a treadmill.
I do 10 reps and two or three sets per gym session depending on how I’m feeling!
Legs and bum
- Bulgarian Split Squat
- Single Elevated Side Squat
- Toe Taps Into Lunges
- Reverse Weighted Lunges
- Weighted Squats
- Single Leg Split Stiff Lifts
- Weighted Step Ups
- Heel Elevated Goblet Squats
- Incline Dumbbell Press
- Front Curls
- Dumbbell Chest and Shoulder Press
- Dumbbell Hammer Curls
- Incline Dumbbell Curls
- Cuban Press
- Single Arm Dumbbell Rows
- Weighted Bicycles
- Weighted Arm and Leg Raises
- Leg Raise Walk Ups
- Bicycle Walk Ups
- Russian Twists
- Leg Raises
- In and Outs
- Leg Raise Twists
All of this may sound like another language and I honestly had no idea what any of these were called. I genuinely looked them up on the Gymshark Train Instagram… To see what they all look like and how they are done by professionals, go there!
Ive taken inspiration from:
Zanna Van Dijk – Great stretching and post-abdominal surgery videos. For any newbies to the ostomy scene, they’re a great place to start.
Alice Liveing – All round cracking videos from a pro PT!
Any of the Gymshark Instagrams.
Kelsey Wells, Megan Grubb, Beccasillsfit, Brittany Lupton, Krissy Cela -They have great all round Instagram pages if you want to join the fitness nuts!
Have fun getting sweaty!