When I was recovering from having my bowel removed, the last thing I thought was that I would be able to go the gym and feel good about myself again. I have been going to the gym since I was about 16, striving to be fit, have a great physique and one day to enter a competition or at least a do a photo shoot. But having been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis early on it just ruined my chances. The Prednisone made me balloon up for all the wrong reasons and cause muscle wastage and the Ulcerative Colitis just made me lose weight as retaining nutrition was impossible. So I always thought my aspirations to be in the fitness industry would never be achieved – so when I discovered I was having surgery, I gave up hope completely.
The last 6 months have been a long and bumpy road. I’ve had to build my strength up again and get back my confidence in the gym. Going back to the gym for the first time after 12 months out from my flare up/surgery was nerve racking, I had all sorts of thoughts running through my head, is it safe? Will my ileostomy pop out if I lift weights? Could I get a hernia or prolapse and so much more! Before going back to the gym I hit Google ,researching what belts to wear, what to do, was anyone else lifting weights with an ileostomy etc and I was surprised to find that was very little information to help me. I spoke with my physio and was told to take it easy so I just decided to take it slow and see how I got on.
I didn’t get an all clear on my heart for a while so I had to take it really easy. I was very aware of how my heart would change when doing any exercise. It would go nuts if I was just got up off the sofa so I knew I would need to start very slowly!. I had numerous tests and scans on my heart in January 2014 and the Cardiologist advised me to be careful with exercise. So I bought a heart monitor and decided to start with very short walks around my village and build it up gradually from there.
Back At The Gym
The first day I was in the gym, people’s reactions to my weight loss and general weakness was difficult to take in –
“People were shocked to see me looking frail and struggling to lift weights that I could lift easily before. To begin with I didn’t tell anyone I had surgery just that I had been unwell”
I would worry that if I lifted up someone would spot my stoma when my T-Shirt would rise, could they see it through my top or it will make loud noises or explode when I lifted weights? It sounds ridiculous but I really did think like this!
What did I do?
At the gym I started with lifting light weights to build my strength with short bursts of cardio to start building up my fitness. I decided to start jogging (to begin with it was more like walking)- it was great to be out in the fresh air as with the Ulcerative Colitis the only running I ever did was to the nearest toilet! I dusted off my bike from the garage and started with small cycles to my nearest village and back again, slowly building up my strength and starting to feel more human.
“When I started my weight training I started using a stoma guard and hernia support belt both from OstoMart – both were essential as part of my training”
The stoma guard and support belt both made me forget I had a stoma and helped boost my confidence, as I knew I was protected.
The Belt I used was this one Click To View Here its brilliant and well worth you getting!!
I also started using a heart rate monitor and watch to work on my fitness, as I had had heart problems throughout all 3 surgeries. Initially I used it to make sure I wasn’t over doing it but when my Cardiologist gave me the all clear I continued to use it to monitor my fitness and it’s great when you can physically see your fitness is improving. I also took a look at my diet as I have always been into to healthy eating but the Ulcerative Colitis it stopped me from eating a lot of foods and dairy products. However with my stoma I have found I can eat so much more and I was able to tailor my diet to help me bulk up and feel healthy again.
When you have been out of the gym or fitness for a long time, it’s frustrating when you see other people being able to lift more weight, run and cycle for longer than you. People were gaining huge muscles quickly and generally looking fitter and healthier! But when you do eventually get there yourself, its great to look back and see what you have achieved!
Overtime I got stronger and fitter and gained some weight. At the end of February I decided I wanted to be the strongest and fittest I could be, as I was determined to help and inspire others that have Ostomies or IBD that it is possible to do it!
“A friend said to me to take pictures as many as I can to see how my body was changing to motivate me, and to look back on and think- wow I did that!”
Steroids You Must Be On Them …
Most frustrating thing was hearing multiple times
“You look to good -you have definitely taken steroids!”
My answer – Do you really think after everything I have been through- IBD, major surgery x 3 and an underlying heart condition, that I would do something like that? It was hard work, discipline, grim determination and a passion to succeed not just for myself but for others too that make me look like this!. People can say what they want but I know what I went through to get into the shape I am in and I am determined to help others achieve there dreams – like I have.