Fitness After Bariatric Surgery

Fitness After Bariatric Surgery

(Edit: As of February 19, 2018, I’ve noticed the popularity of this post starting to rise again, due to engagement from Pinterest. I merely wanted to note that, while I am still not a doctor, I am now a licensed and certified Personal Trainer through ACE Fitness – and nothing in this article has been invalidated by my education and training. Take care of yourself, and KEEP MOVING! – Jeremy)

I get it – obesity generally does not happen to those who are maintaining good habits like going to the gym. Now, after years of hanging out on the couch, we are told by our bariatric surgery team that we need to get active. And then we need to stay active.

So, how the heck do we do that?

A Word Of Caution

Now, remember, folks – I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. The most important step you can take here is to coordinate your fitness plan carefully with the professionals in your life. Talk to your bariatric surgeon. Set up an appointment with your family doctor. Chat with your nutritionist. Maybe even make an initial consultation with a physical trainer. Don’t decide that you know everything there is to know about the subject and do it yourself.

Why not? In a word: setbacks. My wife, Lor, decided 3 days after surgery to walk nearly half a mile, despite warnings about taking it slow from her surgical team. The result? She injured herself and was bed-ridden for nearly a week afterward. The most important thing to remember is speed (slow) and consistency (every day.)

Try to keep in mind that physical activity is your friend. (Though it may not feel like it at times.) I have talked to and read about dozens of people who suffered major weight regains in the years after surgery. The common element? Every single one of them had stopped exercising.

Getting Off The Bed

In the days immediately following your surgery, your surgical team will be telling you to walk as much as you can. Great news: you can do this anywhere, with no special equipment. Spend the first days at home from the hospital getting out of bed, walking a few times back and forth around your home, and lie back down. Keep doing this! It may seem pointless, but it really isn’t.

Any kind of exercise (even that slow walking you can do) increases blood flow through your body. It tells the brain that you are using those muscles, creating a caloric deficit. Since you are not getting anything but protein shakes or mush during your first month post-surgery, the calories you need have to come from somewhere. So the body begins tapping into fat reserves, burning off your excess fat.

By being active every day, and steadily increasing your physical activity, you are asking your body to maintain your muscles by burning fat. It is as simple (and as profound) as that.

Getting Into The Gym

At 30 days out, you will hopefully get the green light from your surgery team to add resistance exercise (weights) to your routine. For many of us, this is a daunting task. What the heck am I supposed to do at a gym, anyway?

Relax – it really isn’t that complex. There are literally hundreds of tools out there to get you started if you don’t have a pro available to build a routine for you. I know you have access to the internet – you’re reading this, right? A search of “beginning weightlifting routine” turns up newbie-friendly programs from reputable sites like, Muscle and Fitness, and Shape. Spend some time looking around, find one you like, and get started.

I, personally, selected a plan from JeFit, thanks to its integration with my smartphone. My memory is horrible – so bad that I will not remember exercises, weights, and reps from one week to the next. Accordingly, I place my workout on my cell phone. A notebook will work just as well. Lor keeps her entire routine in her head. Not that I am jealous or anything.

My routine is broken up over 3 days: Day #1 is Chest/Triceps, Day #2 is Back/Biceps/Forearms, and Day #3 is Shoulders/Legs. Each routine is only 6 or 7 exercises long. I am not looking to isolate single muscles yet. I am looking for exercises that hit lots of muscle groups all at the same time. Each routine takes me about an hour. On days when I am not lifting weights, I am spending about an hour doing cardio. I include crunches at the end of every workout – weightlifting or cardio.

I do this six days a week. Sunday, I watch football. It sorta feels like exercise, anyway.

Also, remember: your gym workout does not have to be in a gym. A set of resistance bands and a yoga mat can be enough to get you started. It certainly was for me. If you find yourself too short on time to get to a gym, do it at home. Just make sure you do it!

Getting Into It (For Life)

The most important thing you can do is find a workout routine you will stick with. Don’t like weights? Try something like Pilates or Yoga – a routine that uses the body’s weight against itself. Can’t stand running? Put yourself on an elliptical machine or a bike. The most important thing is consistency. The person who simply walks around their neighborhood for half an hour every day will eventually be in better shape than the person with an intensely detailed workout routine who only exercises once a week. ¬†Consistency is key.

After that, don’t allow yourself to get bored! Try new things, and create new challenges for yourself. As many of you know, I started the Couch to 5K ¬†program a couple of weeks back. I did this simply because I have always hated running. It creates a challenge for me – can I really push through all the weeks of the program? This is my motivation – doing better than the week before. Find your own motivations: body measurements, dance lessons, a new outfit. Use whatever it takes to inspire you to get up and get moving.

Though I don’t recommend using things like “ice cream sundae” as a motivation. That way lies madness.

Ready For C25K Week 3,


The Day The Band Broke

It has been no secret to anyone here on Misdirected that I have not been enjoying working out. Whether doing home aerobics, walking, or performing “resistance exercise” with those hideous oversized rubber bands, I have just not been “into it”, as they say. Oh, I have been doing it, of course. I just haven’t been enjoying it at all.
This is strange, because I used to be a weightlifter, 15 years and 1 disability ago. Not a bodybuilder, mind you – a weightlifter. That was my primary form of exercise. I would spend hours at the gym, several days a week. I carried a spiral notebook to log my progression, worried about form, complained about cardio, challenged myself to perform “just one more rep” when working a muscle group to failure. I really dug it.
Yesterday, Lor wandered into the office and announced that we would be adding a stop to our daily walk. We would walk a mile up to our local community center, work out there, instead of at home, then walk back. I shrugged, and went along with it. At least it meant no time spent with the rubber bands for that day, right?
The gym at the community center (pictured above) was really pretty impressive – 6 or 7 cardio machines, and a whole bunch of multi-function weight machines. I downloaded an app (of course) to get a suggested workout, and then started hitting the machines, beginning with the bench press.
Now, mind you, I am someone who used to be able to bench 250-ish pounds. So, it was a little depressing to spend some time figuring out that my current 3-rep max was a measly 70 pounds. (3-rep max: 3 repetitions of a weight exercise where you can lift for one second, hold for one second, then lower the weight over 3 seconds with perfect form.) Hooray for the strength benefits of resistance band exercise. Dejected, I set my weight at the next lowest setting (55 pounds) and started cranking through my first set of 12.
Somewhere through my second set, I found I was actually enjoying myself.
I went through an entire full-body session, over the course of about an hour. Sure, the numbers were fractions of what I used to see, back in the day. But the challenge of maintaining form, the sheer visceral feel of moving real weights was amazing. Today, I am sore everywhere, in a really good way. Best of all, I can feel that I have been working out in my drooping chest and arms. I can’t wait to go back.
At last, I seem to have found my endorphin-releasing exercise. It isn’t walking, it isn’t running, it certainly isn’t resistance band exercise. Just good old-fashioned straining and grunting as I fight the weights. I am already making plans for breaking up my weight training over multiple days, just so I can spend more time at the gym. Makes me wonder why I didn’t do this all along.
Other than because Lor hadn’t suggested it yet, of course.
Ready To Throw Away The Giant Rubber Bands,
– Hawkwind

My Resistance To Weight Lifting

Photo Credit: drpretty via Compfight cc
Well, now that yesterday’s unpleasantness is behind (Ha! “Behind” – see what I did there?) us, we can move on to more important things…
(Crickets chirping.)
Funny, it’s the screw-ups that make the best copy, isn’t it? There is just not a whole lot of gripping drama to “My stomach seems to have recovered and my blood pressure is a little low.” Error makes for better reading than compliance.
So, given that I will probably not be indulging in any humorous diet screw-ups today, I am free to turn my attention to something I should’ve started last week: resistance exercise.
I had sorta been waiting until I could make it up to the gym at our local community center, but I can see that waiting is not doing me any favors. 70 pounds of weight loss has led to a whole lot of sag. So, rather than waiting until I get out of the house and up to the gym on a regular basis, I am forced to turn my attention back to my fall-back tools for “weight lifting”: resistance bands.
I will be the first to tell you, I am not a fan of resistance bands. I feel like they don’t provide enough resistance, forcing really high reps to get any kind of significant benefit out of them. I am also not clever/flexible enough to figure out how to use them to target specific muscles, so I end up doing sort of general exercises (like standing rows) instead of muscle-specific ones (like, say, cable pulldowns). Once upon a time, I was a gym rat, and the downshift kinda drives me crazy.
However, doing 50% of something is always preferable to doing 100% of nothing. At least that is what my mother used to say when I would fail to turn in homework assignments back in school. So, I have put together a little resistance band workout that I will try to use 2 or 3 times a week:

  • Chest Presses (To target that hideous mass of loose skin on my pecs)
  • Standing Rows (To try to get some work on my largely ignored back)
  • Shrugs (See if I can develop shoulders again)
  • Overhead triceps extensions (The most awkward of all, as it involves putting a heel on one end of the band then reaching up with the other end.)
  • Bicep curls (Standing with legs spread holding down the center of the band, grabbing the ends in each hand and curling – another weird one.)
  • Forearm curls (Same as before, just engaging only forearms)
  • Crunches (‘Cause, abdomen fat/skin)
No legs resistance work here – the 3 – 4 times a week on our single speed bikes is about all the leg work I want or can handle.
Hopefully, this will have some positive result, though I am not holding my breath. I honestly feel like I might as well be doing isometrics instead – the bands provide similar resistance, and isometric exercise doesn’t involve trying to jury-rig ways to keep the bands in place. Keeping my fingers crossed.
If anyone out there is successfully using resistance bands, let me know – I am just positive I am doing this all wrong.
Just Waiting Until I Smack Myself With These Oversized Rubber Bands,
– Hawkwind