From Setback to Comeback: How to Get Started After Umbilical Hernia Surgery

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As runners, we are fortunate, and simultaneously unfortunate, to be members of a community that knows what it feels like to be a fallen comrade. Sometimes a sudden injury rips running away from us. Other times a planned break is needed to get us back on track. Whatever the reason, time spent away from running can be a challenge. Read on to see how one of the writers in our web content department bounced back after a planned surgical procedure.

To those of you suffering through a setback, you are not alone, and we feel your pain…literally.

Meet Jenny. Setback free, she runs 30-40 miles per week, primarily on the roads, while training for her next half or full marathon. There is always another one, and she thrives on long runs where she gets to do her favorite activity for hours at a time. Her favorite race was the Santa Rosa Marathon in Northern California.

What caused you to take a break from running? Approximately how much time did you have to take off?

Throughout my running journey, I’ve had to take an extended break a couple of times, and each time I come back my love and appreciation for the run grows exponentially. I am continually amazed at my body’s ability to heal and adapt. My latest hiatus was due to having umbilical hernia repair surgery, which prevented me from running for three weeks.

Were you able to do any other kinds of fitness activities? If so, what did you do?

Not at first, but then I could slowly introduce activity as long as I did not push too hard or for too long while my body healed. My doctor said no swimming for six weeks and no weights for 10-12 weeks. Let’s just say I really began to have a greater appreciation for walking as exercise.

How did this running break affect you emotionally? 

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I have had to take breaks before that totally wrecked my emotional state, but I was ready for a break after a full year of training for and running two marathons. To slow down my pace with some walks and short, easy cardio gave my body some much needed time to relax and recover. This was a planned break, so I think that really helped. I find it far more frustrating when a sudden injury stops me from training.

Can you briefly explain the progression of your comeback? How did you ease back into it?

I didn’t want to do anything except lie very still in my bed while watching Law and Order SVU all day and icing my battered belly for the first three to four days. By day five I was able to go on short and slow walks. I continued this until day 10 post surgery. After that, the doctor cleared me to do light, non-impact cardio activities for 20-30 minute durations. I rotated between the stationary bike, stair master, and elliptical. I maintained this until three weeks post surgery. My doctor gave me clearance to start running a little sooner than that, but I wanted to ensure proper recovery and healing and not rush the process. Once I could run again, I kept it at two miles every other day for two weeks. Then I upped it to three miles every other day for the next week. Right now I am keeping my distance to four to six miles at a time until July when I start training for my next half marathon.

How long did this process take for you (from start of comeback until you felt fully fit again)?

It took me about six weeks post-surgery to feel like I was in fit running shape again. You don’t realize how much you use your core in all of your daily functions and activities. I wore a brace (called a “binder”) around my mid-section 24/7 for the first week after surgery. Two weeks after surgery, I wore the brace while I walked or exercised. It takes a while to build up your core strength again, especially since you cannot do any ab or core exercises until two to three months post-surgery.

Any tips of advice or encouragement you can offer to other runners that are sidelined?

The run will always be there. I used to think that time off from running would destroy my chances of becoming a better runner. I’m finally starting to realize that cross training, strength training, and taking some time off from actual running is beneficial for my physical and mental well-being. Everyone heals differently, so don’t compare your recovery experience to someone else’s. Appreciate that your body knows what it needs and honor that. When you honor your body, it will honor you right back.

Thanks, Jenny for sharing your experience. It’s always a great to see a reassuring story about a quick comeback.

*This is just our shared experience, please note that we are not doctors and encourage you to take the advice from a trained professional with expertise concerning your particular ailment.

Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.

Read more posts by Will

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