scared of the gym post-boob-job
July 27, 2014 10:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm the Anon from this question. You smarties were on the ball -- but now that I'm post-surgery what do I do next?

You guys were absolutely right about going ahead with the surgery -- particularly since it did get surprisingly complicated. Basically, the tissue of my boobs was so heavy, and had been for so long, that my chest muscles were pulling away from... whatever they're supposed to be attached to? Anyways, that's why I was having migraines, why I could never do anything involving my pectoral muscles, etc etc. My muscles were all WTF owwwwwwwwwww. Long story short, what was supposed to be a 4 hr surgery extended into 8, I was in and out of the hospital for 2 months, and I have a second surgery scheduled in the fall which should be the last one. It's so good this was planned because in a year or so this would have been an emergency because it was starting to affect my ribs/lungs/heart.

The financial bits were good too, because I hit my catastrophic cap between all the hospital visits. I'm finally feeling "better" too -- I'm very sore sometimes (like I prefer not to lift my arms above my head) but I'm feeling better than I did even before my first surgery. I'm LITERALLY 30 pounds lighter in a spot that was basically torquing my entire torso out of whack. This is such a triumph because it's coming after a 2 yr fitness journey -- I had already lost and kept off about 40 pounds. I've been cleared for the gym now, too, and I'm excited to go back!

But... what do I do?

Here have been my ideas so far:

1. Cardio
a. Running -- I had recently done my first 5K right before my surgery and had been planning on training for another 5K in order to improve my time. HOWEVER, my boobs are still bigger than average and are really tender; not digging the bouncy trouncy Tigger aspect of running. Plus, I sincerely doubt the post-surgery bras I'm rocking are meant for serious running.

b. Swimming -- My incisions are healed, so I CAN swim, and the gym pool is salt not chlorine so it'll be gentle to my new skin/scar tissue. HOWEVER, is it going to weird people out if I basically dog paddle or frog it? I haven't yet tried doing a regular overhead stroke but I think it'll tug at my scar. However, that might be good because it'll improve my skin's elasticity or whatever? IDK, I've never had such a long scar before. I don't feel like I'd tear anything, just that I'd be sore.

c. Reclining bicycle -- :-/ It feels like a step back since I did a whole race. :( But there'd be no bouncy or overarm stuff.

d. Elliptical/Stair machine -- I... fall off these. Or did. Maybe smaller boobs has improved my balance?

So far I'm leaning towards swimming with some self-guided aqua aerobics... thoughts?




I've been on a 5 pound weight limit for over 3 months. I'd like to try weights, but have no idea what steps to take. So here, please go wild with suggestions because I don't know where to start.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would ask your surgeon for a referral to Physical Therapy and then have those folks help you design a program that will help.
posted by 724A at 11:13 PM on July 27, 2014 [26 favorites]

Can you try swimming with a kickboard so you can still get the cardio and leg workout without having to use your arms?
posted by McPuppington the Third at 11:18 PM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stationary bike? I would say cycling for real but might be too sore on your arms at points.

How about gently trying to go through the range of motion from your normal swimming stroke while on land? That will tell you exactly what will be a problem and if you want to gently stretch out, it will give you a chance to do that without the risk of sinking if you suddenly have to pull out of a movement because it's not feeling good.
posted by kadia_a at 11:30 PM on July 27, 2014

If you can't do PT (and I think that's an excellent suggestion that should trump whatever we offer here), why not try some of these cardio activities and see how they go? You don't have to commit to a full-on program to answer the question "can I do this with my current bra/scars/incisional pain" or "will I fall over?" for each activity.

With weights, especially free weights, form is really important to safety and effectiveness. If you can afford a one-off session with an experienced personal trainer (preferably one certified by whatever agency regulates them in your area if there is such), it's probably a good option for you.

(If you're feeling self-conscious, try to foreground the fundamental truth that everyone at the gym is wrapped up in their own stuff and nobody really cares much what you're doing.)

(Related: oh, puh-leeze with the frowny-face 'step back' talk - you had major surgery, were in and out of the hospital for 2 months, and have a completely different upper body. Just by setting foot in the gym, you are more badass than most people who are running 5Ks right this minute. Give yourself some credit, here!)
posted by gingerest at 11:33 PM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Swim! Swim breaststroke or whatever. People in lanes are not looking at anyone else while they're swimming. Treat yourself to swimming headphones and relax in the water and as long as you are in the slow lanes and not blocking, no-one cares what speed or stroke you are doing.

Also, try dancing at home because you can put on TWO bras over a shirt for super-comfy support and not feel weird. There are fun dance mixes or tapes and you could see it as a sample of different cardio so when you're up for it, you can sign up for a Zumba or Bollywood or whatever class. Put a comfy t-shirt on, then a bra, then another bra (over the t-shirt which acts as a liner) and your boobs will not budge even if you are headbanging. Dancing is good because you can move whatever way is comfortable. You can get a cheap heart-rate monitor that will tell you if you're dancing fast enough. I had to adjust for safety issues from walking/cycling and have found that dancing for twenty minutes actually worked out harder and easier than the cycling or running.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:09 AM on July 28, 2014

Nobody cares what you're doing in the pool so long as you're not bumping into them. The most I would think is "Maybe she has arm trouble. Well, I'm glad she's found a way to swim" and then get back to my own beeswax. This is pretty typical for the gym-- everything about exercise is sort of goofy-looking and nobody cares much (unless they're a jerk.)

I think you would get a lot out of water aerobics or water jogging!
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:10 AM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lots of people head to the pool to do a type of water running. The resistance of the water provides a very good workout. At the pool where I occasionally swim laps, there is a whole lane set aside for these folks.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:13 AM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about walking uphill on the treadmill in lieu of running? You can do intervals wherein you change the elevation of the belt so that you increase your heart rate but without the bounce of running.
posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 3:51 AM on July 28, 2014

Walking on the treadmill, using the stairclimber, using the elyptical machine holding without doing the arm bit should all be a lot less bouncy than running.


Swimming, breaststroke if possible. If not get a kickboard and just work your legs.

and talk to your surgeon about physical therapy.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:08 AM on July 28, 2014

Nthing that it's a good idea to meet with a physical therapist, especially since you're still sore and you've got one surgery left. You will be able to do any and all of the activities you've mentioned if you want, just maybe not quite yet.

In the meantime, the bike might be your best bet for now: I've had to downgrade from running to the recumbent bike twice in the past two years for various medical reasons. No shame in that! It may seem wimpy compared to running, but it's a surprisingly good workout, won't stress your upper body, and will keep your legs and lungs in good condition for when you do ease back into running. Or swimming. Or weights. Or all three and then some!

If you ever find yourself feeling inadequate or awkward next to your fellow gym-goers, remind yourself that you're recovering from an amazing physical challenge, and most of them have never had to overcome any obstacle nearly as tough; you only look like you're taking it easy, but inside you are among the baddest of the badasses.

Congratulations on your successful surgery and have fun at the gym!
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:38 AM on July 28, 2014

Oh man, there are so many things a physical therapist could help you out with. First is scar tissue. They can show you techniques to massage it and break it up. The scar tissue goes through each layer of your soft tissue, not just the skin, and it can attach to things it shouldn't be, keeping things from gliding smoothly.

If the scar tissue is limiting your range of motion (or even perceived range of motion) I would not say you should just start doing activities with some kind of adaptation you invent. You would be doing the equivalent of limping with your arms, which can throw all other kinds of stuff out of whack. You can be shown safe adaptations for your range of motion, or ways to increase that range of motion.

A physical therapist can also fill in those question marks about your pectoral muscles, and the WTF owwww. Strengthening those, and all the muscle groups that support them, would be pretty key.

Surgeons often have the attitude of fixing things via knife. Physical therapy is really the other half of recovery. Physical therapy practices tend to skew towards critical care/old people, or sports/athletes. I'd avoid a sports oriented practice for your injury. One associated with the hospital you had surgery at, if convenient to you, would be your best bet.
posted by fontophilic at 6:11 AM on July 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

Ask your doctor! Seriously, don't listen to the mefi answers, as thoughtful as they are, because they are not YOUR DOCTOR. I've had a lot of surgeries and I'm a big exerciser. Calling my surgeon's office to clear specific new exercise activities revealed some surprising restrictions and I'm so glad I took that step.

Congrats on the surgery and I hope the rest of your recovery goes smoothly!
posted by horizons at 6:37 AM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh yes please get a consult from some kind of qualified professional working with your surgeon(s). I'm cringing just thinking about how incredibly badly it could go.

I mean, I'm sure you could walk on a treadmill (or in the pool if your gym does aqua walk or similar) as you are apparently walking around fine and without restrictions, but that's literally the only thing I'd be willing to do myself without specific instructions from an authority.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:45 AM on July 28, 2014

Assuming you get the okay from your doctor - I always recommend weights. Squat/Deadlift/Bench/Overhead Press/Row is a really solid series that you can, should you choose to do so, supplement with other movements. It all depends on how you feel, of course. If you feel like you're tearing something, back off a bit. Common sense, you know.

For something completely different, maybe try a spinning class?

But really, in the end, always check first with your doctor and/or physical therapist.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:56 AM on July 28, 2014

HOWEVER, is it going to weird people out if I basically dog paddle or frog it?

This was my question about being nervous about the pool - excellent advice as always. At my pool, there are people doing all kinds of different workouts and as far as I could tell, paid very little attention to me. And on the pool schedule, there is a "adult independent exercise" section of the pool for an hour every day. People there were water walking, lifting water weights, water aerobics, and any number of other things. You might also look for some water exercise classes at the pool if that will help you get into a routine. There were several different levels offered at mine. Good luck!
posted by Beti at 8:56 AM on July 28, 2014

I agree with everyone else that says to talk to your doctor and set up some PT, it doesn't have to be long term, but these are the people who specialize in figuring out the correct way to move bodies after trauma.

As far as the pool goes. Well, I never do freestyle in the pool because I never learned how to put my face in the water and not get water up my nose. I mostly do breaststroke, but mix it up with back stroke (which would have the same problem for you as freestyle I expect) and side stroke. No one ever looks at me oddly. I see lots of people on kick boards for some or all of their laps, so that's a fine suggestion, and there is always water aerobics class. They are usually filled with older women, which might feel odd to you, but it does mean that it is tailored to people who don't have perfect bodies already.
posted by katers890 at 9:47 AM on July 28, 2014

Just stepping in to suggest that swimming using a kickboard for any real length of time might be a bad idea if you are still too sore to lift your arms above your head. Definitely talk PT with your doctor and/or a physical therapist, and get their opinion before trying a kickboard.
posted by dondiego87 at 8:40 PM on July 28, 2014

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