Regaining fitness after major surgery or injury

Keeping fit after surgery

I recently underwent fairly major abdominal surgery having my spleen removed at Brighton’s Royal Sussex Hospital, the kind of surgery where you get to spend several days in intensive care. Now, for a busy Brighton based personal trainer this is more than just an unwanted interruption to the job that I love to do. While the operation was a complete success, I dropped some 10kgs in weight and as I had very little body fat, this was mainly muscle. 

So then, like many of my clients, I’m now putting myself through a recovery of fitness and lean muscle mass exercise program. As of today I weigh 78kgs, just four weeks ago, I was 88kgs and in the best shape of my life.  So here then, is this Brighton based personal trainer’s top 6 tips for restarting exercise after major surgery or injury.  

1. Make a plan

Putting together a plan is the crucial first step. If you don’t do this then you a simply preparing to fail! Any plan should have a SMART goal(s) at its end. If you’re not familiar with SMART goals, SMART simply stands for: 

  • Specific: Well defined and easy to understand
  • Measurable: So you can track your progress as you work towards your goal
  • Achievable: Your goal needs to be attainable 
  • Realistic: Your goal needs to be within reach and relevant to your purpose
  • Timely: With a clearly defined timeline 

Having a plan gives you something to get back to so that you don’t go off piste. 
If you have a personal trainer, discuss your plan for nutrition, level of activity and pass on all the relevant information your surgeon and/or doctor and/or physio has given you so you’re all singing from the same hymn sheet. 

If you don’t have a personal trainer and you live in or around Brighton and Hove then consider giving me a call on 07730 038830 to see how I can help or chat through your plan with a gym buddy or gym instructor that you trust one hundred percent. 

2. Really focus on your nutrition

I cannot stress enough the importance of nutrition in the recovery process. Living in Brighton as I do, there are some fantastic nutritionists to consult with who can design a diet that will fit in with your plan and make the attainment of your goal a dead cert. 

Obviously as a Brighton based personal trainer, part of my studies included a strong focus on nutrition, even so, two heads are better than one! Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, and if you’re worried about vitamins and trace minerals, then consider taking supplements, although if your diet is well balanced you should be getting most, if not all vitamins and trace minerals from your food. As with any diet, make sure it’s one you can stick to.     

Advice from surgeon

3. Listen carefully to everything your surgeon or doctor tells you!

If your surgeon or doctor tells you NOT to workout for 4 weeks after surgery, DON’T workout for 4 weeks! Rushing back into exercise earlier may do permanent damage or at the very least make your recovery take a whole lot longer. 

These medical professionals are no there just for the procedure but also post-operatively, so ask them questions, raise any concerns and worries and be upfront about the training that you want to do. This way you’ll get the right advice, the right time frame and the right way to incrementally return to the training you did right before your surgery or injury.     

For me I was fortunate to have one of the most experienced surgeons at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton. And his advice for my post-operative recovery helped shape my plan for getting back the weight and level of fitness I desire.

4. Do not push your luck!

Want setbacks? Want to screw up your recovery? Then push yourself to breaking point. NO. NO. NO! Really folks there is no medal, no glory in pushing yourself, you need to ease back into physical activity of any kind. Pushing it could even set you back further through injury. Be aware of your body, if something is painful, stop immediately, and at the earliest opportunity let your surgeon or doctor know. If they give you any supplemental advice, adhere to it.  

5. Keep a positive mental attitude

Don’t talk yourself into a big black hole of depression post surgery! Now as a Brighton based personal trainer, my body is my advert. So dropping 10kgs isn’t great news. However, for my own mental health wellbeing I’ve decided this weight loss is an opportunity NOT a calamity! Yes, you heard me right – an OPPORTUNITY to learn from, to practice my skills as a Brighton based personal trainer, so that I can help existing and future clients across Brighton and Hove win their own battle to regain their health and fitness following major surgery or injury. 

So my focus now is what I can do in terms of exercise, rather than what I can’t do. Again keeping focussed on the positive not the negative. Take today for instance, the first time back in The Gym down in Hove since my surgery. Having warmed up, I did a weight training routine that placed minimal exertion on my abdomen. It felt great to be easing myself back in to the gym using weights less than half of what I’d normally use. So bottom line here is to take one step at a time and before you know it you’ll be well on your way to a full recovery.              


6. Treat recovery as a marathon not a sprint!

Look there’s no way around it, recovery is a pain in the a***and it’s frustrating as you eagerly want to get back to the gym, or pound the streets running, or cycle like a man / women possessed, so just remind yourself that your body has just been put through a large dose of trauma and that it takes time for your body to repair itself fully as well as for any medications such as general anaesthetics, blood thinners, strong pain relief to leave your body. So don’t try to rush things!

Need help to recover?

So there you have it – Gav at 3Fs Personal Training top 6 tips to recover from major surgery or injury. If you live in or around Brighton and Hove and you’re facing your own challenge to regain health and fitness following major surgery or injury but feel like you need a helping hand. Call me on 07730 038830 or email and let me help you get back to being fighting fit! 


British Nutrition Foundation

The NHS Eatwell Guide

Down To Earth – Health Food Shop
128 Portland Road, Hove, BN3 5QL

3Fs Nutrition Blog Posts

Young At Heart Keep Fit Club – Low Impact Exercise Classes

In addition to my 3Fs Personal Training business, I’m the co-founder of the Young At Heart Keep Fit Club. While these classes are designed for people aged 60 and above, they are low impact and therefore ideal as a starting point for any recovery plan. There are currently four classes each week to choose from:

Portslade: Every Monday at 12.45 pm
South Portslade Community Centre, 61 Church Road, Portslade, BN41 1LB

Shoreham: Every Tuesday at 9.30 am
Milward Court Day Centre, Wilmot Road, Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 6BU

Lancing: Every Thursday at 10.30 am!
Lancing Parish Council, Jubilee Hall, 96-98 South Street, Lancing, BN15 8AJ

Hove: Every Friday at 1.30 pm
St Helen’s Church Hall, Hangleton Way, Hove, BN3 8ER

Brighton and Hove offers a great choice of gyms to suit all budgets. I go to:

The Gym

84-88 Blatchington Road, Hove, BN3 3YF

I like The Gym because it’s large set over two floors and is well equipped, modern, bright and airy, and has a nice mix of people. The staff-are both friendly and knowledgeable.  It’s also great value for money. 

If you prefer to workout al fresco, check out my blog post:

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