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Running with a stoma

Having a stoma should not stop you from running or jogging. Ostomates who participated in active sports such as long-distance running events, trail running, half marathons, marathons and other competitions before their surgery, manage to return to these further down the line when they are fully recovered. If you were fit before stoma surgery, you will be able to return to this level of fitness again. Don’t let your stoma stop you!

Time and a full recovery are key in regaining your fitness after stoma surgery, no matter how fit you were prior to stoma surgery.  Returning to activities before you are ready can cause major damage to both your physical and psychological well-being, so be patient and you’ll get there. It is sometimes easy to forget what your body has just been through due to the illness prior to surgery in addition to the surgery itself… so, pace yourself and take gradual steps.

Here are a few tips for those wanting to return to fitness and running after stoma surgery.

When to start running or jogging after your stoma surgery

Always get the green light from your surgeon before you start any strenuous exercise. Discuss your levels of fitness and whether you are a keen runner prior to your surgery and your surgeon will support you with this.

How quickly you return to running depends on the complexity and type of surgery you have had and whether you have had open or keyhole surgery. Other factors such as whether you have had radiotherapy, are having chemotherapy, or have had any post-op complications may affect the decision as to when you can start again. It is important that full healing has occurred with your stoma and all wound sites, especially for those with perineum and anal wounds.

Overall fitness is so important when returning to running or jogging when recovering from stoma surgery. A rehabilitation phase post-surgery will be needed to ensure it is safe for you to run again. You will need to rebuild your core muscles and your pelvic floor muscles after surgery, so follow a core recovery programme, join a Pilates class, or find an abdominal strengthening exercise that works for you. Keep walking and slowly build up your strength and distance which will increase your stamina too. Even at a slow jog, running is a high impact activity which can place pressure on your pelvic floor and core muscles, which is why it is so important to build these up before you start.

Whether you were a runner prior to surgery will have an impact on your recovery time too. The fitter you were close to surgery, the faster you may recover and be able to return to running after surgery.

Wear the right running gear

You may find you need to adapt your current sports clothes so that you feel secure and comfortable when running. Some ostomates like high waisted track pants which keep everything more secure, yet others may prefer looser clothes. If you are opting for the latter, it may be a good idea to secure your stoma pouch with ostomy wrap which you can find online.

Ensure your stoma bag feels comfortable and is secure

Before you set off on a run, make sure you have gained confidence with an established stoma bag. Don’t be tempted to try a new flange and pouch on the day, you will find it far too stressful. It may let you down and leak, which you don’t want to happen! It is good to trial different bag systems in advance of the run and make sure they are reliable, leak free and do not chafe your skin in anyway.

Don’t forget to empty your pouch before you set off. There are also extender frames available to go around the edges of your flange, to ensure the seal stays strong and you may find this gives you peace of mind whilst running.

Microskin stoma bags are ideal for securing your bag in place when exercising. The light, thin wafer provides a secure adhesive that flexibly contours to your body, reducing the chance of leakage whilst ensuring optimum comfort.

Invest in hernia prevention support

Whether you have had a stoma or not, you need to keep your abdomen supported. Support your stoma with a stoma belt or speciality underwear. These are specially fitted garments which hold the mid-section tightly so no hernia can protrude. Contact your stoma care nurse if you need advice with measurements or fitting.

Staying hydrated whilst running

We’re all at risk of dehydration running in the sunshine, but for those with a stoma or a high output stoma, they are even more at risk. Take a water bottle with you whilst you are running, especially if you are going a longer distance so that you can take regular sips of fluid. A runner’s backpack may help to store it in. Find a hydration programme which works for you. We are all different in what we need, but the signs of dehydration for all of us are the same: low energy levels, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, and headaches. If you have an ileostomy, you are more likely to be dehydrated and this can affect your energy, recovery and ability to run, so you may want to select drinks with high electrolyte concentration and start your run well hydrated.

Take a spare stoma supply kit

Take an emergency stoma kit with you on your run. Hopefully you won’t need it! This could possibly squeeze into your backpack with your water. You’ll need one or two spare pre-cut pouches, adhesive remover wipes, wet-wipes, a barrier wipe, a disposable bag, and hand-sanitiser. Depending where you are running, you may need to take your radar key to access disabled toilets quickly. It’s also a good idea to plan out your running route in advance, so you can plan toilet trips if necessary.

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