Tips for getting fit for surgery
This section will help you to
- Prepare for your prostate surgery
- Recover quickly from your surgery
- Reduce how much you suffer from incontinence and erectile dysfunction
- increasing your overall fitness
- strengthening your pelvic floor muscles
- reducing your stress levels
- maximising your nutrition
- boosting your immune system
- looking after your teeth (yes this last one may seem weird but it’s really important as we’ll see)
1. Surgery is tough on you
Having surgery is traumatic for your body, mind and emotions. Of course you’ll be feeling concerned – even frightened – and anxious about the surgery itself. But you’ll also be thinking about how quickly and fully you’ll recover afterwards and what the after effects will be. The recovery period can feel like a long and difficult journey. Some describe it as being like running your own personal marathon and running a marathon is tough. We know that people do lots of preparation and training before they run a marathon so that they can reach the finishing line in their best possible time.
Having surgery and recovering in the best possible time is your personal marathon and if you do some preparation and training before your surgery you’ll find it much easier to cope with and recover from afterwards. You want your recovery to be fast and to return to health and strength as quickly as possible. We’re not talking about making you superfit with a six pack but improving your stability, agility, flexibility, stamina and strength.
You need a fitness and training routine to help you prepare for your surgery and that’s what I’m here to help you with. As well as helping you cope with the surgery itself, you’ll be in a much better position to achieve a fast and effective recovery and return to strength as soon as possible.
With the right preparation you’ll find your prostate cancer journey much easier to cope with.
2. Understand what you’ll feel like after surgery
For some days or even weeks after your operation you’ll feel a bit disorientated, maybe dazed and possibly have some dizzy spells and be unsteady on your feet. The medication you’ll probably be taking can make all these things worse. Some people feel faint, may stumble or even fall over.
So is there anything you can do before surgery to help prevent these problems afterwards?
The good news is that yes there is. Part of improving your fitness for surgery is improving your sense of balance and agility and the better you can do this the more you’ll avoid the symptoms of unsteadiness and feeling faint and dizzy. And by increasing your strength you’ll be able to cope much better with those symptoms you do experience and keep yourself physically safe, strong, and independent. Because, if they do happen to you, you’ll be in an optimal state to cope with them.
So now how do you get fit for surgery? What do you need to change about your lifestyle to make yourself as fit as possible? If you’ve been in the same rut doing the same things for years you might need to do things step by step. If you haven’t done any real exercise for years you might want to start gently.
Set yourself some goals. One way of getting started is to set yourself some goals and there’s a section here about setting goals.
3. Get fit for surgery
It’s absolutely true that the fitter you are before you have surgery the better you’ll cope with it and the recovery period afterwards. Being fit for surgery is about giving yourself the best chance for the quickest and most complete recovery possible. So it may be that you need to re-evaluate your lifestyle and introduce some changes to make sure that you’re at your peak performance level. This will help you sail through the surgery and the recovery and get the best possible outcome from the treatment. Bringing yourself up to peak performance is about being physically fit, it’s about being nutritionally fit and it’s about being psychologically fit. So first let’s look at physical fitness and developing a regular exercise routine to suit you. Regular exercise helps your body to use oxygen more efficiently. It helps strengthen your heart, improve your circulation, lower your blood pressure and make you feel more positive mentally. And the more exercise you do, the more energy you have to do the other things you want to do.
4. Improve your physical fitness
The training routine I show you in my video will improve your stability, agility and flexibility, increase your stamina and make you fitter plus make you feel mentally more alert and thinking more positively about your future.
There are a number of things that contribute towards physical fitness and it’s pretty easy to work out whether you’re fit or not. Fitness is important. We know that people who are unfit are more likely to develop conditions like diabetes but unfit people also tend to stay longer in hospital after surgery. As you get older all of this gets worse.
As you read or listen to this you may already be thinking of excuses about why this isn’t going to be right for you. It’s true that there are some people who need to be very careful about the type and amount of exercise they do because they have injuries or other conditions which mean that they must take special care. But there are also a lot of myths about exercise that people use as excuses and I’ve included some here.
5. Exercising when you have another health problem
If you have another health problem such as diabetes or heart disease which you think might affect your ability to exercise, you can find some frequently asked questions here. We’ll then look at how to assess how fit you are. So if you’re not dreaming up myths that need dispelling and you don’t have any other conditions that you need to consider, you might like to go straight to that section.
6. Target your fat deposits
Your risk of developing some health problems depends on where you store fat. If you store it round your waist you’re more at risk of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes. So it makes sense to make sure that part of your exercise routine is designed help reduce the size of your waistline.
7. Coping with the gym
You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise but there’s something about the routine and the need to make a plan that I find helpful.
Boring, boring, boring………
The boredom factor causes many people to dislike going to the gym intensely because it’s “boring”. Yes, it is boring. But so is taking tablets that give you unpleasant side-effects. So is getting unwell. So is losing one’s virility and vitality. And so is developing illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease or many others. In order to avoid going downhill and slowly sinking into an old age of decreasing mobility and increasing frailty, we need to pay more attention to our bodies by keeping as fit and healthy as possible. So it’s not a question of being boring. It’s the medicine. It’s the antidote to increasing frailty and susceptibility to diseases and ailments that creep up on us as we get older. The antidote to promoting illness is promoting wellness and keeping fit and agile together with good nutrition and lifestyle management. This optimises our bodies’ wellness potential. So boring it may be, but life prolonging and indeed life-saving it certainly is. Therefore we have no option but to keep as fit as we can for as long as we can.
8. Vary your exercise routine
As described above it’s important to keep changing your exercise routine. Whether you do brisk walking and jogging, swimming, cycling or going to the gym or a combination of all of these exercises, it’s essential for avoiding boredom and motivating you to keep your body as fit and as well as possible. So when it’s a lovely sunny day I would rather walk through country lanes or parks close to home than go to the gym. Going for a brisk three mile walk takes about an hour. It’s excellent exercise particularly if it’s on uneven terrain. I build up a sweat and improve my stability and stamina. But it must be a brisk power walk not an amble. But on cold, miserable days walking can be decidedly unpleasant so I end up going to the gym.
At the gym variation is important. I often use the cross trainer which exercises my arms and legs at the same time and helps me build up a sweat very quickly. At other times I might use the rowing machine which does the same thing and changes the stresses on my body because it’s working in a different way. Other times I will use the wave machine which is a very different exercise. Sometimes if I’m feeling physically tired or worn out I might use the cycling machine or the treadmill to exercise only my legs, and then follow it with the arm machine doing the upper and lower body separately. This takes twice as long but is half the stress. If one day I find my legs are aching I might give them a rest and only concentrate on upper body exercises such as the arm machine. Or vice versa if I want to give my upper body a rest.
Sometimes I get bored with the whole business of the machines and I will spend my time weightlifting – doing an exercise routine which is aimed at exercising my body rather than muscle building. Ask one of the instructors at the gym to help you to put a routine together to exercise all your muscle blocks. As this type of exercise doesn’t easily build up a sweat I might add a session on the cross trainer, rowing machine or other cardio trainers first and then do some weight training. Sometimes I may spend a shorter time on the cardio machines and more time on the stress machines or floor exercises or weight training to help avoid boredom.
Variety is the name of the game and introducing new challenges and new ways of exercising is important for success in your longterm exercise routine.
A Final Word of Warning!
It is always important to remember not to overstress yourself. Suddenly increasing your heart rate from a normal resting level of somewhere around 70 beats per minute to over 120 beats a minute on the cardio machines can be a recipe for disaster. You need to build up to this gradually. Equally suddenly stopping an exercise when your heart is beating at a high rate is similarly not a good idea.
That is why the warm up and cool down periods are so important. Many of the cardio machines actually incorporate a cool down period when you set them up for your exercise routine. However it is important for you to keep monitoring your body and your performance. If at any time you start to feel dizzy, start to develop chest pain start to feel nauseous or ill, stop the machine immediately (most of them have an emergency stop button). Tell the gym instructor on duty that you are feeling unwell and ask for some water or a sugary drink. Sit down – or preferably lie down on your side until you’re feeling better. Make sure that when you do get up you get up slowly. If you’ve been lying down, get up on your hands and knees first, and then sit for a while before standing up fully. If you get up too quickly you will feel or actually faint.
On the other hand don’t get into a nice lazy comfort zone. It’s important to keep your body constantly stressed. When I started my fitness routine about two years ago I could only manage about four minutes on the cross trainer at level 3. I can now easily do ten minutes at level 9. Because this was getting too “comfortable” I have increased it to 15 min. Similarly when I started I couldn’t even do one press-up, and I can now do ten, I don’t yet feel ready to increase the number so I’m staying at that level for the moment.
So always do what keeps your body comfortably stressed, not too comfortably, but also not overstressed.