How Surgery Helped me Relate to my Clients

Hi my name is Danni and I’m a Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Pilates instructor. I’m just recovering from a double lumbar spine fusion so thought I’d put my time to good use and start writing a blog. The surgery involved 2 operations, 2 days apart, with incisions in my stomach, waist and 2 in my back. A metal cage has been constructed around the base of my spine so support it and stop further deterioration (sorry if you're squeamish) .

The most obvious place for me to start writing is about what’s going on in my recovery at the moment. For someone who usually never stays still and whose passion is exercise it’s been a little frustrating to say the least!! I’m 6 weeks post ops and I’m still not allowed to bend or twist, sit for longer than 20-30 minutes or do anything really apart for lie down or walk. One thing that has really struck home is how so many of us take our health, mobility and independence for granted. We moan about things that really in the scheme of things are so unimportant, we re not happy unless we look a certain way, but we forget about the people who have terrible things happen to them that affects their life on a daily basis every single day of their lives! When we're (me included) unhappy about something about how we look or something materialistic we really need to remember really how very very lucky we are to be able to move our bodies, and to have independence and good health!!! My level of fitness before my surgery’s wasn’t quite as good as normal as the pain I had been in was very restricting but I was definitely reasonably fit. It’s been really eye opening especially as a PT to go right back to having no fitness at all. I’ve always been able to understand how difficult it is for people who have never exercised to take the first step and get into fitness and always have been very sympathetic to any of my clients in that position but now I REALLY get it!!!! I have been told to walk as much a possible since coming out of hospital, which started off with me just about able to make it out the front door and take a few wobbly steps to the end of the drive. I have been building it up slowly as that was all I could do and today I did my longest walk yet which was 45 minutes. It was quite hilly and at the top of the hills I was so out of breath, this is completely alien to me and I kept having to remind myself I’m human and have just had major surgery and have had 12 hours of anaesthetics which have also affected my lungs! I was never going to maintain my fitness.

Now I can properly relate when clients come to me with no previous fitness. See how kind I am haha what I put myself though so I can now be a more understanding Personal Trainer. As far as my Health Coaching work is concerned one of the main concepts I use to teach men how to successfully change their lifestyles and build healthy habits, is that the only way to achieve this is by taking small steps. This technique is so much more successful than trying to make big unrealistic changes that are practically impossible to sustain. I’m definitely having to practice what I preach! The rehab is very very slow but I know from my experience in coaching that the small steps I'm taking are the only way I’m going to achieve my big end goal successfully. As a coach I know the importance of a healthy lifestyle and this is seen even more in recovery after surgery or illness. The following 3 lifestyle choices are things we should all do every day but I am making sure they are part of my recovery as I know how much they will help me now and in the future.

1. Sleep at least 8 hours per night If you are like most people, you don’t get enough sleep every night. After surgery it is even more important as it helps your body’s natural healing process. It is important for everybody to practice good sleep hygiene. Over time, good sleep hygiene habits can help train your body to both fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits include:

  • Go to bed and wake up the same time every day to reset your body's circadian rhythm

  • Make your bedroom a media free zone

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants after 14.00

  • Avoid naps during the day

  • Get at least 20 minutes of daylight each day

  • Warm your core temperature with a hot water bottle in your bed, or an Epsom salt bath before getting into bed

  • Write your worries down before you go to sleep

  • Eat your last meal at least 2 hours before bed

  • Create an aesthetic environment with serene restful colours and no clutter

Some of these are easier than others! Which do you do already or would like to do?

2. Eat a healthy diet We live in a time when people want their food fast. This often leads to unhealthy eating habits, and many of us take in too many calories while not consuming enough nutrients and vitamins. This is very important for everyone but especially to aid your body in the healing process following surgery. The dietary needs of each person are unique, so it is best to speak with a professional who can help you develop a healthy eating plan. While plans may differ for each individual, they typically include:

  • Lean meats such as chicken or fish

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Avoiding processed foods as much as possible

  • Whole grains and legumes

  • In addition to monitoring the kinds of food you eat, it is also a good idea to drink roughly 8 glasses of water per day.

3. Walk, Walk, Walk I was told by my Physio in hospital to walk, walk and walk more. Individuals recovering from surgery are prone to put on excess weight because they are often limited in their mobility (and therefore their ability to burn calories), especially in the first 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. Walking is a great form of low impact exercise for everyone but especially after lower back surgery is the single most important exercise you can do. In addition to burning excess calories, it will also help restore muscle tone, and will help your body recover from the local inflammation caused by the surgery. As I've already said these habits are great for everyone and so it is a good idea to continue these habits after you’ve healed. If you would like help or any advice in how to implement these or any other beneficial habits into your life I would love to help you. You can book a free discovery call with me to discuss your unique health and lifestyle goals and I can teach you how to make these changes really easily with no willpower or discipline needed.

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