First Truly Comfortable Run Since my Surgery

Me after my run and cool-down walk.

This morning at 5:30 a.m., the alarm went off for me to wake up for my run. I really didn’t want to do it; the bed was comfy, it was warm, and it just felt nice to lay in bed. But, I have set Alexa to tell me the weather when I stop the alarm, and something she said stirred me; “The temperature is 71 degrees. Expect thunderstorms and a high temperature of 89 degrees with a low of 71.” I knew what this meant; 71 was the coolest it was going to be all day.

I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get a nice, cool run in. Especially here in Texas where it gets very hot in July, taking advantage of cool mornings is not something you take lightly. I pulled myself up and out of bed and got dressed. I stepped outside and felt the cool, albeit humid air, and smiled. “This run is going to be perfect,” I thought to myself.

As soon as my GPS watch was synchronized with the satellites, I took off for my run. I’ve been running a 2-mile course during my recovery and rebuilding period, and I set out for that same course with a goal of being a little faster than the last three runs. With that said, I didn’t really push myself hard. It’s not time for me to do that yet. But I did make sure that I was moving well.

When I hit the half-way point, I found that I’d cut over a minute off my previous one-mile time. That felt great! I knew my second mile would be slower, but that didn’t deter or dissuade me from continuing with a comfortable pace, pushing only as far as to run within my comfort zone. I also decided that I was feeling amazing, and that adding a little bit of distance would be a good thing. My goal is to run 4 miles per run, so adding a little distance every few runs is part of my long-term plan. I added a quarter of a mile, and when I finished, I found that I’d cut two minutes off my two-mile time.

I did my quarter-mile cool-down walk, and when I got in the house for my shower, I found that I felt great. No muscle pain, not winded, and generally mentally sharp and ready for my day.

As I look back on the series of events that took place this morning, it’s funny to me that there was a moment when I almost stayed in bed and skipped this run. I’m glad that I didn’t.

Mentally, I’ve been struggling with motivation. I’ve allowed myself to talk myself out of runs lately, and I found it’s because I’ve had an aversion to adding to the pain my body is in. I decided to go back to an old trick I used when I first started running; I tell myself repeatedly throughout the day whenever I think about running and start feeling any kind of dread that I am fortunate that I can still run; I get to run.

I get to run.

In other words, I am not only able to run, but I’m healthy enough to be able to run. I’m physically fit enough to run. I’m not injured, and I’m not disabled. I’m not wounded and I’m not dead.

I get to run.

So I run. After I repeat this to myself over and over throughout the day, I find that it changes my mindset and when the time comes to make the decision to run or not run, I am far more likely to decide to run. The decision is easier, and it even affects my attitude and performance throughout my run.

Our mindset is the most important ingredient to our success. We become what we believe, and what we think. If we think we can’t do something, the chances of us being able to do it are decreased.

If you want to make a serious change in your life or just get back to some good habits, start telling yourself that you can do it, that it’s a good thing, and that you get to do it. There are many out there who don’t have that ability or luxury, and you should treasure it.

Cleared for Exercise: Morning Run Complete!

Me after my first run in eight weeks.

This past Friday, I had my six-week post-op appointment with my doctor, and she said that I’m healing up very nicely and she cleared me for getting back to my fitness routine. She advised me to start slow and to take it easy, and I’m going to heed her advice.

I started with getting back to my fitness plan by doing a slow 2-mile run this morning. I started off easily and picked up the pace until I was comfortable; not too fast, not too slow, and breathing was easy. I have to admit that when I hit the first mile, I was pleasantly surprised that I was at a respectable “Formation run” pace. I continued on to the second and final mile finishing with 22:54, which is slow, but considering it’s the first time I ran in eight weeks, I’ll take it.

What surprised me the most was that I wasn’t completely worn out, that it didn’t feel like I was running in quicksand, and after the run, my legs weren’t sore. I made sure to walk for about 10 minutes afterwards to let my muscles cool-down properly, but as I sit here now writing this, I don’t feel like I ran at all this morning (like I normally do after a run).

I didn’t hit the weights after my run because I didn’t want to push things. I will likely start hitting the weights next Monday. Tomorrow, I’ll ride my mountain bike for about 40-45 minutes, and then alternate between running and bike riding until next Monday when I’ll add weights into the mix.

I’m going to go back to StrongLifts 5×5, and I’m going to set the default progression to the recommended settings. I will be starting lighter than recommended, as I want to make sure my form is perfect before I start adding some serious weight back in. I want to do all I can to avoid injury or muscle strain.

I didn’t weigh myself this morning, but I know that after the eight weeks of not exercising coupled with this past weekend’s indulgances (it was my birthday yesterday and the holiday weekend), I’m definitely swollen with some water weight. I’ll likely weigh myself on Friday and begin tracking my weight again then. It’s not my primary focus, however; getting fit and strong is.

My doctor told me that I wasn’t going to be as weak as I feared I would be, and she was right. I am relieved that I was able to run for that solid two miles, and I’ll be steadily increasing my distance to 3.5-4 miles before I start working on my pace.

As for how my scar is looking, it’s also healing nicely. I was advised to massage harder on the sides where the liposuction took place as well as on the incision scar itself, which I’ve been doing. My stomach muscle isn’t feeling as tight since I’ve started doing that, and each day, I continue to feel better and better. I still have the numbness on my skin on my abdomen, but from what I understand, that may be like that forever.

It’s not about the weight you lose; it’s about the life you gain

Sherry and I on one of our recent mountain biking excursions (in a light drizzle).

I saw this phrase posted online this morning, and it really resonated with me. I was obsessed with losing weight for the first two years of my healthy living journey, and I eventually replaced that with just being healthy and fit. I stopped caring so much about my weight (within reason), and focused on the non-scale victories: my faster run times, my increased amounts of weights lifted, the fun factor of kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking. But every now and then, my brain comes back to those numbers on the scale.

I wish I weighed this again… but weightlifting builds muscle, and I will likely not see this weight again (and I’m okay with that).

I need to remind myself to look back to the days when I weighed over 328 lbs. What was life like back then? When I would get winded walking up one flight of stairs (and why I limited my trips upstairs in my own house because of the discomfort). When I would do almost anything to get out of household projects because of the physical pain it would cause me for days afterward. When I would prefer to sit indoors on a beautiful day rather than to go outside and explore and enjoy the day. When I would scoff at the idea of doing anything physical for fun.

Looking at this photo reminds me of how hard life was being morbidly obese. It motivates me to stick with my healthy lifestyle.

Unknown to me at the time, when I decided to eat healthy and lose weight, I also decided to live a fuller, more active life. Since losing weight, I’ve become engaged with the outside world. My wife and I have been able to enjoy activities I couldn’t even imagine: the aforementioned hiking, running together, kayaking, mountain biking, and weekend getaways where we explore. The biggest surprise was that I was able to get back into the military, and recently, I became a Warrant Officer. I gained a life that was better than anything I could imagine before.

Being presented with my Officer’s Sword after being promoted to Warrant Officer; an accomplishment that I would have never imagined had I not changed my life and adopted a healthy and fit lifestyle.

Non-scale victories come in many varieties, but don’t forget to consider the greatest non-scale victory of them all; the life you gain. It will be more fulfilling and engaged than the one you leave behind.

This is the week!!!

I love this Birdwell cardigan I got for Christmas. I used to wear these in my surfing days in SoCal.

I’m both excited and scared. This Friday, I will see my doctor for my six-week post-op appointment and will find out if I can take the binder off and if I can start my exercise program back up. I’m excited because I really want to get back to it and start preparing myself physically for Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC) this fall. I also found that I need exercise to help keep me calm and even-keeled. But, I’m also scared, because I know that I have a tendency to push too hard; to make myself workout harder than I probably should. I’m scared I’ll injure myself, or that I’ll somehow tear something inside where the surgery was.

The biggest quality of life improvement will be getting to finally take the binder off. I know it was necessary, and I also know that I’ll probably still wear it from time to time (I’m buying one for running, in fact), but it’s annoyingly uncomfortable. My skin is incessantly itchy, regardless of the amount of lotion I put on it.

I am not as afraid of showers anymore. For the longest time, I had an illogical fear of taking showers because I worried that the incision line would open up. I know this wasn’t a possibility after the first week (if at all, frankly), but I still had that irrational fear for quite a while. That’s finally gone, which is good.

As for my exercise plan, I will focus on running for time first; 30 minutes. I will not push for great distances or anything; just 30 minutes. Once I hit a good, solid pace in 30 minutes, then I’ll work on increasing the distance during that 30 minutes. Once I get to about 3.5 miles, I’ll work on getting the time down for that distance. That’s what I did when I first started running, and I was able to make some amazing progress back then. This time, I’m not quite starting from zero, although I am starting with post-operative healing to take into consideration.

I’m also going to re-start my weightlifting, but again, I’m going to start at the bare bar. It’s going to feel dumb and awkward, but I need to focus more on form than anything. I need to make sure, for the sake of my core muscles, that I’m doing everything perfect to keep from injuring myself. I should be able to be at a decent level of weightlifting by October, in time for WOBC.

The schedule I’ll be using will be as follows:

  • Weightlifting (StrongLifts 5×5) followed by 30 minute run
  • Mountain biking for 45 minutes
  • Weightlifting (StrongLifts 5×5) followed by 30 minute run
  • Mountain biking for 45 minutes
  • Weightlifting (StrongLifts 5×5) followed by 30 minute run
  • Light physical activity
  • Rest day

The mountain biking allows me to have some cardio without too much exertion. I don’t push myself too hard on the mountain bike, and since it’s a bike, I can coast, go slow, etc, but it still keeps me moving.

So, this is hopefully the last week without exercise and in the binder. I can’t believe I’m “That guy” who complains about not being able to exercise, but I feel myself getting weaker and it bothers me. I need the meditative quality of exercise; it’s a time of the day that belongs only to me, and there’s something really powerful about that. Oh, and it’s good for me, too.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Me and my dad in 1973.

My dad is no longer around for me to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, but I am thinking about him a lot today. Like most humans, he wasn’t perfect. He had his issues and his own challenges, but in many other ways, he was a great father. He was hard-working, he wasn’t afraid to hug or kiss his kids, and he genuinely was happy to have us around (as long as it wasn’t during his nap time on Sunday afternoons).

My dad making us one of his amazing meals.

As he got older, he became a much better human. Many of the issues he had as a younger man were gone, replaced by even more awesome traits like expressing sheer joy at the sight of his grandchildren, making great meals and inviting us over many times a week, and wanting to spend as much time with me and my kids as possible.

My dad and my daughter at a birthday party for my friend Kenny and me in 2002.

It turns out that the time was well spent, as my dad passed away at the age of 63, only 5 years after I returned from active duty in the Marines. Those 5 years were filled with many dinners, weekends, and evenings talking, laughing, sometimes arguing, but the vast majority of the time, enjoying each others’ company. He especially loved his time with his grandchildren, and he never declined an opportunity to spend time with them (which was great for me when I started dating Sherry, as I needed a babysitter on Friday nights).

Me (at my heftier weight), my sister, and my Dad at Christmas in 2001.

When my dad died, I immediately felt like I’d been cheated by life. I wasn’t yet ready to be a dad without my own dad to guide me with advice. It was selfish; I needed him. I no longer had someone that I could bounce ideas or questions off of without judgment or embarassment. I could talk to my dad about anything, and that was gone forever.

My dad and my son on a deep-sea fishing trip in 2001.

It’s been nearly 20 years that he’s been gone, and sometimes his absence affects me more than the presence of others. But he lives on in my memory, and in my heart, and I often think of him when I see a great new sci-fi movie or TV show, or when I’m in a store and see a beer he’d enjoy. There are times when I still want to phone him and share a joke (he loved jokes; the punnier, the better) or a meme. I don’t know if that’ll ever go away.

My dad about a month before he passed away on our last fishing trip together.

I remember talking to my grandmother about this, and when she was in her late 70’s, she told me that she never quite got over the loss of her own father, and how his absence in her life was still a hole that could not be filled. I get it. While I don’t feel distraught over his loss anymore, I still feel the absence. I don’t know if that’ll ever go away.

The last photo taken of my sister, dad, and me (at my heaviest weight of 328 lbs) together on my birthday in 2002.

I tried to be the best dad I could to my kids as they were growing up. I tried my best to not emulate my dad’s shortcomings and to amplify his strong points. I never once denied picking up my kids when they asked to sit in my lap. I never shoo’d them away, or didn’t stop to take a moment to hug them, kiss them, or let them know that I loved them. I never missed a sporting or theater event. My dad taught me the importance of those things, and in that way, he lived on through me.

My dad’s favorite photo of himself.

As I am now nearing the phase in my life where I’ll be a grandfather (fingers crossed that it won’t be too much longer), I look forward to living up to my dad’s example of being the amazing grandfather. My kids remember my dad for being a fun, loving, and cheerful guy who doted on them. I hope to do the same, and to live on in their hearts long after I’m gone, and hopefully, they’ll want to emulate the example I will give them, which in turn, ensures that my dad lives on in them, too.

The lake in Hungary where I scattered my dad’s ashes after he passed away. This lone young swan came in close to shore moments after I scattered the ashes and hung around for a few moments before returning to the flock.

Happy Father’s Day, Pops. I miss you.

Just Shy of a Month Post-Surgery

I’m still quite swollen, but at least my belly button looks normal again!

I really am not a fan of the compression garment (aka girdle or binder) that I have to wear for another two weeks, but it is what it is. It apparently helps with keeping the swelling down and holding my torso together so my abdomenal muscles can continue to heal. So yes, I’m not in any hurry to take it off prematurely. But it is uncomfortable.

With that said, I am impressed with how smooth my stomach looks now. Of course, with the swelling, I can’t see any of my (formerly somewhat visible) ab muscles, and the sides are still swollen which make them look like there’s not much difference between pre-op and post-op, but I can assure you that there’s quite a bit of difference. Even with the amount of swelling there, it’s greatly reduced from what it used to look like prior to my surgery.

I will begin distance walking this weekend, and in two more weeks, I will begin light lifting and other exercise. I have to wait another full month before I can hit the weights like I did pre-op, but that’s okay; that still gives me three solid months to get strong before I go to WOBC.

At this point, the most difficult part is the pain in the sides (from the liposuction) and the skin discomfort (it’s drying out a lot). Sherry massages my scar with scar cream twice a day, so that’s helping the scar heal nicely, and I have to massage the sides as often as I think of it, and that’s pretty painful, but it seems to help.

I am still feeling better day after day, but I’m still not nearly done. I watched some videos online of what the surgery actually entails; I’m glad I didn’t do that before the surgery. Wow. It’s pretty serious, and actually a pretty big deal. Now I understand why it has such a long recovery time.

So, I am doing better. My mood is good, and I am no longer questioning my decision to do this. I already see the difference, and I’m sure I’ll feel the difference when I’m able to run again. I’m able to walk around and pretty much act normal at home with the exception that I still can’t lift anything over 5 lbs and I’m still somewhat limited in reaching for things or grabbing things (due to the pain under my shoulders from the liposuction). I also have two spots on my back where I still have stitches that will come out in two more weeks. But, I’m on the mend, and I’m feeling great!

Half-Way There: Three Week Post-Op Appointment

I’m feeling a lot better.

I had my mid-recovery appointment today, and it went well (except for the part where the nurse was cleaning out/touching the inside of my belly button and it caused some reflexive anxiety response that left me sweating and a little light-headed, but whatever). The nurse said that my scar is healing very well; better than she expects to see for people at the three-week mark, in fact. She was very surprised with how well the scar looks, and with how my stomach is looking.

One of my biggest concerns was laid to rest today as well; I was worried that I may have ripped a suture on my stomach muscles, but she checked it all out and said everything looked perfect. She also told me that next week, I can go into the pool. I’m also allowed to go for walks, but I still cannot do any work that involves my core. Walking will be good enough for now.

I was given some scar cream I’m supposed to start using today. I will start applying it and sticking to everything they’ve been telling me to do for recovery.

I have a theory as to why my scar is healing up so well: we don’t eat processed food. Everything we eat has been made from whole ingredients and is very healthy. That healthy food intake translates into giving the body the best quality nutrients possible which equates to better/faster healing. It was really nice seeing the nurse’s face as she went over the scar saying over and over how well it’s healing, and how far ahead it looks.

I still can’t sleep on my stomach for another three weeks, but that’s okay. I’m making do right now sleeping on my back. Having an articulating bed really helps. I can change the angle as necessary to alleviate pain on my back or glutes.

I was told today to expect swelling at the liposuction sites for up to six months, but the rest should start getting less swolen as time goes on. The funniest part was when I told her how much I thought the swelling had gone down, but after she poked and felt around the tissue, she said I still have a lot of swelling and it’ll still go down from here. That means it’ll look even better than it does now, and frankly, it looks pretty good already.

So, things are looking up. The pain I’m experiencing is all normal, and my recovery is going well: ahead of expectations, in fact.

One Day Shy of Three Weeks Post-Surgery

Strange pains are what I’m dealing with most, right now. What I mean by that is that there are a number of different types of pain I’ve been experiencing since having the skin-removal and tummy tuck (sewing the stomach muscles together) surgery almost four weeks ago.

Lightning Pain

This happens near any incision site. I infer this pain as nerves awakening, or perhaps nerves that were cut re-connecting or becoming aware of newly adjacent tissue. It’s jolting and hurts a lot, but the pain is typically over within half a second.


I’ve been experiencing soreness throughout the affected areas. It’s like after a workout when you’re sore, but not from over-exerting. Just sore. My entire abdomen, from the last rib down to my nethers feel this way almost always.

Shooting Pain

This is different from the Lightning Pain I described above. This is more like a pulled muscle kind of pain, only how it feels WHILE you’re getting the injury. I have this in a few spots in my groin, and I can’t decide whether these are real or phantom pains. One of them coincides with an injury I sustained at Phase II of WOCS in April, but it’s not consistent.

Burning Pain

This is ever-present in my lower abdomen, primarily after my blockage issue last week. It seems to be subsiding day after day, but it’s still present. After being prescribed medicine that forced my body to have a bowel movement, my lower abdomen has been burning. It’s not nearly as bad now as it was at the time, and I still had drains in me back then and no, there was no increase in fluid output or any blood in the output. Burning usually indicates internal bleeding, but fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Someone said it could possibly be an allergic reaction to the internal stitching. I will be asking my doctor about that at tomorrow’s appointment.

Muscle Cramps

This one surprised me. My upper abdominal muscles (my stomach, above my waist) gets cramped up very easily when I’m sitting. Every time I stand up, I have to allow my stomach muscles to stretch out, and sometimes it takes them a few seconds or more to loosen up to allow me to stand up straight. I think it has to do with the girdle/binder I’m wearing that is allowing those muscles to get weaker.

Liposection Site Bruising/Pain

I had liposection at a few sites on my back where the fat never went away, and the incision spots as well as the actual sites that were suctioned are sore. Actually, this is some of the most severe soreness I’m experiencing, and separate from the general soreness I listed above. These are very specific, and in very specific spots on my back and lower sides. To make matters worse, I have to massage these sites regularly which seems to exacerbate the pain.

Incision Line “Hot” Pain

The incision line itself is pretty sore almost all the time now, moreso than before. I remember the doctor telling me that there was medicine placed in my body to help reduce the pain at the incision, and this seemed to be working for far longer than I thought it would. Now, however, I feel a bit of discomfort along the incision. This was to be expected; they literally cut a swath of skin out of my body. Also, it’s not terrible pain. It’s quite tolerable, but definitely noticeable, and it’s something I’m aware of all the time.

Overall, even with all that pain, I still feel a lot better than I did even earlier this week. So, while things are still uncomfortable, I definitely feel improvement day after day, and it gets easier to sleep (which has been an issue for the past two weeks since I stopped taking Hydrocodone and Diazapam).

Mid-Way Through Week 3 Post-Op

I need a shave, but I otherwise feel much better this week.

Today is the “Hump Day” of Week Three, and I was told by a friend who has undergone this same procedure before me that this is the “Tough Week” mentally. I think I understand why she said this. As my body continues to heal and the pain continues to subside, I’m struck with impatience at the process coupled with a desire to start getting back to my active life, not only in terms of exercise, but also with doing the mundane things like washing my car, performing small maintenance tasks, or even something as simple as helping my wife bring in the groceries.

I am adhering to all of my doctor’s warnings and admonitions against physical activity and lifting to ensure my abdominal muscles and scar tissue have the best chance at healing properly. I’ve ignored doctor’s warnings in the past at my peril and have paid the consequences. As I’ve grown older, I’ve accepted the fact that it’s often better to just do as I’m told than to believe that “I feel better, therefore I know better.” I finished all pills as prescribed (for those telling me to take them all), and I stopped taking those that I was allowed to stop taking as soon as possible (Diazapam, Hydrocodone).

During my childhood, a member of my extended family passed away because he stopped taking medicine because he was feeling so good, he reasoned the medicine wasn’t necessary. I’m taking that as a lesson to continue to tow the line in regards to my doctor’s instructions: I’m feeling great BECAUSE I’m following instructions. Feeling great doesn’t give me permission to start ignoring those instructions.

I had another friend tell me about their healing from a large incision, and he told me that he ignored the doctor’s admonitions against lifting, and as a result, the scar tissue is far more prevalent due to stretching of the tissue area prior to it being fully healed. This is what I want to avoid, so I’m sticking to the instructions regardless of how maddening it is to watch my wife bring in bag after bag of groceries alone. She made sure to let me know it was five trips without me.

My next doctor’s appointment is coming up in three days, and I am looking forward to find out how I’m doing in her opinion. From my perspective, things seem to be going much better than Week 2. I still have some burning sensation on the lowest abdomenal muscles, and I still have a bit of pain when I cough or sneeze, but otherwise, when I’m just sitting, I feel good. My abdomenal muscles do take a bit of time to stretch out comfortably when I stand up after sitting for a while, but typically it’s only about 10-15 seconds of discomfort (but not pain).

So, it’s another week and a half of the girdle/binder. I am looking forward to being able to take it off, finally. Hopefully, Week 2 didn’t do any internal damage, and I don’t have to wear this thing for any longer than initially planned. Then, two weeks without it, and then hopefully I’ll be cleared to start exercising again.

Starting Week Three Post-Surgery

Sherry and me on Friday; the first day of Week 3.

I’m now in my third week of recovery after the skin removal/liposuction/stomach muscle repair surgery, and I am feeling much better. Digestion issues have been resolved and I can now eat somewhat normal foods as long as I make sure to take lots of probiotics and eat lots of fiber. I’m also taking OTC medicine to help aid with digestion because my lower abdominal muscles are still quite sore. Last Friday really took it’s toll.

On Friday, Sherry and I attended the funeral for a friend’s father, and as it was a military funeral, I wore my uniform. I was able to get the shirt and jacket over the girdle/binder, but the pants was another story. Fortunately, I have suspenders and was able to use that to keep the pants “Up” since I couldn’t zip them up all the way or fasten the button. This was all hidden under the jacket, fortunately, so nobody knew unless I told them.

Prior to the funeral, I drove us to a nice lunch at a local restaurant, and I was able to sit in the chair comfortably and eat upright. After the funeral, we went to my friend’s home for post-funeral gathering before we headed home so I could take a nap.

In the evening, we went out for dinner (my first time since the surgery) and again, I was able to stay upright comfortably and even eat the food without any issues. I drove us to and from dinner; there is no problem for me driving at all. In fact, my 4Runner’s seats are some of the most comfortable I’ve sat in since the surgery and actually felt really good for my back and my muscles.

All in all, I’m feeling much better and while I’m still sore all the time, the soreness does seem to dissipate with each passing day. I do still have some burning sensation in my lower abdomen, but I was told that this was normal at this stage and that it will eventually go away.

I’m still taking it easy, believe it or not. While I am walking more now, I am very careful not to lift anything heavier than my iPad or my cup of iced tea, and I am still getting a lot of rest. I feel more energized, though, and it’s nice to have a sense of humor about things again.