Back in February this year I was diagnosed with an Inguinal Hernia (see my entry ‘Injuries and Gadgets’ dated 24th February where I moaned about it!) As a regular runner who didn’t want to stop running I immediately started to look on the Internet for articles that might inform me about how my injury would affect my running both up to my operation and beyond. I found plenty of relevant questions, posted on websites linked to running and fitness, where fellow runners had been kind enough to share their experiences and the coping mechanisms they had used when running with their hernia. However I found very little information from those who had started to run again after their operation. So this is my contribution in the hope that at least one person suffering from the same type of injury might find my pre-operation exercise advice and post-op recovery running plan useful if they happen upon this piece through their search engine of choice.
I think the first thing to stress is that every case is, of course, very different and whatever I go onto say in this entry should be tempered by any medical advice you get. I am a 59 year-old man, weighing about 77 kilos who, up until I was diagnosed anyway, was running approximately 45k (28 miles) at an average pace of 6 minute 30 second kilometres (some would say that’s jogging not running!) usually in 5-6 sessions per week. Prior to seeing my doctor I had been experiencing groin pain for at least two weeks but I had decided that I had a groin injury and hoped it would just go away!
Did I allow the hernia to stop me running?
No I didn’t.
My weekly distance almost halved to 23k as, despite medical advice (see below), I couldn’t help but think running wasn’t doing the injury any good. However I found I could run with the minimal of discomfort if I wore tight-fitting running shorts or leggings. I couldn’t run completely pain-free so I did stick to shorter runs rather than my traditional Sunday long run which I decided to postpone until I was better.
As allude to above, I did seek medical advice about pre-op running from both my GP and my consultant. Both were of the opinion that I wouldn‘t do myself any more harm by embarking on the occasional run but, as I said, it was always at the back of my mind that I just might be making things worse so I certainly took it very easy for the four weeks from diagnosis to my operation.
I didn’t allow the injury to reduce my number of sessions or the duration of my exercises though: I found that I could manage cycling and cross-training in the gym with little or no discomfort. In particular the exercise bikes where you sit down (see the photograph below) seemed to be the most comfortable.
Without wishing to repeat myself too much, I should say again here that everyone is different. I have no idea if my recovery rate was faster or slower than the average patient. Please, if you’re reading this after an operation, listen to your body and work on the basis, as I did, that if it hurts then you probably shouldn’t be doing it!
I had my keyhole operation at 8am one Saturday morning in mid-March. I was discharged from hospital early afternoon of the same day. Once at home I downloaded the leaflet ‘Get Well Soon – Helping you make a speedy recovery after groin hernia repair’ published by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS). Part of the advice it gave said “The secret to a quick recovery is to keep moving” and later on in the pamphlet “The important point to remember is that you cannot do any harm to your hernia repair by walking”. Based on this advice (I hope my consultant isn’t reading this!) I went for a walk that afternoon. I didn’t walk very far (2k at the most) and took it very steady but I felt I’d really achieved something once I got home.
The following day I increased the walk a little. By the Monday morning I had an important decision to make: Should I walk my 11 year-old son the 2k to school or ask my wife to take him? With the RCS advice still in mind I decided to take the plunge and walk to the school. I felt so good once I got there that I extended the walk back by dropping into the local Costa Coffee Shop. That same afternoon I walked back to the school to collect my son resulting in an overall tally of over 9k.
Later that week I managed to walk the 5k to my gym to have lunch there as well as doing the school runs both ends of the day. Over the entire week (Monday – Sunday) I walked a total of 106k (as measured by my Fitbit Charge HR) without any pain from the repair. The following week I just walked for the first three days then embarked, albeit rather gingerly, on my first run/jog on the Thursday. Since then I have been staging a ‘running comeback’ rising from 15-16k a week in early April until now (mid-May) when I’m back to averaging over 40k.
I have no idea if my recovery was quicker or slower than average. As you’ve probably worked out for yourself, I had no complications with the surgery and had an excellent surgeon (K Marcus Reddy if anyone needs a recommended one). I decided from the beginning that I wasn’t going to let this injury stop me running if I could possibly help it and I firmly believe that a positive attitude contributes towards these things.