Resuming Intensive Exercise After Tummy Tuck: Too Soon?

Many of the men and women considering tummy tuck surgery who come to us from Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins are ideal candidates because they’re in great overall health thanks to their demanding exercise regimens. For people dedicated to intense workouts, such as distance running or CrossFit® training, recovery after a tummy tuck makes them a bit antsy, and they want to know when they can resume high levels of exercise.

How long does a tummy tuck take to heal?

To help patients plan their workout schedules, we always provide a general timeline that explains when it’s safe to resume certain types of activities after plastic surgery. In an earlier blog post, we described the steps that patients should follow during recovery from a Mommy Makeover procedure (which typically includes tummy tuck surgery). When it comes to factoring in levels of physical activity, however, intensity varies dramatically from person to person. Therefore, pinpointing when it’s okay to return to the gym depends on your exercise habits.

What is a tummy tuck? How painful is a tummy tuck?

Of the most common plastic surgery procedures, tummy tuck recovery is probably the least comfortable. A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, involves removing excess fat and skin from your abdomen below the bellybutton. In doing so, the surgeon tightens the connective tissue in that area and re-creates an aesthetically attractive belly button. The result is a flatter, smoother tummy.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the unique situations of our abdominoplasty patients in Denver who participate in more strenuous exercises. The particulars of when to resume each type of activity vary because, for example, the strain on abdominal muscles from distance running is different than from swimming.

Distance Running

After a tummy tuck, people who are used to logging mile after mile while training for marathons or triathlons will need to ease back into their running routines. Distance running taxes the abdominal muscles, and these muscles require time to heal before they can endure the stress associated with distance running. Plan to wait at least 6 weeks following a tummy tuck before you begin running again. Start slowly and increase the distance and intensity gradually. Listen to your body and don’t push too hard.

As the old saying goes, you need to walk before you can run. At about 3 weeks post-op you can begin walking longer distances, which will give you a base of endurance before you begin running again.

Lap and Open-Water Swimming

Swimming in a pool or lake poses unique restrictions that don’t have anything to do with the physical stress of an intense workout. Tummy tuck patients should avoid getting in the water (even a pool) for at least 6 weeks because the incisions need to heal completely to avoid the risk of infection.

Most swimming strokes used in strenuous swim workouts engage the abdominal muscles in ways that could cause complications if you’re not fully healed internally. Using a kickboard is one way to resume part of your workouts once your incisions are healed. As with running, ease back into workouts gradually and stop if you begin to feel uncomfortable.

Weightlifting/CrossFit® Training

CrossFit training and other weightlifting that relies mostly on abdominal muscles should be avoided for at least 6 weeks after a tummy tuck. Patients can resume workouts focused on the arms, but with lighter weights than they’re accustomed to because heavier weights can still engage abdominal muscles. When you do return to the gym, especially for patients who participate in CrossFit, it’s important to not overdo your workouts. Being patient and stopping if you feel any discomfort or pain is essential for a successful recovery.

Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, or weightlifter (or combine all activities), every person’s recovery is unique. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how your body feels and remember this rule of thumb: “If it hurts, stop.”

You can see more tummy tuck before-and-after photos to get an idea of the type of results you can expect. If you’re considering a tummy tuck and want to discuss how it will affect your training regimen, contact us using the online form to request a consultation, or call our office in Denver at (303) 951-2100 or in Golden at (303) 278-2600 to schedule an appointment.

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