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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

5 Posts tagged with the recovery tag

A few weeks back when I knew I needed my appendix removed, I asked the surgeon what to expect after the surgery and how long it would be before I could get back to doing normal workouts. In this blog, I outlined what might be expected for me.

Before Igive you details of what I did, I want you to understand this is no recommendation for anyone else. It is just the details of my recovery. I know there are plenty of people that take longer and probably some that take less time as well.

That written, all workouts below were aerobic. The early workouts were what I would call uncomfortable, nothing was painful. I expected some discomfort early in the game.

Surgery Day –The surgery went well and I was home a little over 3 hours after heading out to the hospital. I took ½ of a narcotic pain medication to bridge a gap until I could take ibuprofen. Obviously no workouts today.

Day 1 – Ibuprofen only, no narcotic meds. No workouts.

Day 2 –Ibuprofen, 30-minute walk.

Day 3 – Reduced levels of ibuprofen, 30-minute indoor trainer ride. (This felt fantastic and seemed to help removed some of the CO2 bubble below my diaphragm.)

Day 4 – No more ibuprofen from this day forward. Did a 40-minute indoor ride followed by 10 minutes on an elliptical trainer. The elliptical experience was enough to know I don’t want to run yet. (After this workout the CO2 bubble was gone. Hooray for getting the blood moving.)

Day 5 – Didn’t feel like an aerobic workout so did a 20-minute walk.

Day 6 – 45 minutes of indoor cycling followed by 3 sets of walking lunges and 3 set of squats (body weight only).

Day 7 – Very easy 90 minutes on the road bike. (Outside, yeah!)

Day 8 – 38 minutes of a run/walk combination. I felt better at the end of the session than at the beginning. It seemed that my abs needed to be stretched out a bit and get some blood moving into them  – which didn’t seem to be happening on the bike.

Day 9 – 75 minutes road bike.

Day 10 – 60-minute swim and 30-minute run later in the day.

Day 12 – Road bike to Estes Park, one way, for a total ride time of 2:40. (This is half the distance and a bit over half the time of what was “normal” for me on a weekly basis prior to the surgery. No, I don't ride to Estes each week, but similar distances and times.) I capped intensity at the top of Zone 2 on this ride and felt great the entire time. I had no issues whatsoever.

Day 13 – Had the post-surgery exam and everything looks great.

Additional items I did that may or may not have helped: I wore travel compression stockings through Day 3 since I wasn’t doing much moving. I consumed fresh pineapple (for the anti-inflammatory properties) through Day 10. I supplemented with Branch Chain Amino Acids and L-Glutamine through Day 10 (and four days preceding the surgery). Though no fun, I iced my belly Day 1. They did recommend ice on the day of surgery “if I feel like it” – I didn’t. I suspect this would have helped with healing the stretched out abdominal muscles even more, but…

I was sleeping around 10 hours per night the first five days and taking a nap each day. Sleep is critical to recovery. I will say I didn’t sleep “well” until Day 8. 

I’ll stay away from lifting any weights until after Day 14. When starting back to weights, I’ll keep it light. (The concern is getting a hernia.) There are no restrictions now on mountain biking, skiing, running or riding.

If you have to do some type of non-emergency abdominal surgery, consider going into the surgery not exhausted from training. Don’t view your last few workouts as an opportunity to binge on volume or intensity because you’ll be off workouts for awhile.Instead, go into surgery well rested so you can get back to workouts more quickly. When you visit the surgeon, let him or her know what is normal for youbefore the procedure and what you might expect afterwards.

If you’re reading this prior to heading for a procedure, all the best to you ~



Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.


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Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.

628 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, cycling, swimming, workouts, recovery, appendectomy

On the road to recovery, there were a few things that surprised me (as in, I had no clue I’d feel this way) and some things I’m pleasantly surprised about.

I’ll give you lots more details on workout specifics after I see the doctor early next week for my follow-up appointment; but a few brief, pleasant surprises. First, I was on an indoor bike for 30 minutes three days after surgery. To date, after every aerobic workout I’ve felt better than before the workout - and it lasted. That is, I didn’t just get an endorphin high that left and also left worse off for recovery. In all cases so far, aerobic work seems to have sped up the recovery process. Within the last few days I’ve had a real run (not walk, jog, shuffle), an hour swim and a decent outdoor bike ride.

One of the things that surprised me is that I was afraid to drive the car for the first time. I had this odd fear that if I’d crash, the seat belt would dig into my surgery area and REALLY hurt. I was paranoid about having an auto accident. Never in my life have I had that fear.

I was also surprised to be afraid of riding my bike outside for the first time. When I tried to analyze why, it seemed I was afraid of falling – perhaps popping open wounds – and I had an odd fear that I would get so tired that I wouldn’t make it home. Turns out there was nothing to fear, I didn’t fall and I made it home fine.

Finally, because it’s not comfortable to have anything tight around my belly button area or even low and pushing up against the belly button (like low cut jeans will do when sitting) – I’ve found myself being attracted to those velvety workout-looking pants and hoodies. I can see how they make the perfect public attire for those not wanting to wear anything tight.

I have yet to purchase said soft-looking, stretchy outfit – but I was surprised at how I was suddenly attracted to them. Those that know me well say they day will not come when such a purchase will occur…


...don't count on that. When comfort is key, people will do unusual things.




Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.

Comments can be added on Facebook.

Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.


1,587 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: recovery, appendectomy

In yesterday’s blog I covered the wide variation in recovery time and costs for an appendectomy. I told you I’d let you know what the surgeon told me to expect.


Most likely if you’re reading this blog, you understand that once you’ve reached a certain level of fitness it is easy to maintain that level and most importantly – you feel good. You also understand that doing nothing for several days or weeks means a loss of fitness, endorphins and you just don’t feel good.


When I went to visit the surgeon to find out details about an upcoming appendectomy, I wanted to know how much downtime to expect. Doing some research prior to my visit to his office, I expected to have him tell me it would be two weeks before I could do much of anything.


I was pleasantly surprised by his answer.


Before asking him what I could do post-procedure, I told him my current routine that I’ve carried for more years than I can remember. That is strength train once or twice per week, swim two to three times, run two or three days and ride two or three days. Weekly hours are between eight and 10 this time of year, more in the summer.


Given my current fitness and history, here are my guidelines

  • I will likely be on pain meds of some kind for three to five days. As soon as I’m off pain meds, I can run and ride.
  • The incisions close in two or three days, but don’t start back to swimming for a week to be safe.
  • Avoid weights for two weeks.

My plan:

  • Initial workouts should all be less than an hour and all aerobic. I’ll be on an indoor bike and treadmill to be sure all is well before heading outside.
  • The primary goal of workouts is to speed recovery.
  • A secondary goal is to minimize loss of aerobic fitness.



Getting back to light workouts in some three days or so is a target for me. We’ll see how it all pans out.





   Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.


   Comments can be added on Facebook.


   Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.



704 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, cycling, swimming, athlete, strength, time, recovery, weights, appendectomy

In the past two weeks, I’ve consulted and reviewed four training plans for different athletes. One theme I am seeing is not allowing enough time for recovery after big races.


If you are doing a half-Ironman event, most athletes need at least two weeks for full recovery. After Ironman it is at least four weeks.


When you plan multiple races in your season, be sure you allow for adequate recovery - particularly if you are concerned about good performances. Here is a link to column I wrote that might help.

496 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: ironman, recovery, half-ironman, race_planning

Earlier this week I received a question on Facebook asking me about recovery strategy during the crash training block. Thought you’d like to see the discussion, and I’ve added a few lines:


Q. You discuss doing self-massage at the end of the ride. What specifically does that entail and how much time should be devoted to it? I know I need to do that for better recovery from longer rides (and runs as well, I imagine).


A. For the self-massage, I try to do a recovery/flush type massage - gently stroking the muscles from extremities towards the heart. My technique is just based on personal experience from getting massage from someone else. I do try to put pressure on knots I feel, but I'm not as willing to work those out as a massage therapist is.


I typically do this self-leg massage immediately post-shower, if possible, and I use an anti-inflammatory massage oil. I’ve used various crèmes and lotions over the years, but now I typically use arnica massage oil. I currently use a Weleda product, but I'm experimenting with making my own blend. 

I try to do this massage after long and/or hard bike rides and runs. I suspect I devote no more than 15 minutes to the task.


Many self-coached athletes do a great job of scheduling workouts and training, but they don’t give enough thought to recovery. Recovery is the only way your body can absorb workout benefits.

876 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: recovery, self_massage