Exercise – YES YOU CAN!

Disclaimer: Before starting any exercise program, please consult with your healthcare provider.

Club/Fitness Membership not possible? Set up a play room at home!

We all know that exercise/fitness is important and even more so when we are just starting out with our exercise routine. In this blog series, I will talk with you about how to easily put a fitness routine into your daily life to get you started on a healthy exercise routine.

This blog will be geared toward those who’ve just had bariatric surgery and those who are improving their health in other ways but are new to exercising. Specifically, we’re going to focus on the early stages of rapid weight-loss (the first nine months). Please be aware that your individual plan should be tailored to you with the help of your healthcare providers and support team! Go easy, build slowly and consistently and make every opportunity for movement fun!

I encourage all my clients to take “I have to work out” and reframe it to “I get to play!” As noted above, this is the first of a three-part series and will address newbie’s (zero to three months from start of program or newly post-op).

Months Zero to Three - First thing to do is figure out where you are now!

While a formal fitness assessment can be eye opening (with impedance scales, calipers, etc.), there is a lot that can be done from home with paper, pen, tape measure and stopwatch. To assess your current fitness level:

      • START a progress journal (I call mine a “Juicy Life Journal,”) and note the following in it:
        • Height, current weight and measurements. You can measure wherever you like, the key to self-measurement is consistency (e.g. give yourself some visual landmarks to use month-to-month and remember this will not be an exact science as rapid weight-loss often causes sagging skin!). Measure chest, waist, hips (and you can add neck, upper arm, upper thigh, calf, etc). Again, find visual landmarks. For me on legs, I measured 12” from ground for calf; 26” from ground for mid-thigh, etc.). Find yourself a benchmark that will not sag or change (for me: the floor)! A client of mine also set up a wall chart for himself of where he would measure each month and just stood in front of it! Do what works for you.
        • Take a walk in your neighborhood; note how far you go in 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Use a pedometer or landmark to track your progress.
        • If you are able to do floor work, see how many crunches you can do until you are tired; time yourself for one minute. If not – don’t worry, you will get there soon!
      • REFRAME – Workout = play date! What we tell ourselves MATTERS, and now is the time to look at negative self-talk and change it! I am sensitive to the embarrassment of exercising in public and there are many possibilities of doing things within the home if that is of concern for you.
      • TOOLS – Counter tops make great stabilizer bars for doing gentle squats, leg lifts and modified pushups! Use detergent bottles (2 of the same weight) to create free weights for working upper arms and shoulders. This can also be a time to start to invest in some equipment (many retail stores sell free weights – check out local stores and what’s on sale; you can also find gently used equipment on Craigslist or resale sporting goods shops). This can be done in-person or online – or take a friend and make it a fun excursion!
      • Set some realistic goals for the next three months. SMART goals are the best (small, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive). Some sample goals can be:
          • Goal (e.g. I will schedule a work out/play date 1-2 times per week for ½ hour – or whatever you feel is a great place to start.)
          • Goal (e.g. I will attend my surgeon/MD support groups as scheduled.)
          • Goal (e.g. I will follow nutrition guidelines of my chosen program.)
          • Goal (e.g. I will make my environment friendly to my new lifestyle – this can be preparing small meals for post-op, getting what you need in the house to support your fast, etc.)
          • Goal (e.g. I will hold a family meeting once a week to discuss what I need from then and what I can give to them during this time in my life.)
      • If you work better with a buddy (someone who will join you in your play), get one! Taking a walk outdoors may be less intimidating with a friend, walking in the early evening can make it so you encounter fewer people, etc. Be sensitive to your own emotional needs around this. Some of us don’t care what others think/say; some of us care deeply. There is no right/wrong – there is just the reality of how you feel. Be kind to yourself!
      • Make time in your calendar (for your fitness, support groups, etc). Make yourself a priority.
      • Get good supportive shoes for walking.
      • In your juicy life journal – take some time each day for writing. I personally love having a gratitude journal, and don’t go to sleep before I write down three things I am grateful for that happened during that day. Some days are hard and I have to stretch to find the gratitude, but you are worth the effort!
      • Start to really look at your life and become more aware of your daily activity choices (are you parking farther away to encourage walking); are you sitting too long and not moving; are you making the most of your house cleaning chores in terms of movement (try it with upbeat music)!

Phase 1 (2-3 times per week)

FOCUS: Set up your routine (e.g. schedule your workout time). Remember that YOU are a priority and keep these appointments with yourself. This will be an exciting time – reconnecting with your muscles, recovering from surgery, starting to build new healthy habits that you can keep a lifetime! You will be seeing your health care providers regularly and you will garner support patient groups, family and friends.

To help you establish a basic exercise routine, I have outlined a series of exercises that you can perform that will become the base of your fitness program. The attached link is to a video I put together for you to demonstrate the exercises. Remember to start slowly and check with your health care provider if you have any questions or experience pain.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO (Please remember that this is not a professional video, it is something I put together to explain the exercises; so please excuse any verbal errors and accept the love it was made with! I invite you to share this with other post-ops who may be just starting out.)


      • Stretching – Start with a stretch (there are some great books out on what these exercises look like). I am partial to the books by Hollis Lance Leibman as they have great pictures! You can choose to work standing, sitting or on the floor- that depends on your present fitness level. Good Stretches include:
            • Neck stretch and head roll
            • Arm Stretches (triceps, shoulder, bicep)
            • Ab and Side Stretches
            • Standing Quad Stretch (if you can’t reach your ankle with your hand, use a belt to loop around your ankle and pull up – great trick until you are more flexible)
            • Standing Hamstring Stretch
            • Calf Stretch , Ankle Roll
      • Free Weights (or resistance bands or cans of soup)
            • UPPER BODY
            • Bicep & Triceps Curls
            • Overhead Press (shoulder press)
            • Lateral Raises
            • LOWER BODY
            • Squats
            • Squats with Arm Curls
      • Muscle Toning
            • Knee Raises (standing or seated)
            • Leg Raises (with support)
            • Side Lunges (side stepping)
      • Cardio
            • Walking
            • SLOW stair climbing (take care if you have knee/hip joint issues)
            • If you have home equipment, SLOW treadmill walking

START SLOW; build up throughout time. This is a three month program! If you do too much too soon, you will make yourself uncomfortable and not achieve the success you want.

Monthly additions can include more repetitions, more sets, slightly heavier weights, walking longer distances, etc. You can also build up to an additional day per week and one hour per day (which can be broken into two ½ hour sessions).

This is PLAY TIME so keep it fun! If walking outside is not possible, remember that many local malls open early and have a mall-walker program – get a buddy and window shop!

Please be sure to let me know what exercises you like and how you are doing with implementing your exercise program! As you start these you will find that you develop some favorites; which ones are yours?


I will cover months four – six; different issues, additional exercise and a progress check to see how everyone is doing!


If you want something – let me know by commenting on the blog. Remember that this is for you!

Part II

To view part II of this series, click here.

About the Author:

Jill C. Williams, MS, CPT, is a duodenal switch success story; going from 330 pounds in 1998 to 130 lbs today. She is a certified personal trainer, personal and professional development coach and runs a post-op obesity surgery program that combines 1:1 coaching, personal training and group support. Her goal is to see that everyone who undergoes weight loss surgery achieves their goals! To learn more about Jill, please visit www.silversexynstrong.com or email jwilliams@silversexynstrong.com.

10 Comments for this Post
  • Terri
    August 22, 2013 at 11:32 am

    I think another thing to think about is that exercise in the first three months will make you feel better.. Walking right away limits the gas pains, and as you abdominals heal, it can help to stretch your back and make you feel less cramped up.. Your hormones are crazy and exercise can help with the blues. And at least for gastric bypass, the best advice I got early on, is if food gets “stuck” and you are having the “foamies” that exercise (walking or elliptical or whatever you normally do as light cardio).. can really make you feel better .. Much better than laying down and having it sit there for hours. The idea of using exercise to feel better may be very foreign to people who have battled obesity for much of their lives, but believe me, it can!

    • Jill Williams
      August 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      Love your enthusiasm and you are 100% correct, while exercise can be “foreign” early on; I am hopeful that everyone will get in the mood to play as they begin to feel better and realize the benefits of the surgery!
      You have a great attitude for success!
      in gratitude…

  • Stephanie
    August 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Great Post.. I’ll be following along as I am 9 days post-op VSG. I’ve been walking almost daily for thirty minutes.

    • Jill Williams
      August 22, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Keep up the good play! Walking rocks, watch the video and do what you can. Making the best use of every resource (you, your attitude, your play/fitness routines and your food choices) will ensure your success! You are at the very beginning of a remarkable journey – thanks for your post!
      in gratitude…

  • Jim Blackburn
    August 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    As my exercise journey started after surgery, I chose to wear compression clothing under my normal workout clothes. I did this each and every time I worked out and still were compression today. I have lost over 200 pounds. At age 51, I have been told by many medical professional that having my extra skin “retract” as mine has is very uncommon. When asked what I did different or not part of my plans education process, my answer was that the only thing I can attribute it to is wearing the compression clothing.

    • Jill Williams
      August 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      You are indeed fortunate with your weight loss/skin issues! I have had multiple plastic surgeries to remove excess skin, and have healed well and continue to enjoy and make the most of every gift of my new body! Sounds like you are doing quite well and thank you for shaing your suggestion! Something people can talk to their doctor’s about!
      in gratitude,

  • Pandora Williams
    August 22, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I wish I could stand up and applaud in a way that drew the attention I feel worthy to this article.

    As a post operative bariatric patient myself I was pushed and propelled to become a personal trainer because I felt that there was a huge gap in the education and knowledge being provided to specifically a massive weight loss oriented population including of course, post bariatric clients, when it came to exercise and fitness.

    It is very new for us to start seeing articles, studies, research and scientific knowledge centered around a bariatric population where the subject of fitness and exercise are precedent and I applaud you and the OAC for being at the forefront of this subject matter.

    I am very excited to read this blog as both someone who is currently studying for the CPT Exam, and a post operative bariatric patient myself who desires to help this community find the fun in fitness that might propel them towards the more intrinsic type of motivations I found for myself in my own weight loss journey.

    So far I couldn’t agree with you more and I am excited to see that my concept of a Bariatric Specific Fitness Approach is so similar to someone the OAC publishes. It just empowers me in my own journey as well and makes me want to study harder for my test.

    • Jill Williams
      August 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Pandora,
      Although we share a last name (and are not related) it is wonderful that we share the same attitude! Looking forward to hearing that you have passed your CPT exam!
      in gratitude…

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