I won’t lie when I say I have been antsy to get back to some sort of exercise after surgery. My anxieties have been worsened by (not recommended) reading of post-thyroidectomy forums, where poster after poster claims to not only have gained weight after surgery, but to also have trouble losing weight. Feeling already not-so-awesome about the weight I’ve put on in the past year, the thought of putting even more on does not feel great. Furthermore, they don’t tell you this, but your hunger escalates after you have major surgery. You are an eating machine, once you get your appetite back. With every bite of food I never would have thought twice about before this, I’ve started picturing my derriere expanding uncontrollably, like “The Blob.” Maybe it’s because I have had times in my life where I have been completely out-of-control regarding my weight, and it’s a fear that it could happen again. At any rate, I know I’ve been somewhat irrational. I might have gained a tiny bit of weight through not exercising, but, at this point, I have no reason to think it is unmanageable. Still, I have been very eager to get back to at least FEELING like I’m doing something to contribute to my health.
You don’t realize it, but your neck does a lot of work, and takes a lot of impact. It takes a while for the swelling and tightness to subside, so, obviously, things that heavily involve the neck, such as swimming, are out for a while. I have decided to hold off on things that involve stretching or straining the neck, or holding it in a fixed position, for at least three weeks, so that nixes most exercise, such as yoga, Pilates, cycling and most strength training. The only thing I have held out hope to be able to get back to soon has been running.
My doctor told me to give myself more time than I thought that I needed to recover before going back to vigorous activity. Every morning this week, I’ve woken up early and jogged in place, just to see if my neck would take the jostling of the running motion without feeling any soreness or spasming in the area of surgery. Yesterday, I almost gave myself the go-ahead, except for a nagging little bit of soreness. Begrudgingly, I gave myself one more day to chill and heal up before attempting to run.
Today was the day. I pulled on my faithful Old Navy leggings, my dry-fit gear and new teal colored Nikes, and took the dog out on a walk. I told myself I’d go easy, just lightly jog for about twenty minutes, just to test the waters and see how it went. I promised myself that I would be forgiving of myself and not be disappointed if I had to start back from square one, that I’d get my fitness back fast.
With the “Beep!” of my Garmin, I was off, holding myself back at a nice and easy pace. The tendons around my shins were a bit tight, as I hadn’t stretched them much at all in recent weeks. They burned for several minutes, but then loosened up. So far, my neck was feeling just fine, aside from my breathing feeling a little weird as it pushed back and forth against the swollen tissue. As I neared the halfway mark of my run, my body felt looser, painless, energized, strain-less, free!
“Whee! I’m running!” I wanted to trill gleefully to the treetops.
I looked down at my Garmin, which told me I was running at an 8:45 pace. Suddenly, I felt a small spasm, from deep inside my neck, a little “beeping” pain, as if warning me to chill out. This is supposed to be a jog, I reminded myself, and dialed it back to a 10:30 pace. Effortlessly, my pace kept creeping up to 9-9:30, and I had to keep checking myself to slow down my free-wheeling legs.
I finished feeling like I could have run at least twice the distance, which is a good, good, awesome sign. Either my body has really relished the rest, or it’s finally got enough thyroid hormone, which, I hope, will make me an even more awesome athlete in the end.