How to recover from a hernia operation and return to your physical peak

James Carson
There are roughly 70,000 surgeries on inguinal hernias every year on the NHS - OJO Images RF

I first felt the sensation while running  on a treadmill. It was weird, unpleasant, and in my groin; not exactly painful, but enough to affect my mobility. I put my hand on the area. There was a lump. 

Then I laid down and the lump disappeared. Odd. Over the next few days, I went through this process a few times. The lump appeared, I laid down, it went away. It didn't take much Googling to realise I had a hernia. Oh dear.

If you’re fairly active – I was on a fitness kick at the time – then getting a hernia is quite an obstacle. There is no way to solve it apart from going under the knife – but you have to wait for surgery on the NHS, and then you face a lengthy lay-off afterwards.

Hernias and the subsequent operations are actually very common (there are roughly 70,000 surgeries on inguinal hernias every year on the NHS, at the cost of £56 million) particularly in men. How do you recover from such an operation? I had a double inguinal hernia, and I managed to work my fitness back up in the space of eight weeks. Here’s how I did it.

Week one

While you can walk around on the day of the operation, it will be quite uncomfortable. Particularly challenging is the transition from standing to sitting or vice versa; you may need some help for a few days. You’re also not meant to lift anything heavier than a kettle.

You should have at least one week off work and my advice at this point is to sit on the sofa. There will be a weird sensation of internal pressure on your lower abdomen when standing or walking, and it’s best to avoid doing either of these for more than ten minutes.

An important point here is that if you live alone, you should do a supermarket shop the day before your operation. It’s too much standing up to do in the week after.

Week two

The strange abdominal pressure will lift after about 10-14 days, and you’ll find you’ll be able to walk around without much restriction. However, on the physio’s orders you should avoid cardiovascular exercise until week four.

Week four

You’ll go to see the surgeon this week, to discuss recovery and have a check up. All being well, you can return to light exercise. Just don’t overdo it.

I swam three hundred lengths over the week, at a fairly slow pace, to no discomfort. However, I avoided running and didn’t do weights. Some people do run at this point, I just didn’t think it was worth the risk.

Week six

I added some light paced running and a basic light weight training plan back into my exercise plan. I did this four times a week, doubling the weight training circuit in week seven.

James Carson lifting weights after his recovery from a hernia Credit:  Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph

Week eight

At this point, you should be at full recovery. I returned to a heavy weight training program with high cardio. One word of warning here: the days after your first weight session will be a killer for DOMs (that's Delayed Onset Muscle soreness). It took me about four days to fully recover.

You’ll be able to respond to the feelings in your body better than I can advise, but having had the procedure and fully recovered, this is a realistic timeframe. One benefit of the whole thing is that the forced period off can help your body recharge if you’ve previously been doing quite a lot of exercise.

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