Working towards cough-resistant abs

My body seems to finally have purged the dreaded respiratory virus, and I felt much better today.  Wilbur, my stoma, also seems to be on the mend. When I palpated the area around my stoma this morning during my appliance change, all the tenderness that I had from my recent violent coughing was gone. I am now sure all the pain was due to a muscle strain and nothing more serious. However, this recent episode has been a good reminder of the importance of strengthening my core. I want abs that are resilient enough to handle a bit of coughing.

When I joined our new gym last month, they included a free session with a personal trainer. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was happy to discover that the the staff had taken the time to consider the fact that I have an ostomy. They paired me up with a trainer who had experience with clients who had been through abdominal surgery.

Today was my first meeting with this trainer. We sat down for about twenty minutes in the beginning of the appointment and went over my goals, medical information and fitness history. She asked me a lot of questions about my ostomy, and I was very comfortable sharing the information with her. Since my overriding goal was to develop core strength, she recommended that we focus on my abs, lower back and obliques for the first session. After our meeting, we headed out to floor of the gym and worked on static exercises such as the stability-ball hip bridge, dead bug, oblique planks on the knees and others. At the end of the hour, my muscles felt wonderfully worked, but there was never anything painful.

I was so pleased with how things went that I immediately signed up for some more training sessions. I want to finally have some clear direction on how to proceed with gaining core strength after surgery in a safe manner.

Doing an oblique plank on my knees after learning proper technique with a trainer. Soon I will progress to doing them on my toes.

4 thoughts on “Working towards cough-resistant abs

  1. Wow…please share more about this. There is nothing on the web about rebuilding core strength after abdominal surgery or with an ostomy. Many people with ostomy ask this question. Please share more.

    1. Hi Neta,

      I think the reason there is little on the web regarding this is that the exercise programs for those with ostomies must be so individualized. The exercises assigned would likely vary greatly depending on how far out of surgery someone is and what level of fitness they are at. My trainer interviewed me extensively about the fitness activities I was already doing, and the gym even sent for a doctor’s note from my surgeon to make sure there were no restrictions. The trainer did balance tests, looked at my muscles as they were working and tweaked the level of the exercises according to what she saw. She was very specific! My best recommendation would be for people to sign up with a trainer. Personally, I feel that the monetary cost is well worth it. I would never have been able to figure out the things I learned in that hour on my own and it would be impossible to pass the info on because so much of it had to do with form and subtle movements and was based on my body. Also of note is that I will not have to work with a trainer indefinitely. She said we would work on building a solid foundation of core strength and learn some basics, but that eventually I would get to a point where I could progress on my own. Hope this helps a bit.


  2. I know I’m responding to an old post, but I hope you see this. I’m 3 months post illeostomy surgery. I was very fit and active before surgery. About 2 months after surgery I tried to start exercising my core on my own. After 2 sessions of core work I’d feel pain around my stoma. So I stopped exercising. I think I’ll reach out to a personal trainer per your recommendation to help me get started again. I have a tendency to over do it and always seem to injury myself when working out and lifting weights.

    I guess my question to you is, what type of support do you use while at the gym? Just your Nu Hope hernia belt? Or some other type of support system. I am so confused in this area. The products I find online are all so expensive and seem to be wafer specific fit. I’m still tying to find a wafer system that works for me and don’t want to invest in a product that won’t work if/when I have to change out my wafer system.

    Any thoughts you have would be appreciated! I love your blog. You are such an inspiration to me!


    1. Hi Jackie,

      Thanks for writing! I know some people successfully start exercising soon after surgery, but two months seems a little early. If you are having pain, it seems like istening to your body and slowing down is a good idea.

      I know exactly what you mean about the wafer-specific belts. I had the same problem at first as my nurse wanted me to only use a one-piece appliance for the first four months or so (I had a mid-line incision that was tricky to heal and she didn’t want me pushing down on my belly to snap a two-piece together.) I took the plunge and bought a Nu-Hope belt anyway knowing that I would have to get a different one later when I healed and decided on my final appliance (which ended up being a two-piece that fits with a different sized Nu-Hope belt.) Still, I figured the belts were much cheaper than a hernia repair:)

      As it turns out, the Nu-Hope belts ended up being covered by my insurance and were not as expensive as I thought they would be. My plan for ostomy supplies covers 75% and I pay 25% which makes the belts reasonable. Definitely check with your policy as Nu-Hope belts are one of the only belts out there that seem to be sometimes covered by insurance in the US. I think it is because they offer serious hernia prevention and are considered a medical supply more than a piece of clothing. I actually have two. I have one that is 4-inches wide that I like for yoga because I can bend in it. For all other strenuous activities (weight lifting, snowboarding, backpacking, rock climbing etc.) I like the 6-inch wide one. I find it a bit more comfortable as it doesn’t cause the “muffin top effect” like the four-inch one does sometimes. I have wide hips, a narrow waist and a low-placed stoma, so sometimes the belts ride up on me a bit. I hold it in place at the level of my stoma by wearing a pair Comfizz women’s high-waisted boxers over it (my absolutely favorite ostomy undergarment for working out.) It seems like a lot of layers, but I find it comfortable. Comfizz is based out of England, but the products and shipping are reasonable and my orders have always arrived in a very timely manner.

      The model of Nu-Hope belt I use is the Flat Panel Support Belt in Cool Comfort Elastic found on page 5 in this brochure ( Once you figure out what size you need, you actually order it through your medical supplier (Byram, Edgepark etc.) rather than right from Nu-Hope. If you are confused about what size to order, call Nu-Hope. They were really helpful when I couldn’t figure out what size, opening location, etc. that I needed. Especially for my first one which required custom-sizing due to the large flange size on one-piece appliances.

      As far as stoma-protector belts with a hard shield… I haven’t found I need them as I don’t play contact sports. For things like rock climbing, backpacking and snowboarding, the chance of blunt trauma to the stomach is pretty low. I had my stoma placed to avoid the hip belt on my harness and backpack, so those don’t rub on my stoma either.

      I don’t know if you saw this post, but in it I mention how long it took me to get back to a variety of sports.

      Just keep working at it slowly, a little at a time. You will get back to your pre-surgery fitness eventually. Until then, enjoy all the small accomplishments along the way:)

      Hope this helps!


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