WLS Fitness Before and After Bariatric Surgery

WLS Fitness Before and After Bariatric Surgery

October 8, 2018

My (Non-Existent) Pre-Op WLS Fitness

My pre-op WLS fitness was nonexistent. I was over 300 pounds and was tired all the time. Cleaning my house or even walking around Target was a daunting task. Not to mention that obesity causes other health problems like knee, joint and arthritis pain making it extremely unmotivating to even think about starting any type of fitness program. I knew I needed to start exercising to lose weight, but physically, my body was unable too much of anything.

Once I was approved for Gastric Bypass, I knew my lifestyle would have to change. I am not talking just about completing changing my diet but starting and maintaining a fitness program. This meant my mindset would have to change. I joined a gym, however, I found myself wandering around the gym and had no clue where to start or what the heck I was doing. I started walking on the treadmill or the elliptical machine and remember hating every minute of it. I was frustrated that I did not enjoy the gym like everyone else seemed to.

I was intimidated and self-conscious  by all the “skinny“ or  “buff”  people using all the equipment the gym had to offer. I was fat and I did not feel comfortable around fit people.

Finding My Mindset & Motivation

This is when I firmly decided I was not going to be a statistic. I was not going to be one of the 50% of WLS who failed. I had to change my mindset and find the motivation to keep plugging away at a fitness program. I realized that motivation was right in front of me! My family, in particular, my husband. He believed in me and was willing to help keep me going even when I did not want to.

I started walking with my husband and the dogs about three days a week at first and started out slow. We also had different courses around our neighborhood to prevent boredom. We mixed up walking shorter and longer courses. We even had a “hard” walk with a “big hill. “ It was not easy, it was very hard!  I was exhausted and a 30-minute walk seemed like it took days. But I knew this was my road to success if I just made it a habit, and I did.

After I had Gastric Bypass surgery, I continued walking, but even further. I began taking my daughter in a stroller on long walks during the days. I was actually walking more than three days a week. But I became bored, I needed something more. My husband suggested we take a hike. We have some local trails that can be super challenging. Absolutely not! There are dirt and ticks, maybe snakes, who wants to do that. Oh, and did I mention its all uphill? But I reluctantly went and it was extremely hard.

We hiked approximately 3 miles round trip and I thought I was going to die. But what I felt after was different than walking in the neighborhood, I was proud and I felt accomplished. So, we kept at it, every time I would go a little further saying one day I would make it to the top. Once again, I eventually got a little bored. I didn’t stop going but I wanted something more.

Challenging Myself Even More

The more weight that came off, the easier it was to get my butt off the couch. My body was getting lighter so now it was more about being out of shape and finding what I loved. Running came next. I decided to challenge myself to run a mile without walking. Mile one-done, mile two-done, next thing I knew, I signed up for my first 10k (6.2 miles). I had never done any type of athletic event before. I was actually excited to push my body and run the 6.2 miles and I actually DID it! And here was my ah-hah moment, running. I loved it! Well, to be honest, I hated it but I loved running in events and getting medals so I trained for it.

I had never really finished anything I started before WLS but I was determined. The more determined I got to research other types of athletic programs. I was learning about cross-training in between running which meant, yup, time to go back to the gym. I still didn’t know what I was doing but I would hop on an elliptical and then use weight machines. I was motivated to keep exercising even though I still didn’t love being there. I realized I needed something else to do along with it.

I did not give up.

I had read and heard of Pilates but thought I would never be able to afford to do it. Low and behold I found a Groupon for a studio down the street. I had to go and try it. I was super nervous and intimidated like most people are. It was hard too, but I loved it. I decided to add Pilates to my fitness program too.

The diversity of my workouts was keeping me motivated. I am so proud to say I also I completed several 10ks, several half marathons and my first marathon (26.2 miles of running). During that time, I realized I wanted to give this gift of fitness back to others and enrolled to become a certified Pilates instructor. I started teaching Pilates and my clients then became the ones to keep me motivated to constantly change my routines.

Finding Other Ways To Work Out

During an injury that occurred to my knee after running the marathon, I realized running would have to take a back seat, at least for a while. Pilates was fine to do but I needed cardio. I was fit and in shape now and at my lowest weight. Even though I was still self-conscious, I decided to try classes at the gym. I think I must have tried them all too. Only one stuck with me, a rocking workout called Pound Fitness. This I could do and I loved the entire hour! I kept going back every week and of course, only naturally, decided I wanted a part of this too and eventually became a Pound instructor!

I get asked all the time how I stay so motivated and what is it that keeps me motivated. Most times the answer is, “Am I” or “I don’t know”. Then out of what seems to be a complicated question for me I find it… I HAVE NO CHOICE, which is both a simple and complicated answer.

My motivations lie simply on the fact that I have become a bit vain and don’t want to be morbidly obese again! I like building muscles and being healthy. So, in order to have all those things, I have no choice. I mean I guess I do, I can sit on the couch and not go to the gym and lift weights or go take a cycle class cause I’m too tired and worked all day, but by doing that I make it that much easier to make the same bad choice the next day, and the day after that. I push myself hard and I am hard on myself. No one is going to make me go workout even when I don’t want to or when I hate the workout I’m doing. I have all the power in this relationship. Do I love it, sometimes but it doesn’t matter, it’s a necessity.

Fitness, also I have found, is an addiction, but a much better one to have. It is just like with eating, we have choices.

Don’t get me wrong with eating and working out, I am not perfect. I have made poor decisions with food but I end up feeling miserable afterward. That doesn’t mean I have failed, even if it feels that way. It’s what I do the next day that matters. If you fall off the bike you better jump back on really quick before that bike gets run over by a truck.

WLS And Fitness Must Go Hand In Hand

The blunt truth about WLS and Fitness is the two must go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter what your fitness is but I believe it is a MUST for long-term health and success. I see so many people who have surgery and, of course, lose weight but don’t work out. It’s none of my business of course, but am concerned because we have these surgeries to help us lose weight. It is a tool, not a cure.

On top of that, we do it to be healthy, ummm HELLO, fitness is part of being healthy right! It’s super hard to work out, I get it. Especially if you haven’t found what you can stand doing more than a couple days a week or if you don’t think you’re not getting results but you have to keep trying, trust me, you will find and see it if you push through. And once you get there the gratification with be well worth it.

We have the power and we choose how to live, but if you start thinking you have no choice in order to be healthy maybe it will make it that much easier to get off your butt and go. Don’t depend on others either, you have to learn to do this on your own cause sometimes you are all you got.

Other than the fact that I believe that I have no choice… here are some key factors that have helped me find my fitness and my success:

  1. Routine, routine, routine. So important. I don’t always do the same thing on the same days, that differs depending on my schedule. I find if I have a specific routine and know what days I am working out and what workouts I’m doing on those days, it is so much easier to go and get it done. It’s like going to work, it becomes a habit. If you fall too much out of the routine it makes it a million times harder to get back into, therefore, don’t just quit.
  2. Find something you love or at least don’t dislike doing during your workouts. It can be anything, but if you absolutely hate it all the time, you won’t keep going. You can hate it some of the time; we all do but find something you like more than hate. Find out what works best for you.
  3. Get a buddy. Now, this isn’t always available I know but I can’t tell you how many gym workouts or cycle classes I’ve attended where I went with someone else and it made a huge difference. Struggling through a workout together makes it easier. Especially when it’s a gym workout you hate because you can push each other to finish. And sometimes just knowing your friend or family/spouse is going makes it easier to leave the house as well.
  4. Push through, it’s worth it.
  5. Look at yourself in the mirror, once you start seeing the results of all your hard work (fitness changes the body and not weight loss) it will make it that much easier to continue.
  6. Finally, look around you. Find inspiration in others. My clients, my friends, sometimes even my family. Pushing yourself inspires others which in turn inspires you to keep inspiring others. People who say because of you I have found this or kept with this or didn’t give up makes it even more worth continuing my journey.
Gina Giarratano-Gilland


Before bariatric surgery and weighing 300 pounds, Gina Giarratano-Gilland had no interest in fitness. After losing over 150 pounds with her RNY surgery, that has completely changed for her. She left behind the world of office administration and is now a Pilates, Pound, and Cycle instructor. Gina also remains active with local support groups and her social media to help others that are struggling with their weight.