• Ranked in Chambers & Legal 500 for Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence
  • Featured in the Times Top Law Firms 2019, 2020, 2021 & 2022 List for Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence
  • In 2021 alone, we were successful in securing over £85 million in damages for our clients
  • Over £98 MILLION in damages secured for our clients during lockdown!

Keeping fit with a stoma: Jenna’s story

Jenna Donofry made the decision to schedule surgery for the removal of her large intestine in 2012 after living with Crohn’s disease with no remission for eight years. After a lengthy recovery process, Jenna fell in love with fitness. Here, she tells her story.

Can you provide an overview of your fitness journey since your stoma?

"Since receiving my stoma in 2012 I hadn't participated in much fitness activity until this year. After having had 10 open bowel surgeries since 2007 and averaging roughly one per year I always told myself it wasn't worth trying to become healthier, but after my 10th surgery in December 2019 I decided it was. I was just so profoundly tired of being ill.

"After receiving clearance to workout by my doctor I was still in my head quite a bit, telling myself it was a futile effort but I told myself not listen to that part of me, to change my way of thinking and believe in myself and by April I had started an at-home workout program. 30 minutes a day, six days a week was all it took to sell me on fitness for life. It included mostly cardio and body-weight exercises. I had a lot of anxiety at the time so going to the gym wasn't my cup of tea. I also chose to share what I call my, foul-mouthed hobbit adventure to health, online with other people to hold myself accountable but also with the hope that I might inspire someone else to follow my lead.

"I went from rewinding and modifying every workout just so I could keep up to not only finishing the program but starting a new program with weights as well. People like me, who've undergone a lot of physical abdominal trauma, can't just jump into workouts like anyone else would. My abdominals had been cut in half 10 times and had separated slightly after having two children so training them to do what most bodies know how to do naturally was a huge challenge but a fun and rewarding one none the less. I fell in love with how fitness has made me feel so much that I became a personal trainer."

What does a regular week look like for you in terms of your fitness routine? How does this compare to your life before having a stoma?

"A regular week of fitness for me would be something like this:

  • Monday - full body cardio
  • Tuesday - upper body weights + core
  • Wednesday - lower body
  • Thursday - pilates or plyometric
  • Friday - cardio + core
  • Saturday - yoga
  • Sunday - full body again + core

"These are typically 30-minute workouts each. I don't like to take days off because if I give myself an inch I'll take a mile. In a week I'll also typically hike at least 3 times, 3-4 miles and ride my bicycle a few times. Before I had my stoma I did none of these things. In fact, hiking had always been on my list of goals to get to but with as ill as I was I didn't think that would ever happen. One of the few times I'm happy to be wrong."

Are there any exercises that are particularly challenging/should not be tried with a stoma?

"I wouldn't say there are any exercises that you shouldn't try with a stoma but I definitely believe the most challenging and nerve-racking ones to be most careful with are core and heavy weight exercises. Not only are our abdominals weakened after surgery but we're much more prone to hernias after the fact because of it so, always be aware of what your body is telling you and start low and slow."

Are there any challenges relating to working out with a stoma that you'd like to share?

"A couple of challenges I've noticed since I began working out is a bit of staring at my bag when I do engage in fitness out of the house. Especially if there's output in your bag. People want to know why you have a large bulge in your pants but little do they know, it's none of their damn business lol. The other challenge I face is let down when I have setbacks. The higher you succeed the farther you can fall so, when you've made a lot of progress but get a disease flair, blockage, injury, old habits of taking days off or something of the like that takes you out of commission and sets you back, it can really break your spirit and discourage you but you can't succeed in this without some failures or setbacks because they teach you the lessons you need to push forward."

What fitness products/must-haves do you use regularly that you think all ostomates who want to keep fit should know about?

"Fitness products that I absolutely must have would be fitness bands, nutritional meal replacement shakes and an accountability and support system. When I was still weak and just starting out I didn't have the core balance to safely use weights so I used the bands instead and it made me feel more productive but also, they work incredibly well. The shakes are a necessity for me because with my ileostomy I lose weight very easily and need to consume a lot of calories not only to maintain my current weight but also feed my muscles what they need to get through a workout. The last one speaks for itself. If I have other people not only encouraging and empowering me but also counting on me to show up everyday it makes working out that much more easy to show up for and even more enjoyable."

Has the clothing you wear to work out changed since having a stoma? Who are your favourite brands?

"Athletic clothing has most definitely changed since I first received my stoma. There's a lot of high waisted sweatpants and leggings which is perfect for us ostomates because not only does it conceal our supplies but it also holds it close to our bodies. I enjoy the new crop top trend too because with the high waisted bottoms I would sometimes get too hot or would want to feel more sexy and show more skin. This is the perfect way to do that. My current favorite brands are Calia by Carrie Underwood, Adidas and Honey Athletica because they have a rarity which is high waisted fitness shorts that actually go up high enough to cover higher stomas."

You can find out more about Jenna’s fitness story by following her Instagram profile.