This is yet another post in my recent series of posts how my cholinergic urticaria went from being very severe to tremendously better (basically gone now). If you have not yet read my previous posts, then I strongly urge you to read them first so you can know exactly how this has progressed:
- My brief history of hives
- What is visceral fat?
- and My Hypothesis of visceral fat making cholinergic urticaria worse
- How to lose visceral fat
- Use Diet to eliminate visceral fat
- High Calorie Foods to Watch
- My Joyce Chen Steamer Review (My secret cookware weapon to reduce calories)
- Low Calorie Snack Ideas–some snacks to help you curb your cravings without adding too many calories.
- High Sodium Diet–How I was eating way too much sodium, and you may be too.
- Low Sodium Diet Tips
- Summary on Diet
- Best Ways to Do Cardio Exercise
Note: please keep in mind that you should always talk to a doctor before changing your diet or exercise habits. These posts are only relating general information and experiences only.
Some people may not be able to safely exercise due to exercise induced anaphylaxis, severe cholinergic urticaria, exercise-induced urticaria, etc. Please use extreme caution and talk to a doctor before attempting anything mentioned here.
Quick Recap of My Hives at This Point
If you have been following this post series, this blog, or even the forum for a while, then you know without a doubt how bad my hives were. Since the summer of 2010, my hives took a turn from only moderate to pretty severe. I had severe hives for nearly a year despite my trying various antihistamines, getting a corticosteroid shot, and countless ridiculous experiments and trials.
My hives were so bad that my entire body would erupt in the most painful stings I have ever felt. I would get COVERED from head to toe in thousands of pinpoint hives. My skin would turn blood red and have small wheals in the areas I scratched. No amount of exercise or heat exposure would stop the hives. I had no refractory period after a reaction, and life was not fun.
Here is one of the pictures I had snapped, but my wife and I had a really hard time getting the camera to replicate what my body actually looked like in person. This photo was taken a few minutes after the major attack happened, and some of the redness had dissipated. But you get the idea. I was covered from head to toe in these tiny hives, which was excruciating to experience.
Making the Decision to Exercise and Diet
As I said in an earlier post in this series, when I had thought that visceral fat may have been causing excess inflammation, which in turn could have been responsible for my hives being so severe, I made a decision: Kill all visceral fat. I also made a decision to eliminate all junk food from my diet that could be suspect.
As I have also posted, my research led me to believe the most effective way of killing the visceral fat was with cardio, some strength training, and a careful watch on my diet (with an emphasis on calorie intake being below my maintenance level, lower sodium, removing all allergens/irritants/overly processed foods, etc.).
The diet was easy, although I continued tweaking things each week, because the past few years of struggling and trying diet experiments has taught my body to adapt to diet changes without too many cravings. It was also the first thing I could change, because diet requires little or no effort or money.
Exercise, on the other hand, was something I was NOT looking forward to doing. Imagine that you were held captive in a terrorist camp for a full year, and every time the thermostat inside of your cell reached a certain temperature, you were zapped with the most painful and irritating sensation you have ever felt. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that you may flinch every single time the thermostat started edging up to the temperature at which you would be tortured? Wouldn’t you also say that you would anything possible to avoid that sensation?
Well, that is basically how I had felt about cholinergic urticaria. I did not want to risk putting myself through the worst kind of torture known to mankind. But I knew that if I wanted my visceral fat to come off as quickly as possible, I would HAVE to start doing some exercise to help burn more calories. So what did I do?
My Attempts At Exercise with Severe Cholinergic Urticaria
You can read about my attempts to exercise below. You can also watch a video that summarizes my experience and tips with exercise:
As I mentioned in a previous post, I already had an exercise bike because I had bought it a few months earlier around Christmas. I highly recommend this as a way to get in cardio, and make sure to get a type like the one I recommended in the post if possible (the fan bike). After reading that it could be a great way to get cardio and burn visceral fat, I was going to attempt to use my bike. And boy was it pathetic.
For my first experiment, I got the room as cool as I could. It was still spring at this time (near the last week of April 2011), so I was lucky enough that we still had some cool days in the forecast. I would open the window in the room, and turn on a large fan to get it cool. Sometimes I would also go and soak my shirt in cold water and then put it on. The idea was to get it as cold as possible so I could workout longer before my core temperature got hot enough to initiate a hives attack.
So I got on the bike with a mission, and I started peddling very slowly and gradually, using a low tension setting. Since the room was really cool (around 59 degrees), I was able to make it about 7 minutes or so. Around that time, my hives started to come out with the same vengeance they have had for the past year. So I would stop before they got unbearable.
Tip # 1 For Anyone Attempting Exercise with Hives: Break it Up
What I realized (and have now personally verified), is that I didn’t have to get the full 20-30 minutes of cardio in at one time for it to work. I could break it up in spurts throughout the day, and it still burned calories and counted towards my fat-burning goals. So that’s exactly what I did. I would work out for as long as my body would allow–but only up to the point when my hives started to seriously come out.
At that point, I would stop and take a long break (sometimes an hour or two). Sometimes I would stop a little too late, and have to run into the bathroom to dab some water on my skin. But I would always stop exercising as soon as my hives began itching. I knew better than to push it with my hives being as severe as they were at the time. It just wouldn’t have made sense, and it definitely wouldn’t have been safe.
On some days, I could ride the bike for 7-10 minutes at a time. On hot days, I could only ride for as low as 2-4 minutes. Let me tell you–there is nothing that has made me feel so pathetic lately as only riding a bike for 2 minutes at a time! Now that was discouraging. But I did it, and I did it in as many spurts as I could to get my full targeted time in for the day. Sometimes I would be hopping on the bike a couple of times per hour just to get 2-3 extra minutes in towards this goal.
I did this about 6 days per week too, taking 1 full day off.
My Calorie Burning Quest Begins
So when I started doing cardio, it was difficult, and I was having to do this in 2-10 minute increments several times throughout the day to get in my goal of about 20-30 minutes per day. It was a struggle.
So to help burn even more calories, I tried to find other methods to help supplement my cardio efforts. So I began doing any exercises I could. What I found out was that for some reason I could work the very lower muscles in my legs with very little effect on my hives. I could hammer my calves and it would have almost no effect on my body temperature.
So I would do standing calf raises randomly throughout the day. What I mean is that I would simply go up to a wall and place my hand on it to steady myself, and lift up one leg (to put all my body weight on the other leg), and then use my other leg (the one touching the ground), to raise up to where I stood on my tip-toes, and then lower my foot down. This works the calf muscle.
I would do several sets on each leg throughout the day to burn a few extra calories.
I would also do some “toe raises” sitting flat in bed. While watching movies, I would extend the tips of my toes toward my head, and then point them out towards the end of my bed. This works the front of your leg muscles, and after only a few of these toe lifts it burns quickly.
So all day long I would try to find little exercises to do, in addition to my cardio efforts. I was trying to speed up and burn some calories any way I could. Those toe lifts can be a great thing to do, by the way. Even if you are at a desk at work or in class, most people would never know you are actually burning calories and making your legs burn like crazy! So just put your foot flat on the ground, and lift the end of your foot up and down until it burns (kinda like you are stepping on one of of those drum levers).
Adding Some Strength Training To The Cardio
After about a week or so of doing cardio and a few lower leg exercises, I decided to slowly start implementing some strength training exercises. Again, my hives were on edge, so I was very limited in how long I could do this, and it often had to be in spurts (even when standing in front of the A/C).
Cardio exercise was definitely the priority, since it tends to burn more calories than strength training. But I also knew that strength training can help to slowly build muscle, which will increase my metabolism slowly over time.
So I began doing a few exercises the 2nd week. These were simple exercises, like doing a couple of sets of curls for my biceps with a 20 lb. dumbbell I’ve had since high school. I also did a few tricep exercises, squats, push-ups, and a few simple exercises.
I didn’t use heavy weight for exercises like squats–just my own body weight starting out. I would have to do strength training in the EXACT way I did cardio–plenty of breaks. I didn’t let my body get to the point of a severe attack.
I only did a couple of sets starting out too, with as many reps as needed to start to feel a burn. Again, my main goal here was to start stimulating my muscles in a very slow and gradual way, while minimizing any hives attacks. As soon as the hives even suggested they were coming out—I backed off and cooled down.
Conclusion: That’s How I Started Exercising With Severe Cholinergic Urticaria
Okay, so that is how I pulled off getting in some cardio exercise with Cholinergic urticaria. The greatest thing I discovered was that I could break it up into short spurts, and still be burning calories.
I didn’t sweat, and I could only do it for a few minutes at a time. But I stuck with it.
In my next post, I am going to talk about what happened next, give some time-lines, and more. Stay tuned…
Next Post: My Cholinergic Urticaria Is Gone