Exercise and HS
For many people, exercising with HS is a double-edged sword - you know that exercise has health benefits that can help with HS, but exercising itself can sometimes be painful or can aggravate flares. In the four years since my diagnosis, I have struggled a lot with striking a balance between the two.
I have noticed a specific pattern when it comes to my flares and exercising. For the first two weeks that I start exercising regularly, my flares are generally not active. After the first two weeks, though, the areas around where I regularly have flares start to become irritated, and within a few days, a new flare will begin. This usually will occur in the armpit region, which could be correlated with increased sweat from exercising.
At first, this would turn me off from exercising. I’d stop because of the pain of my flares, thinking that it was just a brief break. That brief break, however, would turn into a month-long hiatus. I would then start exercising again, with this cycle continuing until I found ways to adapt.
Committing to exercise while dealing with HS started with a mindset change. I would watch all of the influencers on social media and Youtube, thinking that I had to model their long, daily exercise routines in order to see progress. While sticking to those long routines would lead to major progress, I had to step away from the mindset that this was the only way to exercise. Instead, my mindset turned to one of “always keep going,” to remind myself that moving a little, even if it was less than I originally planned, was still going to be beneficial for me.
Respect your body’s limits
I spent a lot of time pretending that HS did not place any physical limits on my body, but the reality is, it does. It took even longer to learn how to respect those limits. Respecting those limits when it comes to exercise can look different for everyone. For some, that can mean taking additional rest days or periodic breaks or adding additional break times in between sets. For me, it also included modifying some of the exercises I planned to do to make the strain easier on my arms. I would try to make sure that those modifications still allowed me to target the same muscle groups that the original exercises were targeting.
If you’re anything like me, then you feel winded after a workout. I want nothing more than to plop on the floor of my apartment and scroll through social media for ten minutes to relax after a workout. While this might be good for the soul, I have found that it is bad for my HS. Now, I make sure to shower immediately after working out (no scrolling!). I also make sure to use my prescribed antibiotic cream after the shower to further reduce any risk of infection or inflammation.
I still find myself discouraged sometimes. But at the end of the day I know I’m working towards a bigger goal: getting healthier and stronger so I can be the best version of myself.
Have you shared your HS story?