Running (and breathing) in Circles
August 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
I love to run. It’s relaxing. A time to be outside and think and pray, and I love the feeling of spent energy, enlivened muscle and increased blood-flow that comes afterward. But there’s a weird little almost-vicious cycle I experience while running, that is super uncomfortable and threatens to stop me from training for another marathon. =(
Usually my asthma — very minor by the way, I’ve never had an attack — is strictly exercise-induced. I run for a while, I feel myself pass the out-of-breath stage and settle into the breathe-steady-and-just-keep-going stage and everything’s great! Here we go! This feels good! Ugh, but then it’s like switch is flipped and suddenly breathing seems to have no affect. Must stop and walk a bit! Let the lungs open up again.
When I stop running, another minor condition kicks in; a POTS-like malfunction of the autonomic nervous system that means low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, randomly “forgetting” to breathe. etc. These involuntary systems don’t self-regulate the way they should. So, while actually running/exercising, it’s the exercise itself that keeps my blood pressure and heart rate pushing along steadily at a good rate to maintain the exercise. But as soon as I stop, when it’s supposed to all put itself back to normal rates, instead it goes kind of haywire and BP drops and HR just rushes along as though I’m still running and it just takes an extra few minutes for things to get back into place.
Once all THAT is over with, I can quit the walk-break pick up the pace. Every run I go on is broken down into those sections.
Run, get asthmatic, slow to a walk, BP & HR go kind of nuts, wait ’til I’m not woozy, run again, repeat.
Some days, like this afternoon, it happens when I’m not exercising at all and in the opposite order. I’ll “forget” to breathe, suddenly feel like I’m going to suffocate and realize, “Hey, it’s been a little bit since I took a breath. I should do that.” Deep breath, then feel asthmatic (like no air actually got in). But deep breaths make me woozy so it goes around and around like so:
Hey numbskull, breathe!
Oh! Yes, yes of course.
But it doesn’t feel like I gut much air. Deep breath again.
Etcetera. All the while my heart kind of pounds, though not any faster than usual.
Asthma treatments contain albuterol, which shoots the heart rate up. Since mine doesn’t regulate like it should, my cardiologist says no albuterol for me, because hey, why wear out my heart early by making it run hot all the time?
Not much they can do for the other condition either, because it’s not bad enough to require (or qualify for?) the usual treatment for POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). They said if I was actually fainting when I got lightheaded, I’d officially have POTS. Well, I’m certainly grateful that I don’t faint, though I’ve come close a few times if I stand up too fast.
I love to be active, to work out and to climb things and run races. And to sprint! Going as fast as I can is a major rush and absolutely love it! However since this stuff began, the reaction is a lot worse after a good hard sprint. Upon stopping I feel terrible, nearly black out, am asthmatic for an extended period of time, and my heart rate doesn’t go below 130 for hours.
So, I need prayer for patience. I need to proactively figure out an exercise routine, and hopefully running schedule, that will work for me instead of against me. And I need to make an appointment with my doctor to see about alternative asthma treatments that don’t affect heart rate (that I’d be comfortable taking).
Oh, and why did this suddenly start happening a few years ago? I’ve had the sports-induced asthma from childhood, that’s nothing new. But I asked my cardiologist why on earth an autonomic nervous system suddenly goes haywire! He said, “Well, it can happen after a patient has suffered a severe, prolonged fever. Have you had one of those?”
Swine Flu, fall of 2009, a few months before I started getting major woozy spells while simply sitting at my desk.