Running While Anemic

I've been meaning to do a post on this for a while and look! I finally got around to it.

This post is only about my personal experiences with anemia and running and remember to always consult a professional if you ever sense something is off with your body. 

So, let's dive right in- shall we?! 

I jokingly assumed that I had anemia in college because I was always tired, vegetarian (not eating the healthiest foods), and everything (from running, walking up stairs, strength training) just felt 'hard'. Fast forward to when I moved to Colorado (helllooo high altitude), I had begun eating meat again, but always thought that the exhaustion I felt was due to the lower oxygen available when you live and work-out at 6,623 feet above sea level. 

I never officially got my blood checked out until I was in the hospital with a kidney infection. While it was absolutely terrible (anyone who has ever had a kidney infection would agree...), it was also a blessing in disguise because they told me that my iron was extremely low and that I was anemic. It was honestly a great feeling because I finally had an answer as to why I could never run 'faster' or improve my race times as much as I thought I would, I would feel foggy a lot of the times at work or during schoolwork, I only felt a certain amount of empathy towards others, going up stairs would leave me exhausted and out of breath sometimes, and I always felt like I was living in a cloud. I also could summon myself to pass-out when at the hospital (especially when getting blood drawn/ donating blood).

Prior to being diagnosed with anemia, I would do my long runs and feel a constant headache (like I was dehydrated, but I was keeping up on my electrolyte/water intake)- it actually wouldn't go away until I finished my run (and ALWAYS had to take a nap afterwards, no matter whether it was 8 miles or 14 miles). 

My doctors put me on a slow release iron supplement as soon as I left the hospital (about 65 days ago) and I have been on the slow release tablets since. So, what differences have I noticed thus far?

  • I have more energy. ALL the time
  • I've started to run faster at my easy paces without giving them anymore effort
  • When I finish my long runs, I no longer have headaches or feel like I need a nap (even after my 20 mile runs)
  • Going up stairs no longer leaves me breathless
  • I bruise less-often 
  • I no longer feel like I'm living in a fog and have already felt myself feeling happier more often
  • Almost all of my runs (since I recovered from my kidney infection) were done with a smile in my believe training journal. Prior to my diagnosis, about half of my runs each week were sad faces
  • I've noticed my metabolism increase (could also be that I'm able to run more mileage each week) and more muscle definition throughout my body
  • I can focus on tasks at hand and not feel distracted as often

So, overall I think I still have some improvements to see when I've been on the iron supplements for 120 days (~4 months), but I am already feeling so much stronger than I ever have before! It's really exciting to think where I will be when my iron and RBC count reaches a normal level. Here's to the next 60 days!