Last Updated on March 23, 2018 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
In order to talk about running with seasonal allergies, we’ve got to talk about what causes the allergies in the first place. In my case, and in the case of this written-out-of-total-frustration-and-lack-of-oxygen blog post, it’s the trees.
Trees truly are one of the most important things on this green planet. Simply put: without their life giving oxygen, we wouldn’t exist. And I’m convinced that every spring, the trees want to remind us of their power, so they spew their pollen far and wide, causing unexpected misery among allergy sufferers everywhere. As an athlete, nothing is more frustrating than getting knocked down a few pegs by things that are out of your control, especially when you’ve been on a solid, strong streak of training. Running with seasonal allergies (or let’s be honest: doing anything with these miserable allergies) is not something I had carefully added into my training plan.
But here we are.
Growing up in New England, “pollen” was always an abstract concept I had once read about in biology class, when we learned how trees reproduce. It was never something I could ever visibly witness with my own eyes, or imagine I ever would.
And then I moved to the South.
Here in the Carolinas, pollen should be considered a season in and of itself, as it rains down on us like a nor’easter of yellow. Spring, summer, fall, winter, pollen. It’s everywhere: on our cars, on our pets, in the air, covering ponds and puddles with a thin layer of yellow…hell it’s even on my computer, because I’m sitting here typing at my desk with the window open.
And most of all, the pollen is in my sinus cavities, wreaking havoc on well being and now weakened state of emotional stability.
For those of you unfamiliar with this misery, here’s the rundown: seasonal allergies develop when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment. Many people start off NOT suffering from seasonal (in this case, those pesky pine tree) allergies, but develop them over time and increased exposure. And I regret to inform you that after nearly three years back in the South, my immune system has decided to give up on fighting pollen. As a result…
I. Am. MISERABLE.
My eyes are watering, my sinuses are full, my nose is running, and I’m walking around feeling like my head is trapped in a bubble. This, coming off of two and a half months of solid training, and a few weeks of getting back into running. Note, the “coming off of” was not planned, rather the plan was to “continue”. But I’m not continuing, I’m struggling. So I thought I’d write about it.
6 Useless Tips for Running with Seasonal Allergies
Because daily we’re learning the art of “embracing the suck”…or something… here are 6 utterly useless tips for running with seasonal allergies. None of them will get rid of your (and my) allergies. You’re welcome*.
I just want you to love me, trees.
Consider it a form of Altitude Training
Running with seasonal allergies will help you practice what it feels like to not be able to breathe when you’re climbing those mountains at 10,000 plus feet above sea level. Forget the fact that from a physiological standpoint, it’s actually absolutely nothing like running at altitude. Gasp for air through your clogged nasal passages and irritated airway anyway, and just imagine you are about to summit one of those gorgeous Colorado 14’ers, you badass you.
Perfect your Farmer Blow
Who says snot rockets are only for the winter months? Get ready to impress your friends next winter with your mucous management skills by taking these bonus weeks to work on your farmer blow. Your perfected technique will blow (pun totally intended) your friends minds next winter.
Become one with Nature
According to my friend Paul, there are three things you need in order to be considered a legitimate ultra runner: a beard, a trucker hat, and a bottle of some unknown hipster microbrew in your hydration vest pocket. Why not take it one step further, and really commit yourself to being one with the trails. You’re already suffering, so spend that time immersed in the woods, getting to know the trees. Become a devotee to the deciduous, a connoisseur of the conifers. The trees are now in you, might as well get in them.
Face by Forest
Earth friendly skin care lines are all the rage these days, but nothing gets more earthy and crunchy than pollen applied directly to your skin. Bonus: it can be used as a concealer! Cover up those cheeks, rosy red from hard effort exercise. Instead, blend that pollen that is already lining your face into your skin, to give you a nice, neutral “this is a super easy effort pace for me, you guys, I don’t know what your problem is” look.
Breathe your way to Enlightenment
I’ve been taking a lot of yoga classes lately, and one thing the instructors often talk about is forced exhalation, or Kapalbhati Pranayama. Taking in a normal breath, then forcefully exhaling, this technique is supposed to be cleansing, both physically and spiritually, as well as energize and invigorate.
Guess what else is a forced exhalation? Coughing from all of the pollen irritating your respiratory system! Cough your way to a cleansed body and soul!
Just Give Up.
Quit running. Lay down on the trail. Rest that head, heavy with sinus pain. Just give up. You’ll run again next month, after those “April showers” wash away all of the pollen, and you can breathe once again.
*This blog post brought to you by sheer frustration, and the fact that I am too cheap to pay $26 for a package of Zyrtec, so I choose to suffer and share sarcasm instead. We all have coping mechanisms, this is mine.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.