Last updated on May 31st, 2018 at 02:47 pm
This post on How To Deal with Migraines & Running isn’t the post I had planned for today, but after my scary experience on Saturday I thought I’d share it as well as some tips.
I suffer from migraines that fall within the category of classic migraines with aura. I’m lucky that I’ve got them under control for the most part, but I do get a few every year. They usually start with the aura, where I lose part of my vision, get confusing thoughts as well as tingling/numbing feeling all over my body. That’s just the aura, when that’s done, the horrible headache follows.
On Saturday morning, I left the house at 8:30 a.m feeling energetic, with the intention of completing my long run of 15 km. About 3.5 km into my run, I started having a hard time seeing. It was weird, people and trees in the park were appearing/disappearing, the geese had no heads, yes heads, no, no heads depending on how I was focusing in front of me. That’s when I knew what was coming, and made my way home hopefully before the confusion started. Sometimes my migraines can be disabling. I always go in panic mode when I start the aura.
Hindsight being 20/20, I can look back now and see my mistakes and how I could have prevented this migraine from happening in the first place.
How to deal with migraines while running?
1. Know Your Triggers
I’ve suffered from migraines for about 15 years and I’ve done a good job a documenting my migraines and figuring out what sets them off. My triggers include; bright lights (like the sun), low blood sugar (don’t get me hangry), artificial sweeteners and other food chemicals like MSG, food dyes etc. and the one I don’t have much control over; hormones.
2. Eliminate Your Triggers
Once you know your triggers, eliminate them as much as you can.
I thought sunglasses would be enough. Saturday was a very bright, cloudless morning. I was wearing sunglasses, however, the sun was peeking through all sides. I believe the sun was largely responsible for my migraine. It’s not the first time the sun instigated a migraine. I now know that I need to wear a hat with a brim and glasses when I’m out running, biking or with the family.
Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar was one of the first triggers I’ve noticed when tracking my migraines. There is a great solution for that, eating! I have since picked up the habit of snacking a lot and I don’t let myself get very hungry and I eat at regular intervals. I bring candy, gels or real food along with me on my runs for sure
Food Chemicals & Artificial Sweeteners
Chemicals and fake food is the first trigger I discovered when I started getting migraines. I avoid MSG, Aspartame (the worst culprit), sorbitol, and any other artificial sweetener like the plague. Unfortunately, I was testing a new product Saturday, an electrolyte spray, before my run and I think this played a huge role in triggering a migraine too. My theory was this; when Julie (my identical twin sister) and I hydrate with plain regular water, we get the dreaded stitch when running, when we hydrate using Gatorade, it doesn’t happen. I wanted to test to see if I hydrated with water and the electrolyte spay, I would be OK. Lesson learned; stay away from chemicals. I decided to research the topic some more to find some natural DIY electrolyte drinks. I’ve also been inspired by Jen from Pretty Little Grub to explore my own real food as running fuel and ditch the ones that contain chemicals.
Hormones are another major contributor in migraines for me. Hormone levels are always fluctuating and you don’t have much control over this. If you are on hormone birth control, and are having migraines, you might want to talk to your doctor about switching and finding one that agrees with you or finding alternatives. If you are not on birth control, there isn’t much you can do about those peaks and valleys of hormones, you just have to deal with it.
3. Plan Your Runs
Once you’ve determined your triggers and eliminate those factors as much as possible, the next thing to do is plan your runs so you can stay safe.
Run With A Partner
If you can run with someone it would be ideal if you get confused and need help getting back home. In my case I was running alone, my friends are not crazy enough to run! Luckily where I run there are many stores and restaurants near by. I could always ask some help to call home for a ride if I needed to. Luckily on Saturday, I didn’t get confused, I was able to walk home safely.
Share Your Route
Before I left for my Sunday 15 Km run, I talked to my husband and went through my running route, if I got confused, he’d know where to come look for me. I also let him know my approximate time I’d be away so he’d know when to expect me back.
Bring Your Cell Phone
And finally, in this day and age, there is NO excuse not to have cell phone, for safety’s sake.
I checked in with my husband by texting him along the way so that he knew I was Ok. There are also iPhone apps where people can track you on a map, which might come in handy.
It was very frightening for me to suffer from a migraine mid run. It definitely makes me feel skittish to go out again but I did today! Planning ahead properly and avoiding my known triggers will help me in the future.