Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My cautionary tale

This quick little winter interlude is just a quick reminder that hypothermia, especially for those of you who engage in intense workouts is NOT just a danger in the cooler months. No, when you workout vigorously you can fall subject to it at any time of year. I discovered that the hard way yesterday.

I did my long run, and was feeling pretty good throughout the entire 2½ hours, but was tired enough by the end of it that I really didn't think to cool down properly. I stopped running and then didn't walk at all. Then, to make matters worse I thought that some nice cold Gatorade sounded really refreshing, so I downed about 1/3 of a big bottle of that. By the time I got to the laundry room to do my normal post-run strip down I was starting to have blackness swimming before my eyes. My balance was really off and then within just a few minutes I started having the worst abdominal cramps I have had in decades. I couldn't gain control of any part of my body and I was SCARED.

Fortunately for my, my DH had stayed home from work sick yesterday. So after I realized that I wasn't going to be able to move from my current location (by this time on the toilet), I yelled at him at the top of my lungs. He came racing down to me and the minute he touched me he said my body was freezing. He immediately wrapped me in blankets and threw a skullcap on my head. It took me about another 20-30 minutes before I was able to stop my vision from fading in and out and for the cramps to subside enough to move. It was at this point that my body temperature was up enough for me to actually start shivering again (one of the symptoms of more serious hypothermia is that your body ceases to shiver in response to the cold). After another few minutes my DH was finally able to get me up to the warm shower and after about 30 minutes in there I was feeling significantly better. I spent another 30 minutes in bed with the electric blanket on and by that point was finally feeling well enough to get out of bed and do some light activity. However, I felt a little light headed & woozy for the rest of the day, not to mention that my digestive tract remained slightly off kilter until well after I went to bed in the evening.

Now, I share this horror story with all of you as warning to not take hypothermia too lightly, no matter what the season. Even if it seems like it's hot outside, your body still cools rapidly at the end of a strenuous workout and can even cool to the point of some degree of hypothermia. Come to find out, more people actually die of hypothermia in the summer than in the winter, so please do as I say and not as I do...
  1. Don't forget to cool down properly... bring your body temperature down slowly by continuing to move even after you've finished your workout... this will help to avoid your body's urge to overcompensate for the fact that it has been overheated during the workout
  2. No matter how refreshing it sounds, resist the urge to drink cold beverages immediately after your workout. Instead, drink room temperature to lukewarm water or sports drink in slow sips. Do not drink too much at once or this could cause nausea
  3. Make sure to remain well hydrated & fueled both before and during the workout. 
  4. If you or someone you are exercising with begin to experience any of the symptoms of hypothermia (faintness, dizziness, shivering, disorientation, lethargy, clumsiness, stumbling), quickly take steps to warm their body up with by drying them first then covering them in blankets, hats, jackets, or whatever is available. Warm body core first and then move to warm the extremities (arms & legs)
  5. Lie down to keep from fainting 
  6. Seek medical treatment
I am happy to report that I am feeling significantly better today, but it was a hard won lesson that I wouldn't wish on my enemies. Heather suffered a similar experience during the Portland Half Marathon last fall, so she and I compared notes and both agreed that it was one of the worst experiences either one of us has ever had, but unfortunately it seems to be an often experienced initiation rite of running. However, please as I always advocate, pay attention to your body and what it's telling you. Hopefully not everyone out there will feel the need to go through this miserable rite of passage that is really best avoided in the first place.

Yesterday's Run
12.15 Miles
4.9 mph


Heather said...

Chris's voicemail scared the poop out of me, but I'm so glad he called! Glad you're feeling better now. I'm SHOCKED at how much water I'm blowing through during my long runs. I think we get stuck in a certain mode, and it's difficult to shift gears when a new season hits. I need to jump into summer!

woobielou said...

Thanks for posting this information. While I haven't quite worked up to running yet, my husband is a very avid novice runner, and it's difficult to get him to properly cool down after a run. I'm passing this post along to him, and hope that he'll get some benefit from it. I'm sorry to hear you had such a scare, but am so impressed at how you're using your own experience to pass along this vital (and mostly unknown) info to others!