I’m excited to bring you a guest post from Andrea Hanson – an accomplished runner who uses running to help manage her MS!
Running when you have MS can be hugely rewarding. I’ve had MS for 15 years and I’ve run the whole time. In fact, I consider it to be one of my best decisions in my MS treatment.
But when you have MS, questions may start to bubble up.
Will running be too much for me?
If I need to slow down, am I still getting the benefits of running?
What if I’m in pain before I even start the first mile?
MS doesn’t have to stop you from doing something you love. Ever.
If you keep these three things in check while you’re running, you can still get the most from your workout and give your MS a swift ninja kick across the room.
1. The heat monster. There’s a reason why you feel strange when your blood starts pumping. For some people with MS, getting hot can trigger Uhthoff’s Phenomenon, which means your vision may become impaired when you get hot. Other MS symptoms you’ve already experienced may also show up again. For example your vision may get blurry or squiggly, your muscles may tense up a bit, or you may get some tingling. Sometimes only a ½ degree increase in body temperature will trigger heat-related symptoms.
The important thing to know is that this is not a relapse. A heat-related uptick in symptoms is temporary and will subside in a few hours once you cool down. (If your symptoms last after you cool down, this may not be Uhthoff’s Phenomenon and you should tell your neurologist immediately.)
If you notice your body reacting to heat, it can be alarming at first. Getting to know how your body specifically reacts can help. When we can distinguish heat-related sensations from running–related sensations, we can respond more quickly to what our body needs.
What happens to you when your body gets hot during a workout?
Does your body physically stop you by maybe becoming clumsier or notably losing your vision? Try running with a buddy who knows what symptoms may pop up for you and how to help.
Is the reaction to heat something that simply annoys you?
There are ways to keep cool during your workout to calm these symptoms down. Use cooling towels, walk or run at a slower pace or start interval training instead of steady runs. I run first thing in the morning while the temperature is much cooler.
A few strategies may be all you need to stay more comfortable during your run. Don’t let heat turn your run from a fun workout into something unpleasant you think you have to endure.
2. Sore muscles. Of course you stretch after you run – at least I hope you do. Every time. But what about on the days you don’t run? Are you still stretching your muscles?
When you run you’re not just doing something good for that moment, the effects last for days. So why only stretch in the moment?
When you stretch on your running days off, you’re keeping your muscles limber and working out any soreness you have. Stretching is good for MS anyway, so this is a great way to double up on something helpful.
How often are you stretching your running muscles?
Try stretching every day for a week and see how it helps you.
3. Your body saying “No”. Our bodies speak to us constantly. They don’t speak in words, but they still get the message across loud and clear.
Running out of steam.
Not getting off the couch.
These are all ways our bodies say, “No”.
But what if you could hear your body earlier than that – like much earlier? Our bodies whisper before they outright protest. When we listen to the whisper, we can slow down and recoup in the moment. When we ignore our body until it protests, we can be benched for days or even weeks. If we still don’t listen to our bodies, we can ignore ourselves right into an MS relapse.
How does your body speak to you? Work on hearing those cues sooner and honoring what they tell you. You will be able to prevent your body’s need to protest at all.
Running is a great ally to have in your fight against MS. Although there’s no need to obsess over you MS, there are a few factors that may need tweaking. Keeping these three things in check can help your running be consistent and fun.
*Of course here’s the standard, boring disclaimer – but it’s true: Check with your doctor before starting a running program when you have MS.
Andrea Wildenthal Hanson is the author of the best-selling book The Inside Guide to MS: Live Your Life, Not Your MS Diagnosis. Visit www.AndreaHansonCoaching.com/Seven to get your free video series 7 Things People Don’t Tell You About MS.