Running on the Limit

This post all started with a 100% effort Magic Mile run on the canal (the towpath part, not the actual watery bit). Immediately after (sort of) smashing out a 5:27 mile, I was blinded by the worst headache I’ve ever experienced. I initially blamed the pounding pain on the glue factory fumes I had unwisely decided to run downwind in, but two weeks later I was still headache unfree (or unheadache free if you will) whenever I tried to push it.

Google helpfully suggested ‘Exertion Induced Headaches’ as the probable cause, but also mentioned a few rather unpleasant alternatives so I thought I’d better see the doc.

Exertion Induced Headaches can be caused by straining the neck muscles coupled with a reduced oxygen intake. The effort dilates the blood vessels in the neck and restricts the blood flow to and from the head. The increase in pressure squishes (medical terminology) the nerves, hence the pain. It is most common in weight lifters lifting too much while holding their breath, or in this case a runner hammering it for a mile in toxic atmospheric conditions.

Googles cure…..two  weeks rest. I had already taken it (ahem) ‘easy’ for two weeks by running over 12 miles barefoot two days after, followed by a 9.5 miler, 6 miler, 8.5 miler, and a couple of runs with the dog (see – no speed work!)

The thought of no exertion for two weeks didn’t sound appealing, it’s not like a regular running injury where I could nip out on the bike or even go for a swim (possibly in the canal by the glue factory.) With a three half marathons on the calendar I wanted to stay in shape. And this got me thinking about my calorie intake and expenditure.

I found a calorie counting app which included a large food database and logged my eating habits over a week, as well as my running and dog walking activities. I wasn’t surprised to see that I crept over the 2000 calories most days, even when taking into account the lunchtime walk, dog walk / dog runs. The days when I had spare calories left were the ones that included a decent run eg 8.5 mile with 300 calories under and 16.5 mile run with 1350 calories spare!

I also wore my garmin heart rate monitor for three days to backup the calorie figures. What this also showed was a low resting heart rate.

After a consultation, the doc agreed with google on the cause of the headaches, but was happy for me to carry on running. To be safe I had a few blood tests and an ECG. The nurse commented on my low resting heart rate – normally a concern, but as I was a runner it was fine!

Thankfully all the tests came back fine, and the headaches subsided over a further couple of weeks – just in time for the first of the half marathons.

I had always regarding the calorie apps as too much hassle to bother with, but in fact it provided me with a good insight into my intake and expenditure. I sometimes found myself wondering if eating something was going to push me over the daily limit. I wouldn’t use the counter continuously, but a substantial change in exercise routine or eating habits would definitely warrant use again.

2 thoughts on “Running on the Limit

  1. Poor glue factory is probably having a hard enough time without you blaming it for your over-exuberance. Glad you got to the bottom of the headaches, though. Interesting stuff re: the app. So, just because I’m a bit thick, can you clarify? Is it showing red when you’re in calorie debt (is that a term?) and therefore you know to take in more fuel?

    • The red signifies taking in too many calories and going over my daily limit (manually set depending on weight / time goals) So being ‘in the green’ is good from a weight loss point of view. I only managed this on running days! (but at least my weekly average was within my target)

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