Hello, friends! I’m very excited to share today’s post. For the past month, I’ve been training for running a 5k with POTS! This is huge for me because I haven’t run a 5k race—or any races at all—since before I got my POTS diagnosis. It took so much work and a lot of time to get to the point of signing up for another race, but here I am! Running with POTS in races for myself and myself only—not to be competitive and run a super fast time but to prove to myself that I can still do this.
So, this post is going to be a bunch of journal entries leading up to running a 5k with POTS. I’ll share my runs (and run/walks), my struggles, and my wins along the way. And of course, I’ll let you know how race day goes, too!
Oh, and just to clarify, I didn’t record all of my runs, but I did record most of them. I typically completed three runs per week and then did strength training two days per week. Because my runs were often moderate- to high-intensity (determined by my heart rate), I didn’t complete more cardio days other than my three days of running. This helped to avoid overexerting my body and potentially causing a POTS flare-up.
But before I jump into my journal, I want to speak on this: I realize that not everyone with POTS can run. People are at all different stages of their journeys with POTS, and most people that find my blog are newly diagnosed or in search of one. If you happen to read this post before others on my blog, know that it took me a long time to get here. I needed to get my POTS management under control before I could start running again, and that took months on the Levine Protocol to do. Keep fighting for a diagnosis and keep fighting for yourself until you find what works for your symptoms. We’re all POTS warriors here.
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1 Month Until the 5k:
I’m about a month out from the Halloween-themed 5k I signed up for. At this point, I feel like I’m probably going to run as slow as a tortoise and need to walk for some of it, but I’m working on getting over that mental hump.
Plus, a couple of weeks ago, I tweaked my knee running on uneven ground, so I’ve taken about three weeks off from running and most exercise in general. My body feels pretty good now, except for some lingering achiness in my knees, which I’m also chalking up to needing new sneakers. What I need to work on most is completing runs (or more realistically, walking/running intervals) that are 3.1 miles long so I can rebuild my endurance.
23 Days Until the 5k:
I ran and walked 3.1 miles on the treadmill today! I’m embarrassed to share my time, but I’m all about being honest with my struggles to exercise and run. I completed the run in 38 minutes and 22 seconds. Can I even call that a run? Or is a slow crawl a better descriptor?
But for some reason, I always run more slowly on treadmills. This is better for training with my POTS because it keeps my heart rate lower for longer. For this workout, my average heart rate was 159 bpm. For comparison, my average heart rate was 167 bpm for one of my previous runs outside (2.5 miles in 28 minutes).
I was so tired after this workout. My legs felt like jelly, and I just wanted to lie down and put my feet up against the wall. Two things that helped were drinking a lot of water and eating a meal after.
19 Days Until the 5k:
Woohoo! Today’s run went so awesome! It was a crisp, fall day, and the leaves are just about at peak in Upstate New York. I ran about 2.7 miles in 28 minutes and 23 seconds (average heart rate 169 bpm). I didn’t stop to walk until I hit the two-mile mark, and I only walked for about two minutes. I ran a little over a ten-minute mile pace for both of my first two miles, which is fantastic progress for me, and I’m so proud of myself!
Once again, my legs felt like jelly after I finished my run, and my knee was bothering me just a little. So I stretched my hamstrings, quads, calves, and lower back as soon as I got home and iced my knee for ten minutes. Then I put some anti-inflammation cream on it (one of my favorite natural pain relief methods), and this did the trick!
15 Days Until the 5k:
I ran and walked another 5k distance run today! And it was also my very first run with my new Garmin Vivoactive 4s watch that Mike bought me for my birthday. I made a custom running workout on the app and then loaded it onto my watch.
I am just crazy over this watch because it seems to do everything I’ve wanted in an exercise watch, especially as someone living with POTS. The watch buzzed at every walk/jog interval mark, and it also buzzed when my heart rate got too high, so I knew when to pull back my pace or walk. I also loved that I got to see a stat for my average running pace even though I stopped to walk a bunch. My FitBit never showed me this stat when I did similar running/walking intervals; it reported my average pace overall. I’m super pumped to keep training with this watch! I think all the features it has will help me train smarter.
12 Days Until the 5k:
Today, I did a shorter run — about 2.3 miles. BUT I ran that distance continuously without stopping, and it was a hilly run because I ran in our neighborhood. While that meant my pace was slower (about a 10 min 16-second average), I was still so proud of myself for running that far on a hilly route without stopping! I really feel like I’m making great progress lately. Maybe the key all along was to have something to train for? I only have a few more runs left until race day!
I am noticing a little that some days I feel more tired than usual, which probably means that I’m pushing myself a little too hard. I also think I need to do better about keeping up with my water and electrolyte intake, especially after sweating so much during runs. Another thing? I need to keep making sure I’m eating enough. It’s wild how much better I feel working out when I’m hydrated and fueled well!
10 Days Until the 5k:
To be fully and completely honest today’s run stunk. I didn’t feel well all day. I had stomach pain and hadn’t slept all night, so I know I wasn’t as hydrated or fueled as well as I should have been. Plus, it was chilly and drizzling out on my run. It felt much harder to breathe while running today, too. I don’t think my lungs are used to running in the cold.
Needless to say, my run wasn’t the best. I stopped to walk for two minutes three times, and my pace was slower than usual. But I still got in 2.7 miles, which was in the ballpark of mileage I wanted to hit. The important thing was that even though I had to walk a lot, I still completed the distance I wanted to.
My heart rate also spiked too high at one point, hitting 188 bpm on my Garmin watch. Yikes. I stopped to walk once that happened. Luckily, it didn’t spike like that again. It just goes to show how important it is to listen to what your body is telling you. And at that moment, my body was saying, stop! My confidence to finish the 5k in 35 minutes is shaken after today, but I still have time for a few more runs before the big day. Some days are just not great days, and I have to accept that as part of my training.
5 Days Until the 5k:
I did it! I ran a 5k distance today without stopping! I know today wasn’t race day, but I wanted to see if I could run the whole thing without stopping, especially after my last run/walk, which was 3.6 miles. (I didn’t do an entry for that workout.) I ran the 5k distance in 31.5 minutes, which is faster than my 35 minutes goal! But the route I ran was pretty much all flat, and I’m not sure if the race course will have any hills. But I feel like this gave me the confidence boost I needed for the race this weekend!
Symptom notes: I got a headache after this run because I didn’t supplement with enough water or electrolytes after. So I drank two glasses of water and ate of my favorite salty snacks for POTS: popcorn! After drinking the water and eating extra salted popcorn, I noticed a marked improvement.
3 Days Until the 5k:
Okay, this was my last run before race day! I ran the hilly route in my neighborhood again, which means it was a shorter run: about 2.3 miles. I felt pretty strong during this run, and it only felt hard on the last half mile when I hit the hills toward the end of my run. I’m planning to take two complete rest days before Saturday so that I’m at my best energy-wise.
For the last two runs, my heart rate has been higher than I would like it (170s-low 180s) for too much time. My resting heart rate has ticked up slightly this week, which tells me I may be overtraining. Once this race is over, I’m going to take it easier for a week or two because I don’t want to push myself too far to the point of injury or triggering POTS symptoms.
On a fun note, I bought my Halloween costume at Walmart last night! I just decided to do something simple: leopard ears and a tail. I needed something that wouldn’t be too difficult to run in, and as long as my leopard ears headband doesn’t fall off, this should work well enough. I wanted Mike to get a pirate hat and an eye patch, but running with only one eye to see with didn’t appeal to him too much. Lol! Can’t really blame him…
I made it to race day, people! And I woke up so excited! Over the past month, I’ve worked so hard, and I was so ready to run this race. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous at all. I guess I was just excited and grateful to be running a 5k with POTS that I didn’t care how well I did—I was just so so happy to be there and running my first race since before I got sick.
Mike and I raced together, but we did not run together. I ran with his sister, which was nice because she gave me a pep talk the entire last mile when I was starting to get tired. But to be fair to me, we were running a faster pace than I expected (average 9 min 29-second mile) and there were people dressed up in costumes and jumping out to scare us all along the course. I was like, my heart rate does not need these scares! Ah!
But despite the faster pace, I felt pretty strong for most of the race. I started to feel tired a little after the two-mile mark, but I kept going. The final 0.3 of a mile—so close to the end!—was the worst part of the race. My stomach started cramping, and I felt like I might puke. But over the bridge right before the finish, I spotted Mike he cheering for me! I couldn’t puke in front of him—how embarrassing! So I dug deep, found the last burst of energy I had, and somehow made it across the finish line.
And I finished in 30 minutes and 43 seconds and came in 111th place out of 315! Which means that I hit my goal of finishing in under 35 minutes! Woohoo!!! I ran so much better than I thought I was going to.
But for me, the best part wasn’t even about running well or running the whole time without stopping, it was the sense of accomplishment and pride I felt for myself. It took me so long to work up my endurance to be able to run with POTS again. And I was so scared to even try racing again that I hadn’t signed up for any races the entire year when I had wanted to run in three races this year.
It’s scary to do something so public and active when you have POTS. I had fears of my symptoms rearing their ugly heads during a race and forcing me to drop out or cause an emergency scene in front of so many people. And I was afraid that my body just wouldn’t be able to do it, so I’d embarrass or disappoint myself.
But today I proved to myself that I can do this. I can do this.
As soon as I finished the race (and got my cool medal) I found the giant water bottle I’d filled up with LiquidIV beforehand and chugged it. I had sweat a lot during the race (and you can tell by how red my face is in this post’s photo), so I wanted to make sure I replenished my electrolytes ASAP.
I was pretty exhausted the rest of the day, I will say. And it took a few hours for my heart rate to recover and get back down under 100 bpm. I haven’t raced with POTS before, but I feel like that was definitely because of my POTS and probably sympathetic nervous system activation.
Update: A day after running a 5k with POTS, I am feeling great, despite some muscle and knee soreness! I don’t feel like I’m having a POTS flare, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed it stays that way for another day! I really feel like a POTS warrior this weekend. I think I’m going to get a shirt that says something like that to wear whenever I race again. Because…
I CAN’T WAIT TO RUN ANOTHER 5k RACE!!! Woohoo!
Happy Halloween and be well my POTSie friends! Check out more about how I back to running with POTS if you’re interested in that story.