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Running and Reynaud's

Reynaud's Syndrome: After running in 40 degrees
Do your hands and/or feet turn white when they are cold? If so, you may have Reynaud's Syndrome. Reynaud's Syndrome is a condition that causes your fingers and toes to go numb and turn white when they are cold; and it's doesn't even have to be that cold. The condition is more common in women than in men and there's no known cure, although there are some medications that can help relieve symptoms.

I was born with blue feet. My feet are often extremely cold, even at room temperature. Greg once joked that he didn't need to get a fan for his computer, because I could simply put my feet near the computer when he was using it. I'm also very fortunate that Greg lets me put my ice cold feet on his warm legs, which feels amazing to me, but not so great for him.

While my feet tend to suffer worse than my hands, they are actually completely fine while running. A few months ago, I went to a winery with some friends. It was about 55 degrees outside but because I wasn't moving around, both of my feet turned completely white and it was challenging to walk on them. At the New York City marathon in 2010, my feet turned numb while waiting to race, and they didn't regain feeling until three miles in. But once I'm running, my feet end up being totally fine.

My hands are an entirely different story. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably noticed many pictures in which I'm in a tank top or short sleeves, but I'm wearing gloves or even mittens. You've probably also heard me say that my body gets extra hot when I run, particularly my face, so I'm comfortable racing in a tank if it's 40 degrees, but once the temperature gets above 55, my performance is impacted. I would LOVE to take some of that extra heat and channel it to my hands, but my body's distribution system is way out of wack. In fact, after yesterday's run, my hands were freezing but my face was burning up. I solved both issues by putting my hands on my forehead.

After years of trial and error, I've finally found a solution to running in temperatures from 0-50 degrees. My savior has been Little Hotties hand warmers. When you open them, heat releases and they last for 8 hours. I go through several boxes of those each winter. I rotate having them in front of my fingers or behind them throughout the run. Here is my solution to Reynaud's Syndrome when running in the cold:

  • 45-50 degrees: lightweight gloves
  • 40-44 degrees: heavy gloves or light convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 33-39 degrees: heavy mittens or light convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 26-32 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 20-25 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with light gloves under them, plus a pair of hand warmers
  • 5-19 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with light gloves under them, plus two pairs of hand warmers: one pair for the front of my fingers, one pair for the back.
It's important to note that mittens are way more effective than gloves. If it's below 40 then gloves
alone no longer work for me. I recently spent $40 on a pair of Under Armour gloves that advertised
Tank top with mittens + hand warmers
high-tech materials to shelter against extreme cold and wind. They failed miserably (within 5 minutes) when I tried to wear them in 27 degree temperatures. They work for the low 40's particularly if it's raining because they are somewhat waterproof.

Even with the system that I've figured out above, there are a few challenges. First, my fingers sometimes still turn white and numb if the run is longer than 45 minutes. And even if they don't turn white, I lose dexterity throughout the run. Afterwards, I often cannot use my hands until I run them under warm water for 3-4 minutes. Running my hands under warm water is the fastest way to restore feeling and dexterity.

Another problem is carrying water during long runs. I refuse to wear a water belt, and my preference is to carry my water. When it dips below 40, the water becomes cold (even though I start the run with very hot water from the faucet) and I can't hold it. I've tried different solutions for this like insulated bottles, but those aren't as comfortable to carry, especially if I'm already wearing gloves. My solution to this is to park my car along my long run route and stop at a few times for water.

When I ran the B & A Trail Marathon two years ago, it was only 25 degrees so I was unable to hold a water bottle. At the time, I was using Honey Stinger gels, and I needed to be able to drink water when it was time to take my gels, instead of waiting for the water stations. Thankfully, Greg was able to
Blue and white fingers after a long run
meet me at 4 points along the course and hand me a new water bottle. I could hold it for about five minutes before I needed to toss it.

I've noticed that my Reynaud's Syndrome has worsened with age. My fingers turn white from driving if the steering wheel is cold. My toes turn white simply from hanging around the house and doing nothing. I've looked into the medication, but the possible side effects sound worse to me than just dealing with it. It's a circulation issue, so I wonder if this is related to how easily I over heat, even if it's only 60 degrees.  The condition isn't serious, it's basically just an annoyance that I've learned to live with.

This post first appeared on Racing Stripes-- A Running, please read the originial post: here

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Running and Reynaud's


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