Dear Fun and Fit: I have really bad allergies during spring when everything is just starting to bloom, so I try not to be outdoors — especially on windy days — to control my symptoms along with the usual allergy medicine. However, I noticed that when I’m running in the morning, I am usually allergy symptom-free! Do you have any ideas why that is the case? Do you think I can distract my allergy enough with activity that it won’t tell my body to sound out the alarm and make me miserable?
— Lou of BVibrantNow.com, Windsor, CA
Kymberly: Veeery interesting, young grassy-hopper. For the record, I am allergic to any kind of running in the morning. OK, just running. Amazingly, I am always symptom-free when power-walking.
Back to you, Lou: Normally, pollen counts are highest in the mornings (click here to check out the MD-reviewed and super readable article “Exercise Outdoors — Even with Allergies“). So you’d think you’d be sneezing and wheezing and cursing the purty flowers and bucolic buds on that early run. I know I might curse a leetle teeny bit when up and out early, like anything that is :00 dawn-o’clock.
But there’s a twist to the story. According to this fine, fine and poachable article, “although exercising outdoors can increase your contact with pollen, ironically, the extra adrenalin your body produces while you are working out can temporarily dampen the allergic response.”
In other words, yes, you can distract your allergy with activity. Make my work easy and just read the darn link, will ‘ya?! The only flaw here is that once you stop, the dampening effect of the adrenalin stops and symptoms come back. So keep running until evening when pollen counts drop or you do. My lawyer says to say “not really.”
Alexandra: I have distracted many, many things over the years with “enough activity” yet have only dealt with grass allergies during soccer games. I sneezed every time the other team scored! Since your allergy symptoms will increase as your running speed increases, you either need to distract your allergies by running slower (aka walking) or get a face mask.
It would appear that even isolating yourself on a pollen and mold-free cruise ship wouldn’t necessarily solve your an allergic reaction, although you would suffer in style. Speaking of suffering in style, why don’t you just get a trendy spacesuit? Then you could run anywhere, in any season, any time of day?
Just for the record, I have no actual medical degree, and therefore no idea why you’re symptom-free during the worst time of the day for inhaling pollen. My fitness theory? You are outrunning whatever the wind is blowing into your face. Sadly, this would mean keeping up or even increasing your running speed. This goes so far against my personal motto of “Why run when you can drive?” that I am having an allergic reaction to my own theory. I recommend you walk with Run — DMC, that is.
K: On the days you still want to work out but your allergies are acting up, try either swimming or shifting to indoor cardio activities. Wear a flattering outfit so you can distract someone or something.
A: Lou, if you think you’ve got it bad, take a look at this poor little bear cub. He should not forage in the early hours.
Readers with allergies: What tricks do you use to minimize symptoms when you want to exercise but the air says “don’t breathe me now”?
— Identical twins and fitness pros Kymberly Williams-Evans and Alexandra Williams have been in the fitness industry since the first aerobics studio opened on the European continent. They teach, write, edit, emcee and present their programs worldwide on land, sea and airwaves, including AM 1490 at 6:20 p.m. on Sunday nights. They co-write Fun and Fit: Q and A with K and A from their home base in Santa Barbara. You can currently find them in action leading classes at Spectrum Uptown and Goleta and at UCSB. Kymberly is the former faculty minor adviser at UCSB for its fitness instruction degree offered through the Department of Exercise & Sport Studies; Alexandra serves as an instructor and master teacher for the program. Fun and Fit answers real questions from real people, so please send your comments and questions to email@example.com.