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I have only been running for about a year but have become addicted to it! I am currently running 5 days a week 12-15 miles a week. I received a letter from the red cross reminding me that I haven't donated blood in awhile. My question is, is it a good idea to give blood with my running regimen? I am currently base building to begin training for a half marathon in October. Any insight?
I run and donate blood regularly. It's become a post-race ritual for me, as I usually have a key race (marathon, 10K, sprint tri) about every three months and get the call to donate while I'm in the middle of training, so I schedule an appointment for the week after the race.
Everyone's different, but for me, I give blood in the morning (before work) and I can run the next day. However, I take the pace very easy - maybe 30 seconds to 1 minute per mile slower than my normal easy run. I run with a heart rate monitor, and so I just use that to regulate my effort. 2 days after donating, I find that I can run normally, but I'm still not ready for tempo runs or interval training. By 3 days after, I'm ready to resume my normal routine. That being said, I'm still not at 100% of capacity for a week or two.
So, in a nutshell, for me, it's ok to give blood and keep running, just don't run later that day, take the next couple of days easier (no hard workouts), and don't donate within a few weeks prior to a race. I like to have at least a month between blood donation and a race, though I did just run my fastest quarter-mile ever yesterday morning, 3 weeks after donating.
Of course, if you feel lightheaded at all on your first post-donation run, stop and walk.
Blood donation will have an effect on your running for a while after you give (days to weeks). It does vary person-to-person. You will probably feel sluggish for a few days to a week after donating. It will take about 24 hours to replace the fluid but the hemoglobin/red cells take a few weeks (typically 4 weeks for red cells, 8 weeks for the iron). And those are the O2 carriers. Proper diet helps but it still takes time. I have run a pretty good race (up to 10 miles) about 2 weeks after donating. I'm usually good for all but the very longest runs within a couple weeks.
Giving blood is a great thing to do, but you do have to be careful when you do it, so that you don't impact your training or racing. For more info, you might want to check out these blog entries that I wrote:
Boston Marathon Finisher
Well you have many months until your race in October if that's what you're worried about. IF you want to give blood, best to do it far in advance. I made the "mistake" of donating blood during training and it nearly wiped me out. I specifically asked them before I donated whether it would affect my running and the technician said, "Oh you'll be 100% by tomorrow". BIG lie! Only after donating did I look it up and find out it takes up to 8 weeks to replenish your hemoglobin! It took about 2 weeks before I was even close to normal with my running (although with my day to day activities I didn't notice any difference at all) and a couple more weeks before I felt 100% again.
Donating blood is a good thing to do and I don't want to discourage anyone from doing it. But you need to take into account that you won't be running in top form for a few weeks and plan that into your training regimen. Drink plenty of fluids and eat lots of iron rich foods while you are building back up!
PS...you might consider donating platelets instead, which doesn't take your red blood cells. It takes longer for the donation - up to an hour or two - but you won't have as long of a "recovery" time.
I concur it is extremely important to be aware of the risks of giving blood when you are training. I made the mistake of giving blood last year a couple days after finishing a triathlon, for which I had trained very hard. My iron levels were apparently quite low (unusual for me) - on the day I gave blood, my first iron level (hemoglobin) test by the Red Cross technician was just below their minimum requirement - they offered to take another test, and that one was at their minimum required level. I informed them I had been training and just finished a triathlon, and they said I would be fine and it was perfectly OK to give blood. I promptly passed out after giving blood which had never happened on multiple previous blood donations. The rest of the day I was nauseous, lightheaded, and weak, and laid up on the couch. It was a couple days before I felt like myself again, and a good couple of weeks before my running was back to normal. I would suggest runners NOT give blood during OR right after a hard training regimen or right after a long race. Despite what the Red Cross may say.
I'm rather petite, and in my younger days didn't weigh enough to qualify to donate blood.
About 10 years ago, I was at work and they had a blood donation going on. I asked one of the techs how long it took, and was told 20 minutes. I figured I could do it during break. Well after 10 minutes of going through the screening, and 20 minutes of collecting the blood, during which my BP dropped into the 80's... and then having to wait until my BP came back up again.... I was there over an hour. I've been a little reluctant ever since. I wasn't in any kind of rigorous exercise program, and don't remember any after affects of the donation.
Yesterday I gave it a go again. When I told her of my last experience, she gave me a can of Coke to sip on before/during the donation, as well as putting an ice pack behind my neck (it decreases periferal circulation, which keeps the BP up) I felt fine all during the donation, and last evening as well.
Today I set out on my C25K run W6D3. (25 minutes) I was really struggling, I felt weak, but I pushed and pushed myself. At about the 17 or 18 minute mark I felt like I just couldn't go anymore, so I started walking, I felt woozy, like I was going to pass out. I walked back home. During my walk I was trying to think of what went wrong. I had gotten a little too warm. I had overdressed. That had to be it... Then I remembered the blood donation, and did an internet search when I got home. It seem s what I experience is not unusual, although in larger people it's the double red cell donation that seems to be the major culprit.
I just signed up for a 5K in two weeks, so I have to try to boost up my iron/hemoglobin/RBC's/O2 carrying capacity.... I hope I'm up for it!
Started C25K 2/14/10 Age 51 and NEVER have run before.
Coventry Challenge 5K 3/20/10, end of W5 of C25K. 40:44
Spring Forward 5K (YMCA) 4/10/10 39:57
Focus 5K Run/Walk 5/13/10 32:24... in Orlando on a totally flat course
Coventry Challenge 5K 3/19/11 37:59
?Operation Backpack 5K 5/21/11 ??? fast-paced race, finished next to last
Coventry Challenge 5K 3/17/12 38:11