To Block or Not To Block

13 May

About two years ago I went on beta blockers as a preventative against migraines. They worked wonders and took my migraine frequency and severity down. Being that I’m a graphic designer and not a science nerd, I was puzzled all this time as to why I was always so tired and why I seemed to hit the wall so early in my work outs. Once I started marathon training, I really became confused and frustrated with my lack of progress. Sure, I was completing the required distance, but at a horrible, horrible pace.

I wasn’t trying to be super fast, but I just couldn’t believe that given the shape I am in that I was actually that slow. I tried different things with my trainers to help build speed and endurance such as speed interval training and strength training. Nothing was working. Then I finally mentioned to my trainer I was on a beta blocker, and that I had heard they sometimes make it difficult to work out.

Apparently I had no idea just how difficult a beta blocker makes exercise. I figured it was a minor annoyance. My trainer was shocked I’d been training this whole time on this medication. It stops your heart rate from getting high, which in turn zaps your energy and endurance levels. He absolutely couldn’t believe I’d gotten as far in my training as I had with this medication.

I decided this week to see a new doctor to see if I could get off of the beta blockers, but find something else to combat my migraines. My doc was surprised I was on them in the first place given how young I am and the fact I only had 1 – 2 migraines a month. Beta blockers aren’t usually prescribed unless you get 1 – 2 migraines per week. And I was on too high of a dosage apparently too.

Unfortunately you can’t stop beta blockers cold turkey or else your heart rate can skyrocket to an unhealthy number. So I’ve spent this past week weaning myself off of them. Let me tell ya, I completely understand why drug addicts don’t get off drugs—withdrawal is a completely miserable experience. I’ve been wound up, jittery, shaky, unable to sleep all week. It has been awful. Every two days, I’ve had to cut down by a half pill.

I’m now down to just a half pill in the morning for today and tomorrow. By race day on Sunday, I will be beta blocker free. The interesting thing is that when I worked out on Tuesday, after only cutting a half pill for one day, I saw dramatic improvement. Yesterday, when I was down half of my total dosage, I saw an insane improvement. I set a new PR yesterday for the mile. Previously my mile was 12:40 (on beta blockers) and yesterday I breezed through at 11:40. Still a bit on the slow side for running standards, but for me that was insanely fast. I was able to do my run/walk intervals at 5.5mph for the full 4 minutes. Normally I die at 5.0mph.

So to block or not to block, that is the question. I say, not to block. There are million medications out there for migraine sufferers that don’t hinder your athletic ability, and for me, with all the time I’m devoting to training, it’s worth it.

I am going to rock the Colfax Half Marathon on Sunday!

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4 Responses to “To Block or Not To Block”

  1. Hannah May 15, 2011 at 6:13 AM #

    Awesome redesign!

    And congratulations on quitting a full-time medication. I hope you find that it improves your running without an increase in migraine activity.

    • Noel D. May 15, 2011 at 12:18 PM #

      Thanks! I think the redesign is more “me.” 🙂

  2. Laura May 15, 2011 at 9:25 AM #

    Wow, I had no idea beta blockers did that either. Can’t wait to hear about your race. Bummer the weather is so yucky. I’ve heard acupuncture can help with migraines. Maybe you could give that a try?

    • Noel D. May 15, 2011 at 12:19 PM #

      Yeah I knew it caused some problems, but I didn’t know how severely it altered your physical abilities either. I’ll give acupuncture a shot. I had a lot of success with it when recovering from my foot surgery, never thought to try it for a migraine. Thanks for the suggestion.

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