Feeling a bit like Lance Armstrong

U.S. Postal cycling team

Getting my bag

Last spring, I went to see a hematologist for my chronically low iron counts. I was feeling run down, my training was lackluster, and I wanted a fix for my anemia. The doc put me on iron supplements with vitamin C for absorption and I faithfully took them on a daily basis. I finally went back for a follow up visit on Wednesday and guess where my numbers were? The same old place. Low hemoglobin, low iron stores, low hematocrit.

I was pretty bummed to see this. I’m not necessarily feeling exhausted like I was, but still, trying to run at your best with low iron stores kind of puts you at a disadvantage. The doctor’s suggestion? That I try iron infusions.

Now, I am someone who hates putting anything into my body other than food (and ok, a little wine or beer), so I had to give this some thought. I asked about the side effects, first and foremost. My doctor assured me that, while iron infusions used to cause allergic reactions in many folks, they are now dispensed differently and the bad reactions aren’t much of a concern anymore. Other than that, he said, this was my best bet for “plumping up” my skinny, anemic red cells.

I was pretty sure I was going to try it, but then he said the magic words: “I can guarantee you’ll run better times once your iron levels are up to normal.” Um, ok, let’s bring it.

So yesterday I spent more than an hour hooked up to a bag of iron, feeling a bit like the U.S. Postal team. I have to remind myself, though, that while it feels like cheating, it isn’t–it’s simply helping me become normal when it comes to red counts. For the next three weeks, I’ll get a weekly infusion and then have two weeks off before my marathon (the doctor thought this was the way to go). Post marathon, my doctor will run my numbers again and if still low, I’ll go back for four more treatments. So only time will tell if this approach is the right fix, but I can tell you, I’m certainly hopeful it is.

Anyone else battle anemia in the past? Did oral iron supplements do the trick for you? 

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  1. says

    I’ve been anemic in the past, but it’s usually when my mileage is way up. But I’ve been beyond lethargic for a few months now so went for some blood work last week….I’m thinking maybe it’s iron again. Hell yea I’d do iron infusions if I can run faster!! Hope it makes you feel super fantastic and you nail that upcoming marathon! :)
    Jill recently posted..ChicagoMy Profile

  2. says

    When I was running with my daughter as she trained for her marathon last year, I found that I had iron deficiency anemia and I had just run my 18 mile long run and the doctor said no more long runs until my numbers came up. I really just wanted to do my 20 and be done, but he said NO. I’ve been on iron supplements since. My iron is low, but ok, even taking supplements so he has me still on them. This was a year ago, while she was training for the CIM. I must admit to being bummed about this, but thankful I can still run. Hopefully, next year I can train for a marathon again. Hoping this helps you get your iron levels up!!! Love your blog!!
    Patty V recently posted..Urban Cow Half Marathon . . . Done :) My Profile

  3. says

    Just keep working on being the healthiest you and if this is what it takes WORK IT. I take iron water with vit C on an ad hoc basis because I sometimes feel very low and tired (like it would physically take me 3 days to recover from a 2 mile run!!!!!) seems to help me keep a balance.
    Lara recently posted..Lets Talk About Weight Bay-BeeMy Profile

  4. says

    So here you are taking drugs, that are perfectly legal and you are showing the world… Hope it puts you back on track, and gets you running well again, a friend of mine was low on iron, I told her to do my ironing as well as her own! she didn’t think it would work! I then sugested she leave the t-spoon in her tea when she drinks it…
    Coach Dion recently posted..OTTER / RETTO harder than you think!My Profile

  5. says

    A few years ago my doctor told me I had low iron, but it wasn’t mentioned at all a year later, not even to say that I was back to normal, and I haven’t had a physical in a couple years now. I have been planning to ask next time I get a physical, which I plan to do soon, because I want to know if my spinach consumption has helped! Luckily I don’t think my deficiency is as severe as yours. I hope the infusions help!!
    Rachel recently posted..Why They Know My NameMy Profile

  6. says

    What a bummer! My mom was anemic at one point and the oral pills worked for her. Like Rachel, I hope my insane amount of daily spinach consumption has me covered. :)

    I like your doctor’s end point which he probably knew would seal the deal – “You’ll be faster!” You were probably like ” Can we do this right now???” 😉

    Hope this does the trick for you!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..TGIF!!!!My Profile

  7. says

    I did battle anemia for quite awhile. But it turned out that I had a noncancerous tumor the size of a grapefruit in my uterus. Once that was removed I’ve pretty okay. The doctor took pictures of it for me cuz he’s a cool guy.

    I hope this works well for you. I hate the tired zombie feeling you get when your iron is so low. Much sympathy.
    Carli recently posted..Cortisol & Running #fitnessfridayMy Profile

  8. says

    It’s kind of funny you feel a bit like your cheating! Of course you’re not, the pills didn’t feel like cheating right? Maybe just the process of delivery that has connotations of cheating for you?! Either way, your just trying to get your body on an even keel and if it helps your running great but it’s important for your general well being too, so think of it like that if it helps 😉 May the PR’s begin 😀

  9. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie says

    I hope this helps! I’ve never had bloodwork done, when I go in for my physicals my doctor says I’m too young to need to worry about them, but as a vegetarian I’d like to know my iron levels, among others, just to make sure I’m healthy!
    Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie recently posted..Road Runner Sports Running Outfit GiveawayMy Profile

  10. says

    I’ve been taking iron, B12 (low red blood cell count/ hematocrit) and vitamin c for a couple of years now. Just went and had a blood test so we’ll see how the results are this time, but for the last few times, things have been back to normal. Love aging, brings on so many good things (not)
    Robin recently posted..Marathon #8 is Done!My Profile

  11. says

    Wow if you are running as well now, with low iron, as you do – can’t wait to see what you do after the infusions! Sounds like a smart choice to get you back to where you should be. I will be curious to see how your energy feels now.Maybe you got used to not having a lot of energy and will really notice a difference?
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..The Race Is On!My Profile

  12. says

    I would do it to if they said I would run faster….after consulting about the side effects of course. I really hope that this helps you. I suffer from low iron too, but I don’t I have ever needed anything other than iron pills. I haven’t been tested since 2010, but when I start to feel yucky and like a slug I know that they are low. How long do you have to wait to see if you are getting positive results?
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Friday Favorites: Costume Halloweenie RacesMy Profile

  13. says

    I’m glad you’re getting that taken care of. Hopefully it works well.
    Definitely not like Lance- you’re openly showing what you’re doing! (And, it’s not to get faster, it’s to get healthier.)
    I’ve never officially had low iron, but I’m trying to bump it up in my diet.
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..Something’s missingMy Profile

  14. says

    I find this very interesting. I’ve personally never battled with anemia, but I had fellow running mates in college who did. I’ve never heard of iron infusions before, but sounds kind of cool actually. Let us now how you make out after. Just curious could it be that you are a vegetarian? Are you eating red meat at all? This could also help boost your iron levels.
    Noelle McKenzie recently posted..Coming up for air and announcing Silver Edge Gear giveaway winnerMy Profile

  15. says

    I battled anemia with my first pregnancy. It’s amazing the drag you feel when your low on this essential vitamin.

    I’m glad you decided to do it. Sometimes we need help. You’re a super hero but even they have a sidekick. Yours just happens to be a little thing called Iron. :)
    Katie @momslrb recently posted..ZipFizz GiveawayMy Profile

  16. says

    I’ve never had full blown anemia, but I did have to take extra iron during one of my pregnancies. I ended up taking Floradix which helped my energy a ton! Good for you for taking care of yourself… even if it feels strange to be getting your iron in this way. Did you ask Sock Doc about it by chance?
    GreenGirlRunning recently posted..24 HoursMy Profile

  17. says

    I hope it works! I have low iron, but not “technically” anemic. I definitely suffer from low energy, hair loss, and I’m always cold. So, I do take a vitamin that has additional iron in it. Keep us posted:)
    hikermom recently posted..Three Things ThursdayMy Profile

  18. says

    I’ve dealt with anemia a few times in the past, so now I take a daily gentle iron supplement. I didn’t even know iron infusions were a thing! I am so glad there is a solution to your iron deficiency since pills obviously aren’t doing the trick. I hope you start feeling better and running faster! Keep us updated. I’m really curious about this.

  19. says

    I was anemic in college and was on iron supplements (which worked)…so I know how annoying it is to be active with anemia. I was always SO tired.
    I think it’s awesome that you are able to get some iron infusions – fingers are crossed that everything goes well and that they not only get your #s up, but help you in a few weeks!
    PS. You shouldn’t feel bad. You aren’t doing this to gain an advantage. You are deficient and this is just putting you on the same level as everyone else!
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..Gone For A Run: Running Medal Hanger Review + GiveawayMy Profile

  20. says

    That’s not fun. I’d never go for the infusions. I hate needles THAT much.
    As for iron supplements, never realized you couldn’t take enough orally if necessary.
    I’m vegetarian so low iron was a concern when my energy level dropped. Used to be an energizer bunny so there was something messed up when my motivation to get up and go…WENT. I’m sure because you do suffer from anemia you’ve made sure you get loads of iron rich foods but do you also pay attention to which foods allow the digestion of iron rather than hinder it? I didn’t realize it but whole grains may interfere with iron so you might try a rice based foods rather than whole grains.
    Joanne recently posted..FOFF Brown Rice and Broccoli PilafMy Profile

  21. says

    Hopefully you get some good results with this! I was considered an anemic risk as a child but I’m not sure if I am now. I’ve had a lot of bloodwork in the past 2 years regarding my pancreas but not sure if any of those results show anything about iron for my internist. I should ask her about this at my next physical myself. I have a friend who is battling low iron and it’s been confusing and frustrating for her. We do a lot of spinach and I use cast iron for things like omlettes, hoping that helps. Good luck with this!!!
    Christina recently posted..The run that reminds you that you lost some focusMy Profile

  22. says

    My doctor put me on iron supplements for the first time after my annual check last month. It’s been hard for me to remember to take them on a regular basis, but I do think they are helping. I’m guessing I’ve been borderline for a while (I occasionally get turned down for borderline iron levels when I give blood), but it’s never been so low as to alarm anyone. Fortunately my doctor is a runner!

    The Lance analogy cracked me up, but I don’t think you need to feel like that. It’s going to be good for you!!
    Terzah recently posted..Race Notes for CIMMy Profile

  23. says

    I’ve battled anemia since I had surgery 2 years ago. I lost so much blood I looked like about as white as the background of your blog (the inside part, not the outside…heh) since then I’ve been a mess. My iron gets scary low sometimes.

    I’ve had to have a few transfusions and iron infusions. I felt totally weird putting someone elses blood in me, and like a total cop out putting iron straight into my blood stream… But, the fact of the matter is we’re not cheats. We’re just finally where everyone else is naturally.
    Charlotte recently posted..Why Do I Even Bother Running?My Profile

  24. says

    Not sure what my issue is yet, but going to dr next week to have my platelet count retested – came in low. That aside, I’ve been eating more liver lately – you can sneak it into stews or ground meat if you freeze it then grate it. Also – the pâté recipe from Practical Paleo is awesome. Check out Balanced Bites website – they might have more info and their podcasts are awesome. Take care!
    Dianna on Maui recently posted..Remember When Running Was Simple?My Profile

  25. Kris says

    Have you been checked for celiac disease? My husband is a celiac, and his only symptoms were low iron, anemia, and fatigue. Might be worth asking your doc about.

  26. says

    I battled with anemia for a good 7-8 years of my life so I know how you are feeling. I was hospitalized twice with low iron (passed out cold!) about 5 years ago. I was right at the point of needing a blood transfusion. I remember feeling so tired and like I was being suffocated while running. It was just horrible! I’m sorry you have been dealing with this too! The doctor put me on some super powered prescription iron supplements and I was lucky because they got me back to normal fairly quickly and I haven’t had any problems since. I hope your infusions work! You won’t believe how much better you feel and how great your running will be!
    Jen B. recently posted..Scare Away Brain Cancer Race Recap 2012My Profile

  27. says

    Yes, I have been batteling anemia for a little bit now.. i take my iron pills with vit c everyday! Last year I had to get the iron infusions as well.. so far (knock on wood) I haven’d had to get them again. It is beyond annoying because I have no idea what is causing it.. because everything I heat is normal.. my running has been going great.. so hopefully it stays that way! I hope it works for you! stay healthy!! :)

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