Running and Fat Fingers

I may be slow but I do get there… eventually.

Yesterday I set out on my 12 mile run with a water bottle in one hand and a new snack to try out in my back pocket.  I don’t like carrying a water bottle but I need to learn how to do it for my 50 mile race in March.  The weather was in the high 40’s with only a slight breeze and overcast.  Not bad for a long run.  I was again embarking on new trails as I hadn’t yet gone out a long ways in my new territory.

I set out with the admonition to “walk all the uphills” firmly in mind.  From my front door to the road is uphill.  Fair enough – I walked it.  From there it’s mostly downhill for about a mile and then levels out.  I was away at an easy pace and set my mind on seeing new sights.

There are more houses and more potential areas for shelter here than in my last place, I noticed.  So… if I am running and a thunderstorm or hail starts, I can probably find a place to wait it out.  This is an improvement.  But… there are more cars, more loose dogs and more people.  This is not an improvement.  Ah, well.

So I jogged along ticking off the miles and planning sips of water and thinking about my form and generally enjoying the afternoon.  Somewhere around mile 5.5 I decided to try the new snack – Nature Valley Granola Thins in the dark chocolate flavor.  I think I may be in love!!  It’s like the graham cracker of your childhood back for a visit with a thin smear of chocolate on one side.  They are about 2 inches square and maybe a 1/4 inch thick.  I was actually smiling as I munched one down.  As an aside – the chocolate did get on my fingers and I didn’t like that but it was only a tiny bit and I rinsed it away.  So there I was, jogging along, munching away and feeling like I had just returned to preschool snack time when I also noticed my hands.  My fingers.  They weren’t swollen.

One thing that has plagued me for years while running, walking or hiking is swelling in my fingers and hands.  I hate it and I’ve done some reading trying to resolve it.  Quite frankly, there are far too many articles to reference here.  If this is an issue for you, I encourage you to do your own research.  Just as a start, this is a very basic treatise on the subject.  The short version seems to be that this is quite common, the specific cause is unknown and there may be several contributing factors including the mechanics of the exercise itself and/or/also an imbalance between fluid levels and electrolyte levels.  

There isn’t much you can do about the actual exercise.  Running is running.  I’ve wondered about the electrolyte imbalance aspect, though.  I have tried electrolyte drinks and fiddled with my hydration and pretty much resigned myself to this but the niggling question remained – if my hands and feet are swelling and retaining fluid… what else is?  Brain?

Yesterday I noticed this was not such an issue.  Keep in mind I’ve experienced this in hot weather, cold weather, high elevation, low elevation – it does not seem to be environmental with me.  So… thinking back, what has changed just recently?

The vitamins.  Yes.  You may recall I recently mentioned I have a habit of forgetting my vitamins.  Actually, for years I have barely taken vitamins more than a few days in a row and then I go months without.  But… for about two weeks now I have diligently and determinedly taken a multi once a day and added a calcium.  This is all that has changed for me and I’m wondering…

First of all, I am well aware that one run is not conclusive evidence that a daily vitamin has ‘cured’ me.  (Another aside – I have read about vitamins for years and the upshot seemed to be: if you are eating a balanced diet, you probably don’t need additional vitamins.  There are very strong schools of thought both for and against and for the most part I don’t care.  But… if this is actually helping me…  Hmmm…  Also, during some recent rehab work on one of my horses, I was encouraged to provide free feed minerals in addition to the salt lick he already had as “minerals are the messengers”.  Horses and other animals seem to have a good internal gauge as to if they need minerals or not.  Two of my horses ignored the mineral block and this one ate the first one in a few days and now only occasionally takes a nibble.  Hmmm…)

Anyway, one trial aside, I did reason out that it makes sense for me to be obtaining some benefit from the vitamins.  I am now taking them daily so potential deficiencies are hopefully being addressed daily.  When I was using electrolyte drinks to try to manage my finger swelling I was only doing so during races and by then my fingers were already puffy.  It’s not possible for the drinks to take effect immediately and, if the exercise mechanics are a contributing factor, that is an uphill battle.  Perhaps this daily ‘maintenance’ activity of a multi vitamin helps reduce some underlying issues so the swelling is less severe and less immediate.  I’m not saying my fingers were 100% normal but I was able to tear open the snack packet and make a fist and flex my fingers without difficulty.  I’m going to pay attention to this.

(I realize there are people who take their vitamins and still have this issue.  I don’t claim to have solved it for everyone but I am interested in seeing how my hands do during my next runs and next weekend’s race.)

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About wfig

Longtime horsewoman and hiker, occasional world traveler and professional biologist.
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5 Responses to Running and Fat Fingers

  1. Haha says:

    I have had similar issues with my hands and fingers swelling during a walk. I resigned myself to the culprit being the mechanics of the activity, as you mentioned. I take a multi daily; however, not before I walk. I usually take it a couple of hours later with breakfast. I wonder if taking the vitamin before the walk might have an effect… I will give this some thought and, maybe, a trial. I find, unlike what you reported, the weather makes a difference for me. The swelling is worse in hot weather. I haven’t tried the granola thins; I’ll add them to the list for your 50 miler.

  2. robin says:

    Thanks w. Very interesting. How about a camel back? It should be more comfortable than a water bottle. Do you have one? Maybe water with electorlytes in it – more than just the sport drinks. You might just need to experiment more before coming to a firm conclusion. The swelling might be a cause for concern. Keep us informed.

    • wfig says:

      Thank you – I am thinking of trying a camel back. I’ve read that some people really like them for running. I use a big one for hiking and I like that one for that purpose. I am going to keep tabs on this – and report back my findings.

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