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Should a runner (or joggler) donate blood

Today, I went to the blood donation center and gave a couple of pints. I used to give every 8 weeks, but I cut back after a doctor told me I shouldn’t.  Now, I give blood onlyblood donation twice a year.

My stats from today’s donation.

Blood Pressure : 108 / 74
Body Temp: 97.9 F
Pulse : 58

Considering that I’m going to continue my running streak (up to 15 days already!) I wondered what other runners had to say about donating blood and running. I stumbled across this article from runnersweb and found some interesting info.  Looks like I should’ve waited ’til after the Tampa Bay Marathon.  Oh well, maybe I saved a life.

Here area couple of things every joggler should know about…

Donating Blood and Running

1. Blood volumes. You typically donate a pint of blood (450 g) and it takes your body 2 to 3 days to recover the volume.  It takes about 2 months to recover the lost red blood cells.

2. Drop in performance.  When you have less blood, your body can carry less oxygen. Expect to lose about 10% of your typical performance ability.  This will be most noticeable to long distance jogglers.  Note some experts say it can take up to 3 months to regain total aerobic capacity.  Yikes!

3. Recovering from donation.  To get back in top-notch joggling form, be sure to drink extra fluids immediately after the donation and the next day. Also, make sure you are eating things with protein and iron in them to help replenish.  The experts say think of a blood donation as a day of rest.

4. It’s not all bad.  While you may have an initial reduction in performance, there is at least one theory that says donating may have the benefit of actually increasing the amount of red blood cell count when your body recovers.  This would happen because your body might overshooting the target level.  Just a theory though.

Most coaches will tell you not to do it.  The loss of performance is too great a sacrafice.  On the other hand, you could also be saving someone’s life.  Isn’t missing your PR worth that?

This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. Be carefull on your run today. Once in college, I donated blood in the early afternoon, and then played racquetball in the evening. About 15 min into the racquetball, I suddenly got tunnelvision, with everything except a small portion of my field of view going black. I was smart enough to call it quits at that point, and probably avoided totally passing out by a very little margin.

    For those who want to give blood, but feel every 8 weeks is a bit too often for your schedule, look into an apheresis donation where they take out two units of redblood cells at once. You can only do this every 16wks.

  2. Thanks for the tip Brian. I feel fine today but I will take it easy on the treadmill tonight. Maybe just 6 miles or so at a 7:30 pace. I’ll watch for the tunnel vision.

    And thanks for the blood information. Saving a life seems good.

  3. In 2002, at age 62, I was diagnosed with polycythemia vera (PV), a disease that causes my system to produce too many red blood cells (my hematocrit, or volume percentage of red cells in whole blood, was 56; normal for women is about 42). At the time of diagnosis, I was jogging 5-6 kilometers (about 4 miles) several times a week, down from 10-12 km a couple of years previously.
    The treatment for uncomplicated PV is drawing lots of blood within a short time, far more than the equivalent of donating blood. Once my hematocrit fell to normal, I was hardly able to jog at all, getting exhausted after only 1 km, despite feeling better generally! I guess I had been doped for several years with all those excess red blood cells

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