How to Stick with Your Workout Routine Despite Allergies

Health Professional

Well, once again the Winter Olympics have come and gone, with splendid displays of athleticism against all odds, as well as disappointments and failed expectations. Watching the competitions put me in mind of how challenging it can be at times to keep going with workouts when allergy symptoms are at their worst.

So, I thought it might be helpful to write this post about how to best manage your allergies -- without overreliance on medication -- so that you can stay active and reasonably comfortable from disabling allergy symptoms.

The Olympic athletes needed to contend with some early spring allergies in 2010. In the spring, the most likely allergens are pollen from trees. If you watched the Olympics, you know that they had some unseasonably warm weather in the Vancouver area, which means alder tree pollen was already in the air. The same could be true of your area, or will be within the next few weeks.

Alders aren't the only trees that emit pollen that can trigger allergy symptoms, however. Birch trees, elm trees, willows and red maples are others. You can find a complete list here.

If you happen to be allergic to tree pollen and you're exercising outdoors, then you might find that your allergy symptoms are acting up this time of year and into the spring. (In the summer, it's grass pollen that most likely triggers symptoms, while in the fall, it can be weed pollens and/or molds.)

When your nose is stuffy and running, it can be hard to exercise at your peak level. Not only do you feel lousy, you're also not able to use your airways to their full capacity.

The good news for you, assuming you're not a competitive athlete, is that there are effective medications you can take to prevent and manage allergy symptoms. And many of these medicines, such as antihistamines like Zyrtec, Claritin and Allegra, shouldn't negatively affect your exercise performance. If you opt to take a decongestant, that may not be true, as most medicines of that type have a side effect of drowsiness.

Olympic athletes have to be very careful about what they take, though, as it may interfere with the routine drug testing they're subject to. So they need to look to other measures to control their allergies, such as doing their best to avoid allergy triggers.

The best way to do that is to "know your enemy", so to speak. Start tracking the pollen counts in your area, so you know when allergens are at peak levels. Learn more about pollen counts.

Here are some other tips:

  • Stay indoors on warm, windy days, which is when pollen levels tend to be highest.
  • Keep the windows closed in your house and car during this time of year too, to keep pollen out.
  • If you must go outdoors, do so in the afternoon and evening, when pollen levels tend to be lower.

You might never see your athletic performance reach Olympic caliber levels, but you can manage your allergies like a champion