Yes. This is real.
I am allergic to my job. Quite literally.
I have never written about this, or mentioned it during any of my YouTube workouts – which is surprising since I love to talk while filming. But, I’m allergic to my job and I could swell up like a blowfish, itch like a dog with fleas, and gulp for breath like I’m drowning, if the conditions are just right.
They call it Exercise-Induced Anaphylactic Shock. I call it inconvenient as hell.
But, let’s back up a bit.
When I was in grade seven my teacher was a long-distance runner. He loved to run, he loved to brag about his ability to run, and in turn, he loved to torture us by making us run, too. And run we did. We ran around the school, we ran around the block, we ran in track meets, and we ran in cross country races.
I was never fast and could usually be found dead last, or close to it. Being a chubby kid, addicted to chocolate bars and Dairy Queen, made it difficult to find my running legs, let alone an ability to be quick and nimble.
But, I participated in all the races nonetheless.
It was after one of those cross country races that I was in rougher shape than normal. I finished, but by the time I hit the finish line my face was swelling up, my body was on fire, and I was covered in hives.
Being the youngest of four children my parents were done with the nurturing and worrying that comes with the firstborn. So, when we got home I was sent to have a warm bath and the episode was quickly forgotten.
Plus, things were handled differently back in the early ’80s. Those were the days that your seatbelt was your Mom or Dad throwing their arm across your body when they stopped suddenly. This was also the time when we played outside unsupervised, bicycled to school by ourselves (without helmets), drank from garden hoses, and became blood sisters’ with our best friend.
In other words, parents did some shady shit when we were younger.
My reactions after races were getting worse, though. By the end of the fourth race, it was becoming apparent to my parents that warm baths were not the solution. This is when I ended up in the emergency room with the diagnosis of early-stages anaphylactic shock.
From there I was sent to an allergist who explained that I had a rare condition called Exercise-Induced Anaphylactic Shock.
This means if I combine exercising with certain foods (like carrots, lettuces, celery) I can go into anaphylactic shock. This is the same anaphylactic shock that people who are allergic to bees go into, except sub out “bees” and add “working out” for me – damn, did I pick the perfect career, or what?
As I got older not only was healthy food a trigger, but altitude and stress became an issue as well. The stress was usually in the form of my menstrual cycle or lack of sleep. Honest to God, I could eat a chocolate chip cookie, near sea level, go for a run and all would be fine. Give me a salad, though, on a mountain, while I had my period, and all hell could break loose.
I don’t even need to be exercising hard either. Case in point – the time I ended up in the ER at Lake Tahoe. I had a small piece of papaya, walked to the lake and BOOM, one came on. Who knew papaya was so fucking evil?
It’s embarrassing when I have an attack and I hate it when people make a fuss about it. Thankfully I know the signs well enough and when I start to feel one come on I pop a few Benadryl, rest, high five LH, and I’m good to go in an hour or so.
When I decided to become a personal trainer I talked about it with my allergist and, while he wasn’t thrilled about the idea, he said he had confidence in me that I would figure this out.
And I have.
Because the thought of not exercising never entered my brain. Even when I was that chunky, back-of-the-pack kid. I never thought about quitting.
I love exercising, and this has just been a minor speed bump along the way.
Getting older has actually helped as well (finally ONE perk to age). I don’t trigger as easily as I used to, and the experience has taught me that when you want something, you can always find a way.
Now, when people tell me (jokingly) that they don’t exercise because they are allergic to it, I just smile and say “You too?”.
Last week’s blog “Detached Retinas”… read here.
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