What clothing and shoes do you wear while running?
I make sure to wear clothing that is made specifically for running. The reason: Chafing is the enemy, not only because it’s uncomfortable, but because it could lead to infection. Personal experience: Ten years ago I wore ill-fitting pants while hiking about six miles in the heat. Without sharing too much information (here, you are saying, “too late”), I got chafed where you don’t want to ever be chafed, guy or girl. Embarrassingly, the chafing led to a cellulitis infection (my third and last infection). From this experience, I wisely learned to be very picky when it comes to how my clothing fits, especially for running. Try on your clothing, and if possible, take a test run in them before committing. Be picky, because there is nothing more annoying than having something pinch, rub or scratch you with every step you take.
As for shoes, comfort is key, especially when it comes to lymphedema of the lower extremities. To help you find a running shoe that is comfortable, but also works for running, I would suggest going to your nearest running specialty store.
The following are the shoes that I currently run in:
Does your leg get more swollen after you have been out running?
It depends on my mileage for the week. As my runs get longer, the swelling in my leg does increase. I believe that this is mostly due to the increase in the amount of time that I am active and on my feet, which unfortunately replaces the time I should be resting and elevating my leg.
When I was training for my half marathon a couple years ago, I noticed that the longer my runs got (the more time I was active) the more swelling I accumulated in my leg. Eventually, I had to take some time off of running (two weeks) and focus on doing MLD, using the Flexitouch and wrapping my leg to allow the swelling to subside. After taking that time off though, my leg did very well even as I continued to increase my mileage. Of course, I had to make sure that I made time to rest in order to manage the additional swelling. Bottom line, the more active you become, the more time and therapy you may need to manage the additional swelling.
Just for reference – I have been running between 15 and 25 miles the last six months and have had no problem managing my swelling. It takes some life adjustments to make rest and recovery a priority (i.e. being in bed by 8:30, playing games with my girls while lying down, and sticking to a strict schedule) but I feel like running is worth it. When I go out for a run, I am usually able to forget about my lymphedema and just enjoy feeling a little “normal”. Plus, I get to enjoy views like this that help me clear my head as I run.
How can I start running?
Before answering this question, I would encourage you to visit your doctor and lymphedema therapist before starting anything. Your health must be stable before starting any new activity. Also, you will need to have proper fitting compression garments that will sufficiently support and manage your swelling.
Once you’ve gotten the “all clear” from your health care providers, start with a Couch to 5K program (here is the one I followed) which incorporates a slow transition from walking to running. As you follow any program, pay attention to your body and make sure you are able to manage your swelling.