Right now you're probably thinking:
"What a wuss! A little needle and she faints!"
But seriously, that wasn't what happened at all. Let me explain...
I decided to run a marathon in 2012, and -- as all people should before beginning a strenuous new training program -- I made an appointment to talk to my doctor. (No, I did not take this precaution before my 2006 marathon, but I was young(er) and dumb(er) then... Do as I say, not as I do.) To make sure everything is A-OK before I start logging 20 mile weekend runs, Doc ordered a series of tests, including bloodwork, an EKG, and a pulmonary function test.
|Pulmonary function test being administered in 1974.|
MedlinePlus describes the pulmonary function test as:
...a group of tests that measure how well the lungs take in and release air and how well they move gases such as oxygen from the atmosphere into the body's circulation.I was told not to have any caffeine before the test. I've mentioned before that I have a long-standing love affair with my morning coffee... I am still a bit amazed that I managed to stumble out of the house and find my way to the hospital without a cup o' joe.
How the Test is Performed:
In a spirometry test, you breathe into a mouthpiece that is connected to an instrument called a spirometer. The spirometer records the amount and the rate of air that you breathe in and out over a period of time. For some of the test measurements, you can breathe normally and quietly. Other tests require forced inhalation or exhalation after a deep breath.
How the Test Will Feel:
Since the test involves some forced breathing and rapid breathing, you may have some temporary shortness of breath or lightheadedness. You breathe through a tight-fitting mouthpiece, and you'll have nose clips.
In the pulmonary lab, the testing technician was what I would call "chipper" -- friendly, happy, and welcoming. (Maybe a little too happy for my un-caffeinated state, but I'll take "too happy" over grumpy or surly any day.) During the test I did wonder if the woman ever gets bored with her job, gently saying "breathe normally" and then barking "breathe out hard! push! push! push! push!" over and over again, day after day.
Important note: Signs in my testing room were posted to remind the clinician of proper protocol if a patient faints. Those signs should have given me a clue to take the "lightheadedness" warning seriously.
One segment of the test involved hyperventilating into the machine. I started feeling woozy right away, and my vision started to blur right before the technician said: "Ok. You can take a rest now." Two more seconds and I'm pretty sure I would have fainted right there in the testing room! But, fortunately, I did not, and the feeling passed quickly.
Compared to the lung test, the blood-work portion of this morning's doctor's visit was a piece of cake.
Do you go to the doc for a checkup before you start training for an endurance event?
Photos courtesy of the U.S. National Archives