Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed that my aerobic endurance (e.g. how long I can do something which requires lots of oxygen) has decreased well beyond what it used to be, and no matter how hard I tried to improve my conditioning it felt like I was never getting enough air. When it started I blamed the fact that I am currently living at 3,000 ft above sea level and there is just less oxygen up here, but that didn’t explain all the changes. Recently it reached a head when I found I was getting winded just walking up a flight of stairs.
A couple of weeks ago I had a mild sinus infection which made it where I could only really breath through my mouth, and while trying to clear a passage I blocked off one nostril and blew through the other. I was surprised to find that for one of my nostrils I could exhale fine with seemingly no restriction, but as soon as I tried to inhale it completely shut off. After doing some research I found that I had a collapsed nostril as well as a deviated septum – either of which may have been related to the other, or not.
While breathing through one nostril is sufficient for “normal” activities, it is a clear hindrance when trying to do anything which requires extra oxygen. No wonder then that I was getting winded while hiking up a mountain or taking stairs, and needing more than a breath or two to recover even when I was otherwise at least thinking I was breathing freely.
Doing a bit more research revealed that there are lots of products on the market to assist with keeping nasal air passages open, generally either falling into the “sticky springy strip” category which is stuck to the outside of the nose and through adhesive tries to pull the nose open, or the “stint” category where a ventilated device is inserted in the passageway to hold it open.
Enter “The Turbine”. Originally designed to aid high performance cyclists get more air and hence more energy during long rides, and most famously endorsed by Tour de France winner Chris Froome, it consists of two adjustable loops designed to be inserted into the nose which are connected by a bridge which serves both to prevent the loop from being inserted too far as well as to provide a bit of separation to aid in the overall increase of air. Made from a semi-rigid plastic with a softer coating where it contacts skin, it is designed to be an “insert and forget” device for up to 12 hours, including while participating in percussive impact athletic activities such as running where other insertable type devices tend to fall out.
I was a bit skeptical, but things had reached a point where I was willing to give it a try. I ordered the 3 size sample pack, decided the medium was the best fit, then decided to try and quantify the impact. Although neither my blood oxygen content or blood pressure measurement devices are technically calibrated, I consider them sufficiently accurate for this purpose. IN a calm and resting condition, I measured my “normal” saturated blood oxygen content, blood pressure, and pulse. Then I inserted The Turbine, waited abut 10 minutes, and measured again. Although blood pressure and pulse showed very slight decreases (a couple of points, which I basically consider insignificant) the saturated blood oxygen content jumped from 92% to 96% – which to me is a significant increase.
Next I headed out for a walk up the mountain path. There was no discomfort or feeling it was about to fall out at any point, and for the first time in many months I made it to the top of the first ridge without needing an extended pause to catch my breath once I got there. After about a 45 minute loop of moderate activity (including multiple elevation changes) I came home feeling energized rather than worn out as had been the case for the past several months. The next day I repeated the loop without the Turbine installed, and I was back to panting my way around the loop and reaching home exhausted.
In summary – it seems to work well for me. While a bit on the pricy side (at the recommended usage of 10 times before replacement and wearing only during activity) it comes out to roughly $1 a day, but it’s a price I’m very willing to pay to be able to get back to enjoying my mountain and staying in shape, as the difficulty in breathing was getting to the point that I was quite often choosing to just sit around the house.