I have struggled with exercise-induced asthma since I was a kid. It’s a condition that I have also passed on to my oldest child and its a problem that I wouldn’t wish on any parent. Unfortunately, approximately 24.6 million people in the United States alone suffer from Asthma. So, you might be asking yourself – if you’re Asthmatic…why on earth do you run? Running with asthma might seem like the exact opposite of what you should do!
The fact of the matter is I love running. And, I don’t believe my asthma should keep me from doing something I love. In fact, improving my lung strength and stamina has helped improve my asthma symptoms significantly. Before I started running even something as simple as taking the garbage out could trigger an attack on bad days. Now I run about 5 miles with no problems on a regular basis.
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Running With Asthma
Before You Start
Before you start running, or any exercise program if you have asthma it is important to make sure you understand your disease. Asthma triggers are different for everyone. Some people have trouble with pollen, others with exercise, dust or even temperature changes. If you understand your triggers you can take steps to avoid an attack while exercising. Run indoors during high pollen days, wear a mask on cold, dry ones.
You should not start running with asthma until your condition is under good medical control. This might mean working with your doctor to change medications if you are currently having problems. Most people with asthma quickly become aware of their personal symptoms. If you have had an attack a part of you is always mentally checking to see if another one is coming. You need to be aware and listening to your body, if you wake-up and feel an off day breathing wise skip the exercise. Taking a day off when your asthma isn’t at its best is much better than trying to push through it and inducing an attack that could have you sidelined for weeks.
Always keep your rescue inhaler on hand. I pick my running clothes specifically with this in mind. All of my running gear has a pocket, pouch or place where my inhaler can be comfortably carried. Even on the best of days and under the best of control it’s better to be safe than sorry.Always keep your rescue inhaler on hand. I pick my running clothes specifically with this in mind. All of my running gear has a pocket, pouch or place where my inhaler can be comfortably carried. Click To Tweet
Running with asthma is not something that comes quickly. In fact, if you plan on following a training program such as Couch to 5k, expect it to take almost twice as long to reach your milestones. While my husband and I both started running at around the same time he does not suffer from asthma. Currently, my husband can run 7-minute miles and is training for a half marathon. I, on the other hand, have just hit 5 miles and very recently managed to do a less than 10-minute mile.
It can be frustrating to feel like your not progressing as quickly as your friends and partners but it’s important to realize that you face obstacles they do not. You are running with a medical issue and your health should always take priority over progress. You will get better, you will run farther and faster but you have to be patient. Instead, take joy in the fact that you are running and celebrate your milestones with extra pride.
While many people follow very strict training programs, running with asthma sometimes means you have to throw those programs out the window. Some days your asthma will come out of nowhere and make a previously easy distance impossible. Maybe you have been running two miles for weeks but suddenly, today, you have to walk part of it. That’s okay – tomorrow or the next day that same two miles might be a breeze again. That’s just life with asthma! Walk when you have too. Take days off when you need too.
I have found that things work best when I increase my distance slowly. Sometimes very slowly. For months my short runs were 2 miles and my long runs varied between 3 and 4 miles. I stayed there until my body and lungs were accustomed and felt strong enough to go farther. When I did increase my distance I felt it out a half a mile at a time. If I felt okay after pushing my long run an extra half mile I kept running, if I didn’t I backed off and tried again next week.
There is no time limit when it comes to running and comparing yourself to the achievements of others will lead to nothing but distress. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to reach your goal distance, it only matters that you get there eventually.
When it comes to getting faster running with asthma makes it difficult. I often find that I can add distance much easier then I can add speed. Perhaps it is because my lungs don’t recover as quickly or because my childhood attacks have left me with a sense of panic when my breathing becomes labored. Sometimes I have to mentally check on myself, am I just breathing heavy or having actual symptoms? It’s strange to think about but previous asthma-related trauma has left me with some knee-jerk reactions when it comes to labored breathing.
As a result, I probably don’t push my speed work as hard as I could – but I’m okay with that. I am getting faster. The first time I ran a mile I did so at a 14 minute pace, my easy run pace is now just over 11 minutes.
The best way to add speed for me has been doing so with intervals. Rather then try to run an entire mile at a specific pace I break it up. I run a quarter mile at my goal speed and then slow down to my easy pace and evaluate my breathing for the next quarter mile. Sometimes I have to mentally tell myself “We are okay, we are not having an attack!” I sometimes tap the pocket where my inhaler is just to reassure myself and focus on deep slow breaths to convince myself of this truth. Sometimes I do have problems and I have to stop. Everything with asthma is on a day to day basis.
Running With Asthma – I won’t give up.
Running has become more than a way to exercise for me. Running has developed into a passion and balancer in my life. Running makes me feel good about myself. I run when I am upset and come back feeling better, I run when I am anxious and come back feeling relaxed. It doesn’t matter if I am happy, sad, angry or nervous. Running balances it all out.
Running with asthma is a challenge but it’s a challenge that can be defeated with the proper mindset and precautions. I always run with my inhaler, I never run when my breathing feels off for any reason. But most importantly, I had to come to terms with the fact that I might not ever run as fast or as far as those without asthma. But that’s okay – running gives me so much mentally and physically that this seems like a trivial matter in the long term. I love to run and that’s all that matters.