Running With Asthma

Running with Asthma
May 14, 2008, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Asthma | Tags: , , ,

I want to run.  I don’t like to be told I can’t do something.  My lungs constantly fight against me.  I have exercise-induced asthma.  The higher the intensity of the workout, the more the airways swell.  But, the more I rest in between runs, the more the airways swell.  Figuring out the proper balance, while trying to run longer and faster, is mentally and physically painful.  It has taken years of trial and error to learn to navigate this disease.  I hate having asthma; it just stinks.

To clarify, I currently use Advair, Singulair, and Allegra on a daily basis and then albuterol before a run.  I run 3-4 days per week, 2-3 miles each time.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I do the hills; Fridays I run the track; Sundays I run on the treadmill and try to run a longer distance.  I run in the evening  because once my lungs are inflamed, everything becomes exercise: walking across the room, making dinner, going up the stairs.  I pretty much have to sit still and rest for a long time if I push myself during the run.  I am a mom and wife; sitting still is not easy when people are hungry.

My current dilemma is that I want to run farther and faster.  Eventually I would like to run a marathon.  There is a local event in November but the way I am (not) progressing, it seems that even the half-marathon will be out of the question.  The 5K runners series starts here in late June or early July.  Last year my best time was 36:34.  It has been almost a year of practicing and I have not yet been able to beat my time.  Although, I do have to acknowledge how far I’ve come.  The first time I ran the series my time was 46:00.

Frustration is an understatement.  But, in typical Tara fashion, beating this topic to death in my mind, reading Runner’s World, trying to figure out a solution, I am going to try to change my strategy.  Instead of running 3-4 days per week, I’m going to try to run 5 or 6 days per week.  I think that possibly I have too much down time in-between my runs.  As a writer and editor, I sit at my computer for hours on end, everyday, which might be causing my lungs to go in reverse.  Then, when I run, my lungs go into shock because they have been ‘dormant’ for two days in-between runs.  The information I read about increasing mileage and speed all say that running 4 times per week is plenty but I think the rules might be different for exercise-induced asthma.

So, I’m going to try this:  Tuesday:   3 miles cross country track;  Wednesday:  1 mile on treadmill;  Thursday:  3 miles cross country track;  Friday:  1 mile on treadmill;  Saturday:  1 mile on treadmill;  Sunday:  4 miles on treadmill (walk-run instead of run).  If my lungs agree to this, then I will slowly increase the in-between runs.  I would love to run the cross country series this summer in 26 minutes.  A major long shot, but again, I don’t like to be told no.

If you run with asthma, I would love to hear how you navigate through it.

UPDATE (9-9-15): This is one of the first posts on this blog, and, therefore, undeniably “green”

–Tara Schiro is the author of No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

14 Comments so far
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this email is a huge light at the end of the tunnel for me. i had breathing issues as a kid which kind of disappeared during adolescence and then adulthood. i was a pretty active person, cardio classes at the gym most weeknights and then 10km walks on the weekend. i just couldn’t run which i put down to my short and squat body type. but since my two children were born (now 4 and 2.5) i kept getting sick at small changes in weather that my doc has said it could be mild asthma. i kept getting dejected that everytime i try to restart my fitness I get a bad flu and sinust infection etc. the asthma makes more sense but still feels like an impediment. i am getting to grips with it and not trying to do things too fast. so starting from the beginning all over again at the gym. i am hoping i can wog in the early morning with my dogs again because that is my favourite thing to do. thanks for the blog, i will be reading everything religiously.


Comment by vineeta

Hi Vineeta, Just remember that children are, as my Dr. put it, “walking bacteria sinks!” When my kids were young, they were always giving me their colds and what not. Something that helped cut this down TREMENDOUSLY was switching from hand towels to paper towels. I no longer use a hand towel in any of the bathrooms, we use paper towels instead. I no longer use a dish cloth in the kitchen, I use paper towels. No soap dishes; hand pumps for liquid soap. This drives my husband nuts but as soon as I made that switch, we cut the sicknesses down to half. I am not a Dr., so please take this next bit of advice with a grain of salt, from my own experience and not as a prescription for you, but I finally figured out the cycle of some of my sicknesses. I do not have allergies, but I do have allergic rhinitis. This means my nose gets irritated and reacts as if I have an allergy. Once the nose and sinuses are irritated, the mucus starts going to the lungs. Then the lungs get irritated and it all turns into a cold or sinus infection. Then I’m on antibiotics and can’t run. Blah. To combat this, I take Allegra, which keeps the rhinitis at bay, which keeps me from getting sick, which keeps me running. Antibiotics take away the infection but they also weaken the immune system. It’s a vicious cycle. There is also the Netipot and SinuRinse that work really well at keeping the nasal passages clear and healthy. They take away the pollen and gunk that gets stuck in our nasal passages that we breathe when running along the street with traffic. Exhaust is a huge trigger to my nose getting irritated. If you can’t wog, start with a walk in the morning, then graduate to wogging, and then to jogging. Just remember that when you are finally able to get some good exercise in, and can get on a roll for several months without being sick, you will make your body stronger and will stop getting sick. Running will make your whole body stronger and less susceptible to sickness. You might get a cold here and there, but it won’t be as bad or as long. And, one more piece of advice: don’t lick your fingers, ever, and don’t eat from your kids plates! Thanks so much for reading! I greatly appreciate it!


Comment by TaraSchiro


I began training for the Boston Marathon two years ago this summer. During my training, I was diagnosed with severe asthma. I work in ministry, and God has called me to run this to show His powerful testimony in my life. I have a team of doctors, and most are telling me that running is out of the question, but I have one that is totally on board. Advair stopped working on me because it’s really hard for my lungs to accept the “powder” instead of the mist from regular inhalers. I am on Symbicort now, and doing better, but not great. I also use Xopenex instead of Albuterol, and it has less side effects and lasts longer. I am also on Singulair and a nasal steroid as well. I alternate using the treadmill and running outside, and that’s helped me tremendously. I recommend not running in the cold without using a running scarf. You can buy them at Massey’s Outfitters online. It has improved my running in cold weather tremendously. What my biggest advice to you is don’t stop! On the days where you can’t run, get out and walk! Don’t give up! My husband is running with me next year in the marathon, and we are going to use this as a testimony as to what God can do! This has been an incredible journey, and I know that there are so many out there who will be touched through this. Keep it up, and may God bless and open your lungs so that you may run with His strength!


Comment by Tiffany

I would love to hear how your are doing with the running. Thank you for your uplifting post! I am so glad to read it. I started running and finding I enjoy it. I have not run with asthma before so this is new to me. The tips on the scarf and running inside part time is a big help! I did a 10k a few weeks ago and it went great but this was before asthma season started, I am working torwards the 1/2 marathon but have no idea how to make that happen. will try treadmill inside and maybe one long run on a good weather day.


Comment by renee

Rachel, here’s the magic code: YES, YOU CAN…with consistency. I have “wogged” 4 half marathons and my 5th is coming in a few weeks and the distance I can run without stopping is different each time. Even in my practice runs it is never the same. But, when I am consistent, the length increases. I’ve read that even the elite runners walk through the water stations. Don’t worry about the ratio of walking to running, it will get better each time. Btw, I’ve done about 30 5K’s and I have never run the whole thing…YET. But I don’t dwell on this because my time keeps getting faster and faster. Keep going! Thanks for writing!


Comment by taraschiro

I’ve had asthma as far back as I can remember and I’m almost 37 now. I took up running a year ago this Feb. When I first started I could barely make it one time around the track and I cried all the way home. I remember thinking, “How will I ever be able to run a 5k.” (I ran 12 5k’s in 2009) I started running because I got tired of my asthma standing in my way. I am a very active person, but my asthma has often dictated (and still does) how hard I can workout or in this case, run. I am training for a half marathon that I am planning on walk/running, but I would give anything to be able to run the whole thing. Every running day is different for me, sometimes I can run the whole 3 miles and other days I can barely run 1/2 mile before taking a 1 min. walk break. Having asthma does suck, but I won’t give it up. I’m just waiting for someone to tell me the magic code for being able to run the whole route no matter what the mileage.
Take Care


Comment by Rachel

32 Male Allergy induced asthma. I live in the Pacific Northwest. (cold moist air) If your allergies affect your asthma as mine do, I strongly recommend you see an allergist and see about getting immuniotheropy. I’ve been getting allergy shots for 5 years now and i don’t take OTC or perscription allergy drugs anymore. My allergies are minimal at best now. I still have EIA, but the allergy shots are amazing. I use my albuteral just before I run, and it makes the world of difference. I started running early 08 only a little, about 2 miles twice a week. Starting in 09 i gradually increased this. So far this year I’ve ran a 15k, 5k, 2 10K’s, and 2 Half Marathons. I’m not a fast runner by any means but my last half Marathon I averaged an 8:44 mile pace. My asthma has improved as well. I don’t let my asthma be an excuse not to run. I run about 20 miles a week now.


Comment by J

Hi jcmela: I was tested for allergies and I am not allergic to anything but thanks for the info. Maybe it will help some of my readers.


Comment by taraschiro


I have had EIA since I was five, and it has always been a barrier to participating in sports/aerobic exercise for any length of time. In June of this year, I began running with friends 3x/week in the morning before work. Initially, I could not make it more than 0.5 miles without using my inhaler. Eventually, I began to understand my asthma and work around it by starting off slower and not pushing myself to that scary, wheezy, chest-tightening place right off the bat. Now I am running 2.25 – 3 miles each run and can do it without stopping or using my inhaler.

I know it has been more than a year since your original post, and I am very interested to know what your experience has been. Is it just training to build your lungs’ endurance? Do you take any daily meds or use albuterol (or something similar) frequently? If you have anything more to share about your experience, I would be interested to read it. Thanks and good luck!


Comment by Casey

Hi Tara,
I am 31 years old and this year as a New Year’s resolution, I started running. I have suffered from asthma and allergies since I was a little girl. I ran my first 5k on March 22, 2009 and my finish time was 29:55. I was really proud of myself. I felt like such a goober when I actually cried when I crossed the finish line. LOL Yesterday I ran my second 5k. My time was 29:50, which was not a huge improvement on time, but it was a much harder course. (1st race was flat, this one… WASN’T!) I am currently training for my first half marathon. I am so excited, and scared. I swear, I live in fear of catching a cold, because when I get a chest cold, it can take months for me to recover! I have noticed that my lungs do not like really cold weather. I try to run in the afternoon, when the air has warmed up some. If it is too cold out, I run at the gym or at the local pool, where there is a treadmill. The humidity there also helps me breathe. I also watch the pollen count. I am actually not allergic to pollen.. or so says my allergist, but when I can see the stuff in the air or it is all over my car, I can’t help but think of what it is doing to my lungs as I suck it in and out! I guess the biggest thing I am trying to learn is that I don’t have to run super fast to get a good workout or to run marathons. I know running has helped me in many ways already with; my asthma, my self esteem, my overall health, my back pain, and let’s not forget.. my butt is looking great! LOL


Comment by Alyssa


I’ve had asthma my entire life but in the 6th grade, it vanished. I started running cross country in the middle and high school. Doing this has greatly increased my air intake for the better. I have not had an attack since the 6th grade and I believe it was because of the running I forced myself to do that year.

As a kid, I needed to be on an oxygen take and a ventilator when it was too hot or cold outside. My lungs were so weak and I was sick of being held back. My parents were afraid of back-lash from the running but nothing happened. In High School, I had a time of 17:36 for a 5k. i have not been able to do any better but I’m satisfied with that.

Your routine seems very nice. I only suggest a few things to help out. Instead of just seeing how far you can run, test yourself at power and hsort runs every now and then. Doing this will allow you body to explore its limits in a short time before having any attack. Try to run some 400m runs and then stop and walk half (200m) and continue. try this once a week and then twice.
My Cross Country coach had a basic routine every week and below is what it is. If you feel comfortable doing it, give it a try but please watch yourself:

Monday -> 3-4 mile run to start the week.
Tuesday -> 1 mile at race pace(hard), 1 mile at half that pace, and then 1 mile cooldown. These are all done with no breaks
Wednesday -> Hills and more Hills. Do 10 brief uphill jogs and then 5 hard uphill runs. jog or walk down to cool off.
Thursday -> Long Run Day. Run 2 more miles than normal to allow the body to go beyond itself.
Friday -> same run as Monday. But, just add in a half mile of race pace in the middle.
Saturday & Sunday -> Saturdays were the race days and then Sunday was just a 3 mile jog.

This was the basic run for each week. We ran a warmup for 2 miles before each workout and then ran a cooldown after each workout. On long days, we just jog the last 2 miles back to the school because to run 11 miles in one day is a little much and homework needs to get done. lol.

I hope this can help out for the future and just remember to take your time when testing this out. Again, I believe running cured mtself from asthma but I do not know for sure. I just haven’t had any issues since the 6th grade. Good luck and enjoy.


Comment by Vash8504

Hi Vash,
Thanks for sharing! I actually do lots of hills and more hills now that I’m getting stronger. I am exploring in great detail the prospects of getting rid of my asthma entirely through running. What a great day that would be. Now that the heat is returning, we’ll see what kind of effect my strong foundation will have on my asthma. Thanks for the tips!


Comment by taraschiro

Dear “sideofpork:”
Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad to hear I am in good company. I have tried running in the morning but then I am tired all day and my lungs cannot unswell because I am still moving around. I’m especially glad to hear you are running your first marathon! Congratulations! I am encouraged to keep marathon running in my list of goals. Good luck in your run.


Comment by taraschiro

I’m running my first marathon in 2 weeks. I have allergy-induced asthma, and it’s literally taken me years to get to this point. Advair has been a huge help for me, plus I use my Albuterol when needed. There are still times I get winded going up and down the stairs, but my lung capacity has slowly improved over time. Don’t get too frustrated. Be patient and allow some time for your body to improve. I think the walk-runs are a good idea to start.

Have you tried going out in the mornings rather than night? Depending on where you live, the evenings can be brutal for running. I’m also a writer/editor so I like to get away from my desk and go for a quick 3-miler on my lunch break. No matter what my time is, it’s always a nice break from staring at the computer screen. 🙂 Best of luck and keep trying!


Comment by sideofpork

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