Running With Asthma

If You Are Running with Asthma, Keep a Training Log
March 10, 2009, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Asthma

I was about to say that running longer distances makes me faster in shorter distances.  But then a cross country runner responded to my one of my posts and she says she’s getting slower, not faster.  This is perplexing to me.  She says she is running the same as last year but I suppose to really see if she is running the same as last year, she would have to show us her running journal.  By the way, I highly, highly, highly recommend tracking your miles, however few, in a running journal or log.  Sometimes we don’t think we are improving but once we check the log we realize we are light years ahead of where we were last year, or even last month.

So back to the cross country runner.  Maybe there is some new element in the air this year that is causing her to run slower.  Or maybe she isn’t logging as many miles overall that she used to.  Or maybe she lost some of her base over the winter that she isn’t aware of.  Or, maybe, she has just stayed static in her runs and so her body has not been challenged to improve.  Let me flesh this last theory out a little bit with my own story.

It is not news for me to say that in the summer my husband and I run a 7 week long 5K series; one of the miles is through the hills.  I am trying to improve my time (see previous posts on this to catch up if you’re new).  I have run two 1/2 marathons and have goals to run more of them, including a full marathon.  But, I really want to get my 5K down to 27 minutes this season and 24 minutes next season.  So far my PR is 31:31 and my slowest overall time is 46:00 on the same course.

I have realized, and this is true for all runners, not just those of us with asthma, that the more I push my body, the more I improve overall.  Let me tell you why I am pointing out the obvious.  Many people have written to me that “I am doing the same schedule of exercises and I’m posting slower times.”  I can’t answer them specifically because I haven’t met them in person to get all the details and I am not a physician or trainer.  I am a runner trying to figure it out like everyone else.  But, I do know, that in my own training, if I stay the same, I don’t improve.

Last week I came home from a six mile run and I told my husband that it was “one giant suffer-fest.”  I hated it.  Everything hurt.  I struggled.  The chatter in my head was loud.  I really had to buckle down and force myself to keep going.  Why?  Why was it such a struggle?  Because, as the responders to my posts have said, I’m not really doing anything different so why all of the sudden am I struggling?  I’ve been doing 6 mile runs once a week for a year now.

One look at my watch gave me the answer. I have a Garmin that connects to the satellite so it tells me how many miles I’ve gone and how fast.  It also breaks it down per mile.  And therein was the answer:  my first mile was a 9:20!  Coming up the hill I posted a 14:30 mile.  Overall, I arrived back at the house in about the same time as all the previous six mile runs.  But a check with the watch told me I was running two minutes faster in the beginning half of the run than I was a few months ago.

Also according to the watch, my overall average mile had dropped from a 12:00 minute average pace to an 11:00 minute average pace. This is progress people! However, had I slowed the first few miles a bit, I would have had more energy in the last three miles and most likely would not have struggled as much. Too fast at the start = twice as slow in the back half. It should be the other way around.

So here is my adivce for today for those of you who can’t figure out why you are running slower than before.  Get yourself a running journal/log (mine came from Runner’s World with the subscription) or you can make your own on the computer.  It needs a space for every day of the week, distance, time, course, and notes.  In the notes category, put information such as weather, heart rate, temperature, mood, lungs, etc. This is especially key if your asthma is affected by the environment.  You can record the weather and if you struggled that day, put that down as well.  You might see a trend emerge.

Second, get yourself a Garmin and start tracking those miles.  If I hadn’t had run with the watch, I would not have known that I was actually getting faster.  My overall time was the same on the six miles, 1:08:30, but I struggled a lot more because my first few miles were much faster.  I would not have known this without the watch to tell me. I would have just thought that I was struggling much more than I used to and I would have come to the false conclusion that I was getting worse instead of better.

Record keeping is the first key to understanding how you run with asthma.

–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

3 Comments so far
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Hi, thank you for your stories! I agree and need to remember that alot of asthma is sometimes made worse by our minds, fear, emotions.

Saying that, I have to admit that I am still nervous and scared about running with asthma. last year I waited until asthma season was over to really start running and most was done indoors on a treadmill (midwest winters!!). I have loved running outside and am working towards the 1/2 marathon. I did a 10k last week and it went very well. I am now realizing the 1/2 marathon is in the middle of asthma season for me (i signed up for the race anyway months ago) and I am starting to get nervous. Seems silly but I have just changed from Singular/Advair to just Serevent and supplementing with magnesium, Bcomplex, C, etc to help my body fight allergens/asthma. The side effects from Singulair/Advair were bad last year and this year the side effects were too much for me to handle anymore. Serevent is new to me, are there others that have used Serevent? If so, I would love to hear from you.


Comment by Renee

So glad to find other runners with asthma! I’ve had asthma my entire life, and I’ve been running for the past 10 years. My asthma falls into that 20% non-EIA category. My attacks are induced by infection: a cold, a sinus infection, bronchitis, whatever. What this means is when I’m healthy, I build miles with few problems; I take my maintenance meds and rarely need my rescue inhaler. Unfortunately, if I catch the merest cold, I may find myself unable to walk from the couch to the bedroom, despite rescue inhalers and oral steroids.
On average, I have attacks like this 4+ times a year, and the recovery of my lung function takes about 4-6 weeks each time. What that means is that, although I have been running more or less consistently for 10 years, I am very much a novice. I once ran 6 miles continuously, 6 years ago. Since then, I have been unable to build back up to 2. Every time I start to make progress, someone around me sniffles, and I go down for the count. I’m hoping some of you understand my frustration with the stops and starts, the limitations, and even worse, the weeks when I can’t run. My family is supportive of my continuing efforts, but can’t understand my refusal to accept interval runs up to 2 miles as good enough.
I’ve tried the experts, all the latest treatments, and I am zealous about my medications. I wear a mask when its cold, take my inhaler before I run, and always warm up and cool down. None of this stops me from catching a cold, or that cold from stopping me in my tracks. The sports and running experts I’ve talked to tell me that if I just get my asthma “under control”, then my training will naturally get better. The medical experts tell me that my asthma is wonderfully controlled, and there’s nothing they can do about about “viral-triggered” attacks. Both tell me that I will have to accept these limitations, or that I should be happy just to walk.
I am hoping my fellow active asthmatics can help me resist going quietly into that good night. Any advice, motivation, suggestions, anything…would be helpful.


Comment by Melissa

Yes, my Garmin makes a world of difference! They are expensive, but very worth it. I actually found mine on Craigslist for a fraction of the cost of a new one.


Comment by Alyssa

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