Running With Asthma

Asthma “Cured” with Long Distance Running
Showing off our medals after the Columbus 1/2 marathon

Showing off our medals after the Columbus 1/2 marathon

I recently ran (September, 2009) a 1/2 marathon in Columbus, Ohio with my childhood friend, without the use of Advair, Singulair, or Albuteral.  This was a first.  I had weaned myself off all the medication during this past summer, 2009, because I was feeling so much better from two things: First, all the running.  The key for me seems to be steady, long distance running that is providing the healing.  The more miles I log, the better my lungs function.  As a disclaimer, lest you think all I do is run, let me say that I log on average about 15-20 miles per week.  Not very much in the grand scheme of things.  When I run I try to do between 4 and 6 miles on weekdays and longer on the weekends.  Consistency is the key.

The second component is mental stability.  A mother of an 11 year old girl wrote to me recently about the medication her daughter is being prescribed during cross country and track season and wondered if I had any thoughts.  Here is my responses to her: “Again, I’m not a Dr., but I will share with you my experience with this. First, looking back at my childhood, I can see that I had EIA and did not know it. My ’symptoms’ began showing up in PE class in middle school. (Asthma is hereditary and my dad had regular allergy induced asthma as a child and grew out of it in his teen years. My asthma seems to be exercise induced.) While running the required 1/2 mile at the beginning of class, in the required time frame, I “couldn’t keep up” and thought I was just out of shape. Through high school, I wanted to be on the cross country team but when I practiced, I was immediately tired. Like, I had to stop and walk within the first two minutes of running. I walked and jogged the rest of the way but I mistakenly thought that I couldn’t do it; I wasn’t good enough. Interestingly enough, this is the same time frame when my parents began having problems with their marriage. I did not know it at the time, but, my 13 year old brain translated their problems into a self esteem issue for me: I’m not good enough. EIA is REAL. Please do not hear me as dismissing symptoms or that it is all in the head. But, what I am now exploring in my own story, is the possibility that my feelings of not being good enough shows up, to this day, in my running. Running is something I want to do, but it is a competitive sport that puts me in an arena where I am constantly comparing myself to other runners. Can I keep up? Can I do what my coach expects of me? Can I beat my time? Even this very second as I type, my lungs are tightening just thinking about it. I will be posting more on this topic in the near future so keep reading the posts. But, let me also answer a few questions for you. Encourage your daughter to run consistently all year long, not just during XC or track season. The reason is that once a person stops running for a few weeks or months, the body then needs to start over again with the new season. Any momentum is lost and needs to be regained.  If she wants to be competitive, she needs to be consistent throughout the year. She needs to keep her base miles, her foundation, really strong so that when she begins a new season of competition she will have a steady base to use as a spring board for improvement. There is a lot of mental stress that will occur if she has not been running and then all of the sudden begins a new season with the expectation of doing better than last year. Her lungs and her brain will go into shock with this new responsibility.  If you read through my posts, you will see that every year I participate in a 7 week 5K series. Each year I improve my PR by about 4 minutes or so but this is only because I run all year long. If I were to keep starting and stopping, I would not have this kind of improvement. If she is serious about wanting to run, and is having symptoms, you should take her to a pulmonary specialist who has patients who run. But, in my experience, two things have become the cornerstone for my improvement: consistency and mental strength. Self esteem, self image, value, self worth; these are all huge barriers to any sport if they are in the negative category. If your daughter keeps running, she will learn mental strength and mental toughness. Running has a way of putting these into perspective real quick. Again, thanks for writing and please keep reading as I work through this myself.”

2009 has been a year of upheaval and tremendous growth at the same time.  I don’t want to hear that my asthma is in my head rather than exercise-induced.  However, I also cannot ignore the fact the my mental strength is getting stronger and stronger and my asthma and my running are getting better and better.  I cannot ignore the evidence that physical and mental healing are happening at the same time.  They seem to be going hand-in-hand.  The reason I put the word “cured” in quotes is because I don’t know if I am.  I don’t know that a person can ever be “cured” of asthma.  Remission, maybe.  I will keep exploring and keep running and keep posting to let you know what I discover.  Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing. (Since this posting, I completed the LA Marathon in 2014, med free)

–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

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