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

10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

[…] Oct 6, 2009 … I recently ran a 1/2 marathon in Columbus, Ohio with my childhood friend, without the use of Advair, Singulair, or Albuteral. This was a first.… […]


Pingback by Cure asthma by running | Asthma

I like the helpful information you supply to your articles.

I’ll bookmark your blog and check again right here regularly. I am fairly sure I will be told many new stuff proper right here! Best of luck for the following!


Comment by Asthma Alternative Treatments

This comment is coming in fairly late in the game, but perhaps it will provide a little more hope to those with EIA.

For reference, I am male. I was first diagnosed with EIA at the age of 28. I don’t believe I ever had any symptoms of asthma prior to about age 25. Over the next several years my asthma progressed to where allergens and upper respiratory infections would also trigger attacks. Everything culminated in April 2009, when, at the age of 33, I ended up in the hospital for four days after a severe attack following a cold.

I had increased my activity level a little before the attack, primarily to drop some of the extra pounds I had gained over the last decade. I found that I could participate in most low to moderate intensity activities, but running would invariably bring on a spasm. I got to the point where I would run occasionally, usually 2-3 miles, and everything was fine as long as I drew a few puffs of albuterol about 10 minutes before starting. Eventually I worked up to the 5-6 mile range, still using the albuterol before hand and taking Advair daily.

I decided in April 2011 to give distance running a try. It took a lot of work (and increasing mileage and intensity gradually). By May 2011 I found, after I had failed to renew my prescription in a timely manner, that I was able to get along without the Advair. Whether this was due to the running or not, I’m not entirely sure. Shortly thereafter, I was able to run without using the albuterol first.

To make a long story short, I completed my first marathon at the end of August 2011. I haven’t used controller medications or a rescue inhaler since May, and have been entirely symptom free.

My experience tells me that EIA can be licked with the appropriate physical activity. Just remember that you need to be patient. It took me about 2 years to get to that marathon.


Comment by K. Kelley

Hello K. Kelley! Thanks so much for telling your story!! I’m so happy to hear this. I haven’t had time to get back to you in a timely manner, I’m working feverishly to finish a book I’ve been writing, so I apologize for the delay. But I did want to get back to you to let you know that I truly appreciate you writing in and sharing this. I have many visitors who will benefit from reading your story. Thank you so much, it’s greatly appreciated!


Comment by TaraSchiro

Hi, nice to read your story. I stumbled across it when I was searching for ways to prevent my EIA. My girlfriend believes it is all in the mind. And I think this is true. See you weren’t born with it – so why must you live with it?!

I know people like us need to treat this like a “bad habit” and try and kick it out of our systems. Heck it’s the same way I got rid of my panic attacks.

Thanks for sharing. It’s comforting to know how you cope with your problems, and have even try to understand why. Speaks volumes about your emotional /rational make-up.
Regards, Kapil.


Comment by Kapil

Hi thank you for your website and your post. I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma last year but have had diffuculty running for a long time. My EIA is very unstable with seasonal changes and it had been difficult for me to run. You have inspired me to continue to increase my distance and decrease my run time by running regularly.

Thank You!


Comment by Millie

Thanks for the article…I am on disability with severe asthma, have had it since childhood. My twin sister (the one without asthma) is an ex-marine and ran a marathon a year after I expressed a desire to do so…I’m proud of her, but talk about low self esteem. I’ve always had the idea that somehow if I could condition my body to run a marathon or even walk it, that I could “beat it” asthma that is. thanks for the encouragement. I walk 2-3 miles at least three times a week, out in the desert with my dogs. its the only exercise I ever get. I would welcome any tips on starting out.


Comment by gomikie

Read my most recent post: “Running With Asthma, Is It All In Your Head?”


Comment by taraschiro

I came back home from running yesterday evening, my chest was tight, my lungs were sore and in pure frustration of my EIA I googled “running with exercise-induced asthma”. I think in the back of my mind I was hoping to find a miracle cure or something, I don’t know. I came across your website. I have looked through and seen your progression over the years and feel that we have a very similar condition and passion for running.

I am a runner, I also have exercise-induced asthma. I was diagnosed about a year ago now, when I had started running again after a few years break. I had always been a long distance runner as a child and teenager. It always came naturally, I have the physique and I find so much enjoyment from running, however, looking back I remember the asthma symptoms, which I guess were kept under control by the pure strength of my lungs.

At first, like you, I could not run a mile without having an asthma attack, a year on I just completed my first 10K, but like you, speed is not my friend. I ran the 10K in seconds over 60 minutes. I suffered with my asthma for days after. It hurt. A lot of people assume from my runner’s physique that I am going to rocket round the track and yes; I probably could, if only my lungs would let me. The problem I have is that I find that my lungs give in before my legs. After the 10K the next day my muscles felt fine, I felt fine, it was only my lungs! This is the most frustrating factor.

My ultimate goal is to run a marathon, I hope to run a ½ marathon this year and in 2011 run a full marathon. Having read your story, I am inspired. I have always felt isolated from the other runners, they seem to think that I can just speed up and progress as fast as them, but 2 steps forward of progression for me is then followed by 1 step back and days of painful breathing. I have other friends with asthma who run, but none of them have EIA, so running for them isn’t as much as a problem, unless their asthma is inflamed. Mine becomes inflamed the moment I run down the street.

Thank you for posting your EIA story!!

(Would you like a EIA running partner for the marathon?)


Comment by Emily


Your article is very helpful. My symptoms came last year for first time when I started to get spring allergies. I am hoping that if I keep my allergies in control my asthma would go aways as well. Your story is very inspiring.

Thank You!


Comment by newtothis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: