Running With Asthma


If You are Running with Asthma, You Might Need to Start Over
August 11, 2013, 6:52 pm
Filed under: Asthma | Tags: , , , ,

On April 29, 2013, I was told I had a five centimeter mass in my lower right lung.

Seriously? I had speed walked (we were talking)  a 5K charity event on Saturday morning and attended a formal gala charity event Saturday night with no problems. Sunday morning for church I was tired; but, I was up early and out late the day before so why wouldn’t I be tired? Sunday afternoon I was starting to ache and by early evening I had a fever of 102. It hurt to take a deep breath. I had abdominal pain. On Monday I went to the doctor, who sent me to the ER, and was told for the fifth time since January that my lung x-ray was completely clear, but, according to the CT Scan, I had a “ginormous” (doctor’s explanation) mass in my lung that was of “deep concern.” My white blood cell count was high.

They checked for cancer, valley fever, and 25 other diseases since I had been on a mission trip to Mexicali for Easter and our house had been under remodel construction since Thanksgiving.  I had been coughing since January and every x-ray had been clear, including that day in the ER.  I spent three days in the hospital and the entire month of May in bed and on antibiotics. Joy. My pulmonologist did not want me running after the month of bed-rest. “Wait a while.”

So, to re-cap, I did not run from Christmas to the middle of July.

My first attempt to run was by default and it HURT. My daughter announced she was going for a mile long jog so I decided to follow behind with the dog; we were going to walk. This was actually the first time I had walked the dog since the pneumonia. My daughter takes off and Ginger decides to take off after her! I had to keep pulling her to slow down, but Ginger was bound and determined to not lose my daughter. Ginger’s trot felt like a full out run to me. I had to keep stopping her but she wouldn’t stop for long. (Why is it that when I WANT to run, she feels the need to sniff every single blade of grass on the entire street but when I want to walk and let her sniff, the only thing she wants to do is run?!)

My second attempt was much like the first, minus the dog. I took a two mile walk, no jogging, and felt like I had run a marathon. I had to take more naps. The doctor started me back on Singulair at night, which I am still taking. I need it right now to get me back over the hump while I regain my base.

During these many months of being sick, and then really, really sick, I received many comments and questions from readers of this blog. Oh the guilt of not running and yet encouraging them to keep running! Last year, from August, 2012-June, 2013 was one of the worst years on record for stress for me and my family. A banner year of chaos. Which is probably why I ended up in the hospital. But this blog kept me going. The reader comments kept me going. My mental state was so low during all the sickness that I seriously considered stopping running. I had no interest whatsoever. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and not come out. That shows how sick I was; I am a firm believer that running clears out the cobwebs in your body, your brain, and your spirit. It’s the miracle cure for everything but I just wanted to give up.

But, as I began to recover and feel more myself, I also began to feel like a schlep. I need the exercise to stay healthy. I do not want to go back to a life of medication and sickness. I am starting over.

I am participating in the annual cross country 5K summer series at the local college and my first week time was 39:07, ten minutes off my PR; my second week was 38 something and my third week was 36:18.  Two more weeks to go in the series. I’m coming back but it is a slow process. I have to follow my own advice and be patient. I had to let go of my ego about being last again in the 5K race and just be grateful that I was on the course and not in the hospital or in bed. My words to all of the readers were coming back to haunt me: start slow, lose the ego, don’t be embarrassed about walking, just be easy on yourself while you build your speed and strength. Meh.  My goal is to run the LA Marathon in March of 2014.

Thank you for writing in, thank you for not quitting, thank you breathing with me.

–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 http://www.amazon.com/No-Arms-Legs-Problem-happens/dp/0986305308 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble http://www.NoArmsNoLegsNoProblem.com


16 Comments so far
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Hello Tara! I stumbled upon this blog while I was frantically searching for advice on completing a full marathon with asthma. I was not diagnosed with EIA until high school, and even then, it was very mild. In fact, it was so mild, I never experienced a full asthma attack until I ran 17 miles. So…I have run 3 half marathons pretty successfully (10:15 mile pace) with no issues. Never had to take an inhaler. But….we are in the 6th month of training, and every time we have run over 16 miles, like clockwork…I have an asthma attack at 17. I have taken Albuterol beforehand, and in mile 16…doesn’t seem to help. I sleep at least 8 hours the night before a long run, eat well, all the necessities. I am soooo frustrated right now. I went out to do my 22 miler today and had to pull over and get myself through an attack at 17, like usual. And then, my breathing was ruined and I couldn’t go past 19. I am questioning how physically possible it is to run a full marathon with asthma. Most of the people I am seeking advice from (non-asthmatics) are encouraging me to continue with the full…but I would rather be able to run the half and be done with it than have an attack at 16 miles and then walk the rest of the marathon. At the same time, I don’t want to be ‘the quitter”. Is this a training issue? (I assume, from reading some of the other posts, that for someone with asthma to run a full marathon, they might need longer than 6 months?) I am at a loss, 2 weeks away from this run. Any advice?

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Comment by Cass

Hello Cass! Thanks for writing in. Wow! You’re two weeks away from your goal. I can feel the anxiety in your words. First, I cannot comment on whether or not this is a training issue because you didn’t leave many details and also I am not a training coach. However, it sounds like you have a really strong base if you have run 3 half marathons at a 10 minute pace. That’s really great. It sounds like you are in good shape. You also did not mention how far past high school you are. Or over what time period you have run the three half’s; all during this year? Or, one per year? It makes a difference. The point I’m getting at is this: are you trying to train for a full marathon in six months? Or are the three half’s fairly recently and so you are building on those to run the full? That might answer the training question. If you’re trying to run a full marathon independently of those then maybe it is too much too soon. But if they were within the last year then you should be fine.
But my real answer is this: how bad do you want it? If you want the medal bad enough from the full marathon then you will need to put the ego on hold and adjust. I would suggest the following: slow your pace by 30 seconds per mile and take a minute every now and then to walk. The goal for your first marathon is to finish. Don’t worry about your time for this first one. Once you have the experience of running the full marathon, then you can worry about building a faster time for the next one. if you can go see a reliable sports hypnosis person, but make sure you get a good recommendation. I’m sure that part of the problem at this point is that you’re letting your head get in the way of what your body and your lungs can do. Not that you’re not having real symptoms, believe me, however the head also has something to do with it. Go back and read my post “Is it all in your head?” This might help. Now that you know that you’re having problems at mile 16 and 17, your head and your body are expecting it and you are having anxiety wondering if it’s going to happen again. And now you are under the two week deadline to be able to finish the whole thing. You can do this, you can finish, but you’re going to have to let go of Your expectations. Don’t quit; you trained too hard for this. Just slow down a little bit and take care of yourself during the first 16 miles so that you can finish the last ten. Slowing down to a 12 minute mile for the duration, and finishing, is more respectable then going to fast and not being able to finish. And one last thought, if those 3 half marathons were a long time ago and you are trying to run a full marathon in six months independently of any type of a strong running base, then you might have to sit this one out. lease let us know how you did! Waiting to hear.

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Comment by TaraSchiro

Hi Tara! Thanks for replying so fast. Yes, I am pretty anxious about this now, and we all know that doesn’t help with asthma. I did the half marathons in May 2011, November 2011, and November 2012. So, yes it’s been a year. I apologize I left some details out…a little foggy lately. 🙂 I am 31 years old, so I’ve had the EIA diagnosis (which, might I add in college changed to mild asthma…not sure if that makes a difference) for 13 years. (Did I add right? lol.)

I am totally ok with slowing my pace. I’ve been averaging about 11-11:30 miles with the full training. And once I feel the chest tighten, I take it down to about 12 minute miles. I still have the attack at 17….so I am guessing that is 50% mental.

My doc suggested taking a Zyrtec 24 hours before, in case it’s allergy related. At this point I am wondering if something to ease anxiety would help too.

I appreciate your words so much, as it’s been difficult to take advice from people who don’t go through the same breathing problems. Their first reaction is 1. is it a panic attack? and 2. just walk. There is so much more to consider. I do feel very fortunate to have gotten through half marathons up to this point! I think I really am letting my anxiety take over right now….that feeling when you can’t breathe….terrible. 😦 I thought I had conquered it today… I took the day off work, ran by myself, played my favorite music, and it was beautiful 55 degree, non-humid weather. And I felt fantastic right up until 17.

So, knowing that it’s been over a year since I did the half marathons, do you still think it’s safe/feasible for me to continue with the full?

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Comment by Cass

Hi Cass, unfortunately I cannot answer that question for you; only you can decide if you should participate in the full. But here is my advice to aid the decision.
Facts: you only have two weeks to decide; in the last two weeks you need to start tapering down, not up, to allow your body to rest for the event. Therefore there is a short window to get the 22 miler under your belt. You need to accomplish the 22 miler in order to have the confidence to go the full 26. I would say if you can’t get past the 17 in training then you most likely will not get past it in the event. So what do you do?
Solution: pick a day soon, so you honor the tapering down period, to do the 22 miler and practice failing. Training is not just for the legs and lungs, it’s also for the brain. You need to experience success and failure during training to know how to handle it during the event. When you get to mile 15, stop and walk a bit. Ask yourself how you’re doing, take an assessment. Then run. Then at 16 so the same thing. Keep alternating and asking yourself am I dying? Am I going to pass out? Am I anxious? Do I have a fear of success? Keep alternating walking and jogging and talking positive and encouraging thoughts to yourself, I’m fine, I’m stronger than I think, I’m not stopping, etc. If your lungs squeeze, then walk until you get to mile 22. Don’t try to run. But my all means keep walking until you get to 22. The reason you must so this is so you can have a conversation with yourself: what happens if I have an attack during the event? Am I willing to walk the rest of the way or would I stop and quit? How did I feel walking during the training run? Was a lot of it in my mind? How did I feel physically?
The only way I see you completing the event is to allow yourself to get the 22 miles under your belt, get it into your experience, even if you walk. You need to show your brain, see? I went 22 miles and didn’t pass out. Tell yourself, if I have to walk during training, so what; I’m doing 22 miles and I’m not taking no for an answer. Don’t be stubborn and insist on running. This training run is for your brain only so you can show it that you can go the distance. Then, on event day, you will have the experience of the distance and you can choose to walk or run based on the assessment of going the 22 during training. Make sense? Let us know! Best wishes!

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Comment by TaraSchiro

Hi Tara! With your fantastic advice of slowing down to a 12:00 mile and getting out of my own head….I completed my first full marathon on Sunday. I did NOT have an asthma attack at mile 17, and I had an amazing time. I had my trusty inhaler on my arm the whole way and didn’t even use it (except pre-race). THANK YOU.

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Comment by Cass

AAHHHHHHH!!!!!! Fantastic news! I’ve been thinking about you everyday and was getting ready to ask you what the verdict was. I’m so excited for you! CHEERS my dear! Tara

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Comment by TaraSchiro

P.S.
My birthday is on 6th october. Got an e-mail from HR in my company about a charity run. There are categories starting from 3K walk to HM.

I know for a fact at this point of time I am not cut out for even a 10 K walk let alone HM.

It still tempts me a great deal to go for HM.
what do you guys suggest?

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Comment by Ashish

Hello Ashish! First of all, Happy Birthday! Second, I am sorry to be blunt, but I think you are just plain out of shape. I’m sure that ten years of smoking has not helped your lungs. I hope you have quit. Even if you do not have COPD right now, the cigarettes are still doing a lot of damage. They are weakening your lungs. Remember, the lungs are a muscle. They must be exercised in order to remain strong. The cigarettes and lack of exercise may have triggered the asthma to come back. You can do the running events but you will need to stop smoking and then start slowly getting in a regular, consistent exercise routine to strengthen the lungs and other muscles. You can do this! Keep us posted!

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Comment by TaraSchiro

Hay Tara, thanks for replying..
i completely quit it a year back (I really mean it) all these years i was never out of exercise so god knows how my lung muscles have become weeker now after quitttiing smoking 😦
I understand your point of regular exercising to make muscles strong but how much ever hard I am trying it would’nt help. My stamina just wouldnt get any better.
It sucks!

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Comment by Ashish

Hello Guys, I am Ashish from India. I am feeling very miserable for what has been happening with me last one year!

I was an active sportsman and a proude one too throughout my school/collage days. Though I had child asthma which as per doctors got completely cured- I used to feel something wrong with me when I went for high altitiude trecks. My lungs would hurt and breathing become difficult. Worse I started smoking and continued to do so for good 10 years.

Just last year July/Aug. I started feeling short of breath even on climbing staires/on flat walkes. Then followed a series of visits to doctor and finally realiszed i had asthma upon Spirometry test (no- even though i am ex-smoker doctors say i dont have COPD thank heavens!

so my question to all my friemds is- how did it re-surface after 27 years after my childhood asthma had disappeared?

It sucks! walking on trecks for 25-30 km.s a day was a cake walk. I can’t even walk 5 km. now w/o having to exert all possible energy in my body and then feeling tired for next 2-3 days!

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Comment by Ashish

Oh my goodness, apparently I was not the only one that did not know the extent of your illness. I am so sorry to hear of your “set back”. The worst part for me about not being able to run, is that I use running to deal with stress……and if you are stressed by not being able to run, then where do you turn? This blog has been heaven sent, and i hope you can re-read some of your older blogs and receive the same guidance and reassurance that I did when I first came across them!
Be well!

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Comment by Elisa

Thanks, Elisa! I so appreciate your continued support! And yes, I went back and read a few of the posts and you are right…there is some great wisdom there 🙂 LOL I hope you are well. Best wishes to you.

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Comment by TaraSchiro

I also had no idea you were that sick. Glad you’re doing better. I feel that way even after a few weeks of not running. A lot of times with asthma you have to start back at square one, even when you’re not a newbie. I wish you lots of success and I’m going to continue following your blog :0

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Comment by Elisheva

Thanks for breathing with me!

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Comment by TaraSchiro

HI Tara! I had no idea that you had been that sick… I’m thankful that you are doing better! I’m sure that it was hard not being able to run! This is the 3rd year that I have been running and I love it… I just don’t get a chance to run as much as I’d like to, usually 2 to 3 times a week is about all I can get in ! I have done several 5ks and hopefully eventually will be able to try a 10k and so on… if I can make it! LOL! Good luck to you ! It sounds like you are doing great already! Take care! God bless, Aleisha

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Comment by Aleisha { Riffell }Sanders

Thanks Aleisha! I’m happy to hear you are still running! Maybe one year we can coordinate a half or full marathon in Ohio together 🙂 ❤

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Comment by TaraSchiro




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