Running With Asthma

Asthma Improved with Running

Well, it’s official.  In my last entry I alluded that I might be on to something, that my exercise-induced asthma was actually better with more mileage.  This seems like an oxymoron because exercise asthma basically means I’m allergic to exercise.  But, I’ve noticed a huge difference between running 2 or 3 miles and running 6 or 8 miles. I’ll tell you the real kicker in a minute, but first, some context. 

Other kinds of asthma (“regular asthma” for lack of a better term) is allergy related.  If you are allergic to scents, dust, animal dander, etc., then for the most part, you can remove yourself from the allergen trigger and your asthma will subside; the airways in your lungs will stop swelling and will begin to relax.  Of course, you might need the aid of an Albuterol if the swelling is severe enough.

But, with exercise-induced asthma, in my particular case anyway, since my trigger is exercise, it is a little more difficult to remove myself from the trigger.  For example, if I run, the airways in my lungs react and become swollen, constricting the air flow. Once this happens, as long as my body is still in motion, my lungs think we are still exercising and therefore keep swelling.  So I personally have a hard time running in the morning or middle of the day because I still have to get through the rest of the day: straightening the house, vaccuuming, work, laundry, shuffling kids, grocery, etc, etc.  As long as I’m still moving, my lungs cannot relax and I cannot attend to my duties as mom, businesswoman and wife.  To combat this, I run in the evening and then sleep it off.

On a side note, my husband has prepared dinner many times when I’ve over-exerted myself and helped with putting the kids to bed while I laid on the couch or bed trying to keep myself from moving into a full-blown asthma attack.  God bless him and his patience is this area.  His other areas are not so patient but that’s another story and another blog!

Now,  here is the interesting part.  I’ve gotten to the point that if I don’t exercise my lungs begin to be symptematic.  I’ve also noticed that I am much more symptematic after running 2 -3 miles than I am after running 4-8 miles.  And, here is the real kicker:  I’ve decreased my Advair from 250 to 150.  More running, less medication!  My Dr. wasn’t too sure about me lowering the dosage but I insisted I wanted to try because I was feeling so much better.  I told her I could always go back.  But, 2 weeks later, I’m still feeling great. 

Last week I got myself into some trouble with all the increased running.  I discovered I was overtraining for the upcoming 1/2 marathon.  My legs were killing me.  My body was tired.  My lungs kept up, which was a welcome relief, but the rest of me couldn’t handle it.  This, I’m told, is a classic beginner mistake.  Too much, too soon.  So I took a break.  A funny thing happend.  By Sunday evening (3 days after my last painful run), and yesterday (Monday) afternoon, my lungs felt like they were closing!  Because of all the resting and taking it easy, fluid was building up, my voice changed, I had to keep taking deep breaths.  My lungs needed the exercise to open back up. 

So last night, for my long run for the week, I ran 8 miles.  This included 3 miles of cross country hills.  I did fine!  My body was rested, my lungs sucked in the air and for the first time, I felt like they were actually thanking me for the exercise instead of punishing me.  They want to work!  I like to run, but I guess I will  be running whether I like it or not because if I rest too much, and don’t get enough exercise, my lungs react by swelling the airways.

The key for me, and the hard part because I’m impatient, is to go slow.  I tried really, really hard last night to keep myself at a 12 minute mile because I was going far, but I coudn’t do it.  My body wants to be at a 10 minute mile.  My brain and my heart want to do an 8 minute mile but that’s for the future.  I ran the 8 miles in 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Through the hills I did 12 minute miles so I must have gone faster than a 10 minute mile somewhere along the way.  The Garmin ran out of battery so I will never know.

If you’re struggling with this like I am, there’s hope!  I think I’m going to start my own definition of exercise-induced asthma.  Instead of being allergic to exercise, I’m going to say that my lungs are addicted to exercise and I have to feed the addiction or they will rebel.  This time,  not from exercise, but from the lack of it.

Running Farther
September 18, 2008, 3:58 pm
Filed under: Asthma | Tags: , ,

This week is another milestone and another epiphany.  My lungs feel better after running 5 miles than they did running 2 or 3.  Weird!  I’m tired, but, my lungs are more open and not the part of my body holding me back today.  Today my muscles are sore.  My short-term goal is the same:  to do the 1/2 marathon November; even if I have to run/walk, run/crawl.  This past Sunday I hiked 2.5 miles up a mountain and then jogged 2.5 back down again. I could hear my heart beating out my mouth!  It was clicking.  (I also have MVP) If I add the distance from the truck to the trail, it was a total of 5.65 miles.  Last night I did a slow run of 5 miles.  Two of those miles were cross-country through the hills.  My husband said he sees a difference in my asthma overall with the increased running. 

My pace isn’t much faster (12 minute miles last night) but I’m running farther than ever before.  For the past two weeks, I’ve cranked up my runs from 2 to 3 miles each time to 4 to 5 miles each time.  And, my lungs are tolerating the longer runs better than the shorter runs. This is news worthy because every article I’ve read about exercise-induced asthma says that the worst sport you could pick for this type of asthma is long distance running.  They always recommend swimming because of the ‘moist air.’  Baloney.  I’m going to take this as far as I can and prove them all wrong.  It took me 2 years to be able to run this far, and it might take me another 5 years to run a full marathon, but mark my words:  I’m going to do it.  And I won’t be wearing a skirt when I do.   I’ll keep you posted.

I Can Run With Asthma

Yes, I can run with exercise-induced asthma.  But not without a little bit of consequence.  On my last asthma post, I was gearing up for race #4 in the 7 week 5K series.  I posted a 31:45, a PR.  Last week, race #5, I posted a 31:31.  Not bad but I paid for it for 3 days.  Yesterday, for race #6, I came in at 32:25.  Ugh. It was very humid last night.  However, my lungs feel much better and not so stressed as compared to last week.

Why this obsession with times?  I keep asking myself why I can’t just relax and enjoy it.  The obvious answer is that time is a bench mark for success.  It is a tangible result of improvement.  But, so is being able to do the race in the first place.  I can’t loose sight of that.  Last week I spoke to a friend of my mom’s, who is also a cross country coach for one of the local high schools.  He asked if I did a 7 or 8 minute mile. I rolled my eyes and laughed and said no but that I was very proud of my accomplishments, which I explained to him that I had gone from a consistent 15 minute mile two years ago to a consistent 10:30 mile, and that my new PR was 31:31 for a 5K and that in the first mile I clocked 9 minutes.  He said, “Oh.”  He wasn’t impressed.  I was hurt.  For days.

Look, running with asthma is difficult but it can be done.  The improvements definately come if I am consistent but they come in baby steps.  I’ve gone from a 46:00 5K to a 31:31.  That’s improvement!  I can’t ignore it.  I’m not going to lie to you.  In order to improve you have to push and if you push you will pay for it.  Like, sitting still for two days.  If you can’t afford that (neithe can I so I am in constant battle with my ego), then don’t push as hard.  You still have to push to improve, and it will hurt, but the benefit is that my lungs are so, so, so much stronger than they used to be.  Now, they actually crave cardiovascular exercise.  I just need to find the balance between too little and too much.

If you want to run with asthma, just do it.  Start small, take baby steps, be consistent, and just do it.

Asthma Runner Improving with more Running

Well, so far, my theory is proving to be correct.  It has been quite a challenge to become a runner with exercise-induced asthma.  All of the asthma information I’ve seen says that certain sports, such as running, puts more of a strain on the lungs than sports like swimming.  Go figure I would pick the most challenging sport.  Welcome to my world.  In my last post in this category, I expressed frustration at my seemingly lack of improvement and the possibility too much down time in between runs was the culprit.  I experimented over the weekend and I think my theory is correct.

When I first started running, I could not run a full mile without stopping.  I had to walk-run the entire mile.  I gradually worked my way up to three miles.  I could not run two days in a row.  My lungs stayed swollen for two days and then I would run and start the whole process over again.  This went on for months.  This spring, I think I’ve finally crossed a threshold.  Now, if I rest too much, I begin to experience asthma symptoms.  If I sit at my desk too long the fluid begins to build up, I start clearing my throat, my breathing is labored.  So last Thursday I decided to see if my lungs were trying to tell me something.

Tuesday: hills (3 miles), Thursday:  road walk/run (4 miles), Friday: dirt path (2.4 miles), Sunday: dirt path (2.4 miles).   This is a first and a major improvement.  I’ve never been able to run two days in a row before.  Especially after doing four miles.  I’m thinking that my lungs have caught up to the three-runs-per-week schedule and now go in reverse if I sit too long.

This is good.  My speed isn’t improving but I definitely feel stronger.  I’m sure the speed will come with the added runs each week.  I’ll keep you posted.

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