I’ve had exercise induced asthma since I was a child, I remember being at Brownies and getting puffed out as we ran around playing games outside. I was soon given a lovely blue inhaler (the reliever), and later as I got slightly older a lovely purple one (the preventer – which later changed to a brown one as they decided I wasn’t really asthmatic enough to need the purple one after all!)
I was always fairly active as a child despite the asthma, I did dance and swimming regularly and was quite happy during PE lessons at school. Taking my inhaler is something I grew up doing, so it never really bothered me, and eventually I didn’t really need to take it for those activities.
I’ve never had a proper acute asthma attack, and once I became an adult (and pretty much stopped being active) I never really needed to take it at all, unless I had a cold or chest infection.
That was…. UNTIL THE RUNNING.
The first few run’s were alright… I got a bit wheezy during them, but it went away once I recovered… then the slightly longer distances came about (say more than a mile) and I realised I probably should take the reliever after running as the wheezing wasn’t really going away by itself anymore.
I’ve always been a bit wary of taking my reliever inhaler ‘pre-emptively’ before exercise, but when I told the asthma nurse at my yearly clinic review she assured me that there would be no problem in taking it before I set out for my run, and then again during or after the run if I still needed too. So before my next training run I took a puff, and off I went and there was NO WHEEZING! Breathing had never felt so good!
Now we are doing 4 mile runs I do find that even when taking my inhaler before a run I do feel slightly breathless towards the end, but nothing like I feel without taking my inhaler… and its good to know that I can take it again if I need to during or after the run. After all, thats is it’s purpose – to help me breathe, and I suddenly have a much greater appreciation for it!
Things that have helped me whilst running with asthma:
- Taking the reliever before I run – I find probably about 10 minutes before is best to give it time to take effect. It has significantly helped to reduce my wheezing and breathlessness during running, which in turn has made running a much more pleasurable experience for me!
- Taking my preventer inhaler properly – I had never really kept up taking my brown preventer inhaler before running – I didn’t feel like I needed it. But at my last asthma clinic the nurse performed a force vital capacity test, and explained to me properly exactly what the benefits of taking my brown inhaler would be. The force vital test measured what my ‘predicted’ lung function would be (if I had perfect lungs) and taking my preventer inhaler twice a day as prescribed would help get my lungs up to closer to this level – which in turn would help me maintain good lung function whilst running! Since then i’ve really tried to take it as prescribed, and I am beginning to feel the effects!
- Being wary if I am feeling under the weather – I don’t stop training for every little but cough and cold, but I do take extra care if I am feeling under the weather and I recognise that I may need to take my inhaler slightly more often. Sometimes I find it may be best to listen to my lungs and rest and recover instead.
- Dressing for the weather – I wrap up in the cold weather and protect those lungs by wearing layers and a windbreaker if needed.
- Trying to avoid my triggers – My asthma can also be triggered by things other than exercise like pollen, allergies or pollution. I try to bare this in mind when deciding when to run, as it may be worth running at a time of day when air pollution is lower, or going for a slightly easier run on the days with high pollen counts.
Most of all I have realised that the best thing I can do is listen to my body! If I need to slow down the pace during my runs because of breathing problems then I do it, running slowly will inevitably be a better experience than having an asthma attack!
If I had to suggest one thing for those looking to take up running who have asthma it’s to seek advice from a healthcare professional and take things slowly whilst working our your limits! There’s no reason why you can’t run with asthma – you just need to work out what is comfortable for you and then go and have fun!
Do you have asthma? How does it affect you whilst running? I would love to hear your stories in the comments!
Please note I am not a healthcare professional – these are just my personal experiences of running with asthma. I would strongly advise anyone like myself who has asthma to talk to a healthcare professional and get advice for their own personal situation.