A whopping 80% of asthmatics have exercise-induced asthma. I am among that 80%. When I was 15, I was not allowed to run: I was even excused from gym class. Today, I run four times a week. I run and run all I want. So, how did I do it? How did I learn to run? Here’s how I did it. Here are my 9 tips to help you run with asthma.
- Get your asthma under control. Here I did a lot of research. I kept up on all the new medicines on the market. I read up on them. I worked with my doctor and was willing to try new medicines. This is what lead to trials with medicines like Advair and Singulair. Today I take both these medicines every day of my life. This has helped me gain good control of my asthma. So, work with your doctor. Take your medicine as prescribed. Get as good of control of your disease as possible.
- Exercise in warm air. Cold air doesn’t hold much water. So, as this cool, dry air beats on your respiratory tract, it pounds mast cells. These mast cells release chemicals that cause asthma symptoms. When I ran on cold days, my symptoms included chest tightness. My chest actually feels itchy. Phlegm increases. Trouble breathing usually begins when I decide to stop. To solve this problem, I decided not to run outside unless the temperature was 50 degrees or higher. If it’s cold out, I run inside. I run on the treadmill.
- Learn to pace yourself. When I started doing this I was eager to pick up the pace. So, I started sprinting after only a few minutes of warming up. This did not work for me. It resulted in asthma symptoms. So, I learned that I had to pace myself. I usually warm up for about five minutes. Then I pick up the pace as appropriate. Over the course of time, I learned I was able to run faster and faster, but never as fast as my friends. I was fine with this, as I was just happy I was running at all.
- Don’t worry what others think. This is key. I used to run with my wife, and she would outrun me. I ran with a friend, and he did three laps to my one. I told myself not to let this kind of thing bother me. I had asthma. It was awesome that I was even doing this. I decided to keep running at my own pace, even when I was running with friends. Even when my friends mock how slow I run, I keep doing it at my own pace.
- Spend a few minutes warming up. As noted above, it’s best if you warm up for at least five minutes before doing any aerobics. Some asthma experts recommend warming up ten minutes prior to doing aerobics. You can experiment to find what works best for you. This is important because you’ll want to gradually warm your lungs up.
- Tell your friends your asthma rules. When you run with your friends, it’s important that they know your limitations. Make sure they know you need to warm up. Make sure they know you’ll need to pace yourself. I say this based on my own personal experience. I ran with a friend once, and he got off to a quick run rather fast. I tried to keep pace, but it backfired. So, just make sure, if you’re going to run with friends, that they are aware of your limitations.
- Gradually pick up the pace Anyone who has ever prepared for a marathon knows that you gradually increase your speed. You gradually increase your distance. When you have asthma this is even more so important. The more you run, the better capable your body gets at running. The more you run, the more tolerant your lungs and heart get to exertion.
- Know when to stop. I had a friend a few years ago with asthma. She was a runner. She ended up with a really bad cold. She kept running despite this. She was diagnosed with pneumonia. She kept running. She ended up having a severe asthma attack. She was admitted to the hospital for a week. She was not able to run for months. She lost all her progress. She said she learned her lesson. I heed this lesson. If I have symptoms of asthma, If I have a cold, I don’t run. Or, sometimes I do run. But, if I do, I slow down my pace for that day. Sometimes I just walk. Yes, this does prevent me from accomplishing my goal for that week. But, taking a day off today is better than getting really sick and having to take weeks off.
- Don’t worry what people say. Yeah! I’m repeating myself here. But I’m doing it intentionally because this is important. My wife sometimes teases me. My friends do the same. They tell me that I don’t run I jog. My friend walks alongside me as I run. However, they all end up saying things like, “We’re just impressed that you run!” And that’s about it. Sure, you may not be able to keep up with your friends. But you’re doing it. That’s impressive in and of itself.
What to make of this? Most asthma experts agree asthmatics should stay active. This is true no matter how severe your asthma is. Some of my asthma friends enjoy walking. That’s fine! That’s great! Sometimes I walk too. But if you want to try running, perhaps my tips will help you accomplish your goal.