an embarrassed woman holds her hand up in front of her face while women do burpees behind her

Find Your Reason

My mama’s first words when I told her I was thinking of starting CrossFit were “That is not a good idea. I don’t think you should be doing that as it’s not safe." I was annoyed at her lack of support, but was she right? I had not exercised in almost 2 years and was so anxious before that first session that I spent almost an hour giving myself a pep talk in front of the mirror.

My asthma was severe

Five months prior I had experienced my fourth asthma attack in 9 months that had required emergency medical care. My doctor at the time warned me that I was at high risk of my organs shutting down due to a lack of oxygen in my body for a prolonged period. Despite that warning, I still do not think, hand on heart, that I was aware of the seriousness of my illness, even with a diagnosis upgrade to severe asthma and new, additional medication.

I desperately wanted to be able to pick up my son and cuddle him without having to check that my inhaler was within reach first. To go out and laugh with my husband. To run with my dog. I needed to change my life; my family deserved better. I deserved better.

Trying Crossfit despite my asthma

Now, I knew I could not walk up the stairs, play with my son, cough, laugh or sneeze without having an asthma attack, so I’m not entirely sure what drove me to try CrossFit. It consists mainly of aerobic exercise, calisthenics, and Olympic weightlifting – all things I knew I absolutely could not do at this time.

The first session ended with a 6-minute workout of as many rounds as possible of 10 squats, 10 sit-ups, and 10 burpees. I think the devil invented burpees. Just 30 seconds in I was a blubbering, wheezing mess. 30 seconds. That is all my lungs had in them.

With a few (or ten) puffs of my inhaler, I completed the 6 minutes. I cried the entire way home. My husband couldn’t fathom why as I was now able to breathe, but I felt so ashamed as a room full of aspiring athletes had just watched me crumble.

Conquering new challenges

It was at this point I realized the seriousness of the situation. I have had asthma since I was a toddler, but in those almost 30 years, it had never been this dire. Not just physically, but also mentally. I had been avoiding social situations for 18 months because I did not want to have an attack in front of strangers.

Now I had done it. I made it through those 6 minutes. I was alive, albeit very embarrassed and with a tight chest, but I did not need to feel like that. I have a chronic illness and I had decided to work on that to improve my quality of life. It took me a few more "I want the ground to swallow me" sessions before I realized that ultimately it does not matter what other people think. They can have an opinion, but only you truly know what you have experienced and how hard you have fought to be where you are.

On this occasion, my mama was wrong about it not being a good idea and I was glad I did not listen to her (probably the only time I have ever felt this way). You cannot always wait for the perfect time; is there ever one? I would still be waiting now if the decision had been in my mama’s hands. I will never regret heading to that first Crossfit session knowing that I could have an asthma attack.

Have you faced a physical challenge (like Crossfit) with asthma and come out better for it? We would love to hear about your experience.

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