Exercising While Managing Asthma
Last updated: February 2022
It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Thinking about getting back into exercise when you haven’t done it for so long because your asthma wouldn’t allow you to? With some grit, determination, and careful forward planning, you can do it. You won’t become an Olympian overnight, it will be a slow and steady process, but my goodness me, will it be worth it.
I started CrossFit in 2018, about a week after a serious scare. It was the wake-up call I needed to do something, to take control of my life, to make sure I would be around to watch my son grow up. It’s taken me 3 years to get to where I am today. I still can’t do everything I want to, but I am worlds away from where I was. I would love to help other asthmatics get back into exercise quicker than I was able to, so here are some things that I found important.
What helped me
Keep a diary
Keep a diary with as much detail as possible. It might seem a lot, to begin with, but in the long run, it will help you identify additional triggers. Here is what I keep in mine:
- The weather, the wind speeds, & the humidity.
- The temperature. Whether I am working out indoors or outdoors, I will always make a note of the temperature. This has helped me learn that anything below 11 degrees and it is better for me to just take the dog for a walk. Anything above 26 degrees means I need to adapt the workout and take out any high-intensity movements.
- The workout. I keep track of every workout (if you go to a CrossFit box, they usually have an app that does it for you!)
- Finally, a detailed record of when I need my inhaler. I always take one puff a few minutes before exercising and then I keep a record of when my asthma kicked in during the workout. I record how long I was able to workout for and which movement I was doing when my attack started. Eighteen months ago, I learned that 6 minutes of exercise was enough to leave me on the floor struggling to breathe and that the devil created burpees. So, I knew in the period following this first workout, I would have to dial it back to 4 or 5 minutes and avoid burpees. I try to finish my sessions before I need medication. I personally feel this is more beneficial for making my lungs stronger.
A workout partner
Find someone who will workout with you on occasion. If you feel confident, you may not need or want anyone to go with you regularly, but you might find that on the days you train with someone else, you’ll feel a little braver and will push yourself a little bit harder.
Check your health!
This is so important. You need to make sure the rest of your body or as much of it as possible is in top form. Stay hydrated and optimize your nutrition.
Pick an exercise that you’ll enjoy that’s adaptable and has a great community. I did not know much about CrossFit when I started and it seemed very daunting, but everyone was so welcoming, and every movement can be scaled to suit any ability. If there is something I cannot do or something that exacerbates my asthma, the coaches will give me a different movement to complete. If the workout is too long or too difficult, I can reduce the number of repetitions. Working out should be something you enjoy, not despise. If you enjoy your routine, you are more likely to stick to it. If you find a community that spreads kindness, you are more likely to return.
All your feelings are valid
It isn’t going to be easy and there will be times that you will want to quit. It is ok to get angry or frustrated. It is okay to be sad or cry. It is okay to have anxiety or be worried. If you did not feel those things, you would not truly be alive. Be grateful you care enough about your progress to feel this way. Believe in yourself and trust your body.
Have you tried getting back into exercise while managing your asthma? How has it gone for you? Share your experience in the comments below!
Editor's Note: Before starting an exercise routine we encourage you to speak with your doctor to make a plan, and monitor/manage your asthma appropriately.
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