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Knowing Your Boundaries

Good asthma control is the goal of any asthma treatment program. It should allow you to do all the things you enjoy. But, you also need to know your limits. You should be aware of your boundaries. Those lines you do not cross. Here’s what to know.

An asthmatic who exercises

Bob was an exercise guru.

I had a patient with pneumonia many, many years ago. He was an exercise guru. He ran just about every day. He even taught exercise classes. He was in, like, perfect shape. He even had a six pack. So, he’s not the typical patient that I see.

Well, I often saw him running through town. I’d see him even during the coldest winter days. Once I even thought I saw him during a blizzard. I was stopped at a stop sign. I saw the figure of a man jogging past me. He was wearing a winter coat and ski mask. He looked at me briefly, “Bob?” I inquired out loud. I did a double take and Bob was gone. Like, that’s dedication to run in such horrid Michigan weather.

Well, needless to say, one day he ended up in my care. He was diagnosed by a doctor with pneumonia. He had a fever. He was very weak. He just didn’t look like himself at all. And, so, I ended up sitting in his room every four hours. I had to give him albuterol breathing treatments.

Not recognizing your limits with asthma

One day, he crossed THAT line.

So, I got to know Bob pretty well during the ensuing weeks. We got to talking. And, one day, we talked about Bob. He brought it up, not me. He said:

“You know John, I think I crossed the line. You know I run every day. It becomes a habit, almost. You just get up every day, take a shower, get dressed, and go for a run. And you feel like you can’t miss a day. So, even if you get a cold, you just run through it. My cold got really bad. I talked to my doctor. He told me I should take a few days off from running. I figured, ‘Nah! I’m fine. I’m young. I’m healthy. I can handle this.’

“Well, wasn’t I the fool? Look at me now. I’m stuck in here for two weeks because I crossed the line. So, how much progress do you think I will lose now? I can tell you it will be a lot more than if I had just taken a few days off to get over this. So, I learned my lesson the hard way, you might say.”

He paused, looked up at me, and said, “Don’t let this happen to you. Know your boundaries.”

A lesson learned

I still think of Bob’s lesson.

As a kid, I would often cross the same line he did. I was a non-compliant asthmatic. I would often end up in hospitals as a result. So, what Bob said was well heeded by this asthmatic.

A month ago I came to that realization that I’m too out of shape. I was winded just walking through the house. I was feeling sluggish and blah! So, I decided to put down the fork. I decided to get a membership at the health club. And I re-started my exercise program. I started running my asthmatic way of running all over again.

Man was I cruising. In fact, last Thursday I got up and weighted myself. “Woo Hoo!” I thought, as I saw that I had lost 10 pounds. This motivated me even more. I went to the health club and had my best workout ever. Man, was I feeling motivated.

But then I hit the wall

I got a cold. As respiratory viruses usually do, it worked it’s way to my chest. I can feel it down there. I feel the chest tightness. I feel the mild shortness of breath. Yes, I needed my rescue medicine with increased frequency.

Like, this is definitely a wall. A line is drawn in the sane I wants so bad to cross it. I want so bad to go to the health club and work out. I want to keep up the pace. I want to use up this energy. I want to lose more weight.

But, I know better. I know I can’t. I know I shouldn’t. I know I need to take this weekend off. I need to rest and recover.

What to make of this?

It’s good to push yourself. It’s good to stay physically active. But, you also have to know your boundaries. You have to have a line that you do not cross. And you do not cross it. Bob has managed to avoid seeing me since that day. But, I still see him from time to time running swiftly through town.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • LinnM
    6 months ago

    I love to ride my bike and do water aerobics weekly. It’s difficult when I have a cold or an asthma flare. I want to keep going. Sometimes my husband or my pool friends have to tell me no. I know they are looking out for me and when I look back I can see that they were right.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Isn’t great when we have people in our life that care enough to when enough is enough? Sounds like you have a great husband and very good friends, LinnM!

    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi LinnM and thanks for your post. As Lyn said, it’s easy to understand your desire to push through your symptoms and stay active. You’re fortunate, indeed, to have a good support system. Keep up the good work! Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo and thanks for your post. Glad to see this article resonated so clearly with you. Also glad to see you sharing the boundaries you found that work so well for you. It sounds like you have a good understanding of your condition and know how to manage it quite well. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    6 months ago

    I have learned I do well walking on a treadmill but running does not work as well. I can’t run stairs and I fare better if I use my rescue inhaler prior to exercising. Those are my boundaries and I am good with that. I can hike at a good pace for miles. I have done some nice hikes to lighthouses and waterfalls, but give me stairs or running and I get pretty short of breath. I have walked the Mackinac Bridge several times with no problems. Used to be upset about not being able to run but now I plan trips so I can take walks and hikes.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    6 months ago

    I didn’t know you could walk the Mackinac Bridge. That would be kind of neat to do. John. Site Moderator.

  • Shellzoo
    6 months ago

    Every Labor Day they open up the bridge for walking. I would have my rescue inhaler with me. You don’t realize how far up hill and how long the bridge is until you walk it but, so many people walk the bridge, you can’t really walk at a fast pace. I think there is a first aid station on the bridge and there are National Guard all along the bridge who can communicate for help if the need arose. If you have a fear of heights, I would not do the walk.

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