What I Wish I Knew- Running With Asthma

Now that I’ve been running for a year, I’m going to share some things I wish I would have learned a long time ago about running with asthma.  

  1. The doctor is your best friend.– If you have asthma and aren’t working with a doctor to make sure it’s controlled, you need to drop everything you are doing and make sure you get seen ASAP!  Whether you have allergic or exercise-induced asthma, there is something to be done.  There are rescue inhalers for emergencies and maintenance inhalers for daily use.  Your doctor will figure out the best plan for you.  Since I started allergy shots and using a maintenance inhaler, my lung function improved dramatically (as seen in my pulmonary function tests) and I rarely use my rescue inhalers now!
  2. Stop the excuses.– I am still working on this one but for the longest time I let asthma be the reason I didn’t really exercise.  Something finally clicked last summer and I realized that running was exactly what I needed to make myself feel better.  Since then I have been running rain or shine and don’t let myself skip runs because of asthma.  I’m always amazed at what I can do when I ignore my excuses and run anyway. 
  3. Cut yourself some slack.– While you shouldn’t let asthma stop you from starting or from pushing yourself, it is important to remember that asthma might give you some limitations.  You won’t be able to go as fast or as far at first, but that’s ok.  My favorite saying is that a 14 minute mile is just as far as a 7 minute mile.  When you put the hard work in, you should be proud of all that you accomplish.
  4. Make it work for you.– The only way you will keep up running is if you can keep it enjoyable.  Do the type of workouts you like to do (while still challenging yourself).  If a piece of advice you heard is just frustrating you, adjust it until it works.  With asthma, breathing is an especially import part of running so I tried to find advice on that.  When I started running last year, I tried to follow a pattern of 4 steps per inhale and 3 steps per exhale.  Trying to follow this pattern exactly left me out of breath and feeling defeated.  When I’m running now, I use the basic principle of the advice by focusing on my breathing and using my steps for timing.  This time, I let it happen as it needs to throughout my runs, whether that means longer or shorter breaths.
  5. Always be prepared.– Get enough sleep.  Drink enough water.  Eat healthy.  Keep your inhaler prescriptions filled and available.  Any time I have had a truly bad run has been because one of these things was not being done.
  6. Know your environment.– The last thing I wish I would have learned is to consider what conditions you will be running under.  I didn’t realize how much the cold would affect my breathing so I was not prepared for how much harder it would be to train in the winter.  Other adverse conditions include extra muggy summer days, high pollen counts, and poor air quality. Plan to run a different time, day, or place so there will be no problems!

This past year of running has been so rewarding.  Some of the lessons were learned the hard way but how great I feel now makes it totally worth it.  I would love to hear other tips and advice people have for running with asthma!  (Or breathing techniques that non-asthmatic runners are using!)

16 thoughts on “What I Wish I Knew- Running With Asthma

  1. Great post, just starting out running and have allergic asthma so pollen counts at this time of the year can be a big problem. Taking it really slow for now but some great tips here thank you x

  2. Damn straight, “a 14 minute mile is just as far as a 7 minute mile.” Great attitude. I’m gonna use that phrase, just so you know! And, “no matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch!” Keep it up, but be safe!

  3. Reblogged this on Running Around the Bend and commented:
    I don’t take for granted how fortunate I am to simply go out an run without injury, joint issues, heart issues, or other health concerns. I love Laurelle’s post on running with asthma … check it out!

  4. I love this post! I have asthma too. Throughout my life, I worked with my doctor to ensure that it was well-controlled with medication. I was able to run, play sports each season, etc.
    Then, five years ago, they updated the asthma evaluation to include the question, “Does your asthma keep you up coughing in the middle of the night?” I was honestly shocked, I just assumed everyone else coughed at night too.
    Now, when I explain my asthma management to people, they’re usually surprised by how many medications I take. I always run with my rescue inhaler and I carry my portable nebulizer on hikes, but I rarely need either.
    I think Lesson #1 is what helped me build up my stamina to run farther now, but they’re all great! I love your saying that “14 minute mile is just as far as a 7 minute mile.” Happy running, and thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks! When I first went to the doctor a couple of years ago now I knew my asthma was acting up but I didn’t realize how bad until they showed me the pulmonary function test results before and after using the inhaler! It may be cumbersome to have to deal with so many medications but make such a huge difference! Happy running to you too, no matter how fast you are going!

  5. Such a great post! I’ve been battling my asthma a lot lately. It’s nice to have a reminder that even though this is a struggle that a lot of us share, we can still be awesome athletes despite it!

  6. I also run with this thing we call asthma, one technique that really really helps is to start slow, I mean slow, I have doubled my miles using this program. after I run slow for 15-20 minutes I can increase my speed from the 11 minute mile down to 8 minute mile. although I can not keep this pace for over a couple miles,but it feels good to run a little faster, anyway you guys that suffer from asthma ,try this it might just work for you.

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