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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)