Running with Asthma

I’ve just come back from my monthly check up at the Asthma Clinic rather proud of myself. My no-nonsense asthma clinic nurse  Chris – who has been monitoring me during the last few years – was also chuffed.

Having expelled a short forceful break into her peak flow meter, I hit the giddy heights of 500 P.E.F. Pretty frickin’ good considering I could only muster 270 before the increased exercise and steroid medication.  Even better when the average peak flow for a non asthma sufferer of my age is 400-450.

For the uninitiated, a peak flow meter helps monitor the condition of my airways. Measuring the wind in one’s sails through this contraption is more efficient in quantifying the severity of an asthma attack than say weighing up the various symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Now that the clocks have gone back it is officially winter. Running in the mornings as I do, I am noticing the effects of the change in temperature. It basically feels as if I’m inhaling shards of glass. So it’s no surprising that, at the end of the run, my lungs often feel that soreness you encounter when you have a nasty chest infection.

Asthma UK advises to warm up indoors for 10-15 minutes before your run. As every second counts for me in the morning, I have taken to wearing a bandana or buff until the air warms up or my lungs do! I also make sure that I have two puffs of the blue ventolin (reliever) before any exercise as well as taking it with me just in case. (This is in conjunction with the preventer medicine that I take morning and evening.)  Asthma UK also suggests cooling down properly in order to reduce my respiratory rate before I go in the warmth. Of course, I could train indoors but taking in the natural surroundings is one of the things that makes running so very (almost) addictive.

Living with asthma is a strange phenomenon as breathing is meant to be involuntary yet learning how to control my breathing these last 12 weeks has been a big part of the training. I never really gave my asthma the attention it required to improve it and only now I realise how shallow my breathing has been. My training has actually been a lifesaver; the running and the strength sessions teach me how to stand tall and strong allowing me to take in as much air as possible. Pilates helps me understand how to use my diaphram whilst yoga ensures that I do.

This sunday I’m running my first 10K and yes I’m nervous. But will tackle it as I did the 5k. One foot and one breath at a time.



Photo by Crinan Campbell.

Overcoming a Mental Block

As I reflect upon my second organised 5k park run this morning, these last few weeks have presented an incredible number of firsts:

And now I have experienced another first; how to run past a mental block.

This morning’s park run was HARD. The weather was fresh and the sky deep blue. A stupendously beautiful morning with colder than cold air.

But last night I hosted a dinner party and we all got carried away with the prosecco, red wine and cheese. Slumber didn’t arrive until the very small hours of the morning. As I hit snooze for the umpteenth time, I realised I was going to be late and jumped out of bed.

Turning up to the race with only 5 minutes to spare meant I didnt have time to line up my music – my rhythmic driving force  – and was still faffing with my HRM watch when the race began. I was also holding on to my ipod instead of it being neatly tucked away in the case strap on my arm.

My body felt so tired. I hadnt rested properly. The 15 minute run before the race to ensure they wouldn’t start without me didnt make things any easier. I was struggling to catch my breath. Struggling to muster up some energy into my muscles.

I must have walked for half of it. Felt like I was taking forever. All the stewards had gone, I felt like a failure. I kept starting and stopping. Berating myself for not being able to run, not being able to breathe deep enough, not sticking to water the night before a race, not getting an early night. But as I saw the other runners mill around the finish line, I realised I had 25% of the course to go. “Not long to go now” I said to myself, “don’t worry – you’re here and doing it” I kept repeating and I soon found myself at the finish line.

I ran the first 5k in 36.09, the second in 37.02. Not bad considering I walked for more than half of it..

So when the running angel and walking devil are vying for my attention, I know that mind over matter and a strong focus will help to get me through. That plus more sleep and less alcohol.