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.

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Photo by Crinan Campbell.

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