Category: asthma

hill. repeat. hill.

Hill elevation profile“What goes up – must come down.
And then go up and come back down, again.”
8 x :30 uphill surge (fast, focus on powering with your butt)/ 3:00 easy

There may be something wrong with me.  I loved everything about this workout.

It was cold. (34 degrees) I needed to layer up in my winter gear.  The first cold run is the hardest.  I always get it too hot or too cold.  I was overdressed – I didn’t need a thermal base layer, yet.  I know that just  2 posts ago I was complaining about having to put on mittens, but I remembered last night that I really enjoy running in the cold.*

It was dark.  I’m not a fan of the short days.  And I’m not quite adjusted. This was not an intentional night run, I forgot. Just poor planning on the timing of the workout.  But off I went with my head lamp and my lovely blinking safety vest. (I’ m threatening my kids with getting one that blinks: “I’m  Will & Hannah’s mom”).

It was hard. In the middle of the second surge uphill I was thinking that 5 repeats might be a little more reasonable to start, but I pushed out all 8.  When I was finished, every bit of my body felt like it had been worked hard.  My arms, core, legs, and butt were fully engaged in the effort.  As was my focus and intention.

The cool down run home, blinking away in the dark, felt glorious.

I think one of the reasons I like cold weather, winter running is that the pollen is finally gone. My asthma and breathing is so much better.  Very cold air can present issues, but I’m good until well below freezing. 

Athlete with Asthma

Asthma Inhaler

I find it frustrating.  As I head out for my long run this morning, I knew it was going to need to be an easy pace. Some days are better than others, and today was one of those “others”.  My allergies this fall have been much worse than usual and it’s been almost 2 months of strained breathing. I’m ready for snow.  not really, but I just want to have a full breath and be able to run up a hill without gasping.  OK, I’m grouchy.

I’ve had allergy induced asthma most of my life. (which is better than chronic asthma, so it really could be worse) As a child it was terrifying to not be able to breathe.  The tears and the anxiety would make the breathing worse and then the fear greater.  Asthma is really awful for a child.  Thankfully as an adult I can manage my breathing and my anxiety.  Well, truth – I still struggle with guided meditations that ask you to relax and focus on your breath.

In my early 30’s I developed exercise induced asthma – which I consider to be the biggest insult in the breathing department.  I know it could be worse, but come on!  Seriously?! Exercise induced lung problems? 1. Exercise is good for my lungs and 2. I need them to exercise.  What a terrible invention.  Wouldn’t it make more sense if someone who didn’t exercise had this one?

So what does this really mean for me? (just me – everyone with asthma is different)

  • It means I work very closely with my doctor to make sure I have an asthma management plan that supports my life and my goals.  Some seasons it’s allergy meds and inhaled steroids.  Sometimes I am fine with just a couple of puffs of albuterol before a run.
  • It means that sometimes, I have to cut my runs short or run flat roads because even with management my breathing is too constricted to provide the oxygen my muscles need.  It’s hard give in, but I have gotten better at it.
  • It means that I need to remember to use my inhaler before races, even if my breathing feels OK.  This is especially true for triathlons with open water swims. When I forget –  my legs turn to lead and the only way to finish is usually flipping on to my back and backstroking in.
  • It means that I need to warm up and cool down really well.  An abrupt demand for oxygen is painful and futile for these lungs.  And an abrupt stop, without cool down also creates painful constriction.
  • It means that sometimes it’s too cold in the winter to run outside.  It’s just too hard to warm up and get past the constriction.

I’ve kept exercising throughout my life with asthma.  Despite the frustration, it really has strengthened my lungs.  I’m sure my lungs wouldn’t be as strong as they are if I had opted to avoid the discomfort and the hassle.  I imagine my lung capacity is probably stronger than a good deal of the population because I opted to keep at it.  Just not as strong as an athlete who trains the same as I do who doesn’t have asthma.  And other athletes have other challenges. And others have challenges that prevent them from training all together. I keep all of this in context.

I know I’m not alone.  I had the pleasure of sharing a bike rack and an inhaler with a fellow triathlete this past September. Right before we both got into the water to warm-up long enough to get our lungs ready.  We both had to swim the full course as our warm-up that day.