I can remember the first day that I had my first asthma attack like it was yesterday. I was in the third grade and I was playing kickball at recess. I kicked the ball and ran as fast as I could. Once I reached home base I tried to catch my breath, but I couldn’t. When I try to describe an asthma attack to people who aren’t asthmatics, I tell them to take a deep breath, and then try and take five more without letting any air out. It’s as if your airways have constricted to the size of a pinhole, and it can be terrifying.
After that day at recess, I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. This meant that any physical activity could bring on another attack. So, I now carry an inhaler with me at all times.
Because my asthma was exercise-induced, I thought that meant that most physical activity, especially running, was out of the question for me. Thankfully, however, I’ve learned how to manage my asthma and I’ve discovered a few ways to help me enjoy running:
1) Talk to your doctor
First and foremost, it is imperative that you speak to your doctor before you start any running program. It’s essential that you have your asthma well-controlled, and that your health care provider has cleared you to run before you do so. There are many different options that your doctor will go over with you for managing your asthma. I am on a long-term maintenance inhaler, that I take every day, which helps to control the symptoms of my asthma and prevent attacks. I also have an emergency inhaler that I carry with me at all times in case I do have an asthma attack.
2) Warm up
It’s so important for me to start out slowly when I go out for a run. If I just went full speed right out of the gate, I’d probably have an asthma attack. Allow your lungs to adjust, and listen to your body. I find that a good walk/run/walk interval is great for warming up.
3) Bring room temperature water with you
If you’re like me, you need to have water with you when you run. Without it, my throat gets extremely dry and that can sometimes trigger an attack. I have found that room temperature water is best. It’s tempting to bring ice-cold water with me, especially in the warmer months, but I find that room temperature water is much easier on my lungs than cold water while I’m running.
4) Cover up
Cold air is an asthmatics worst enemy. If you’re going to run outside during the cold months, be sure to wear something to cover up your nose and mouth. My personal favorite is the Out Door Research Windstopper Face Mask from L.L. Bean. It prevents me from breathing in the extremely cold air, which is one of my biggest triggers for an attack.
5) Bring your inhaler
Even if you feel like your asthma is well under control, you should always carry your emergency inhaler with you. For a while, I had struggled with the best way to carry mine with me, since most of my running gear doesn’t have pockets. I did end up finding a great Zipper Wristband from Amazon that perfectly fits my inhaler.
6) Tell a friend where you are going
I always make sure that I tell my boyfriend where I am going and how long I expect to be gone before I head out for a run. Even when I take all of the proper precautions, sometimes an attack just comes out of nowhere. It’s a good idea to let people know where you’re running and how long you’ll be gone, in the event that sometime does happen to you. If you have a phone, bring it with you and tell people to check in on you at a certain time.
7) Run for you
One of the hardest things I struggled with was when I would run with a non-asthmatic buddy. I would try so hard to keep up with them, that I would ignore the signs my body was giving me that I was pushing too hard. Before you set out on your run, make sure that your running buddy knows that you are an asthmatic, and that you may need to rest mid-run. If you start to wheezing and struggling to breathe, listen to your body and slow down or rest.
8) Have fun!
Running with asthma doesn’t come without obstacles. Once you learn how to overcome these obstacles, however, you’ll start to enjoy physical activity, rather than dreading it. I learned how to keep my asthma in check, and listen to my body so that running became something I enjoyed.
Do you have any tips for running with Asthma? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet @Runkeeper!