Monday, June 17, 2013

Running with Asthma

This is my new running hydration
pack.  It has a little pocket
right in front that fits my
inhaler PERFECT.
I think I get more emails asking for tips on running with Asthma than I get asking about anything else... and that's saying something.  People are always asking about weight loss, Sam's issues, ADD, etc.  But most these days, and I think it's because I post a lot about it, want some tips on how to overcome the obstacles Asthma gives us in the fitness department.  I want to give all my best tips here, and then encourage you to leave your own tips in the comment section -- believe it or not, people LOVE to read the comment section.  And just for the record, this blog is now getting around 15,000 individual hits per month, and MANY are Googling onto this blog for tips on working out with Asthma.  So give us your best tips!!

People who don't have asthma don't understand how hard it is to do what we are doing.  This can be frustrating for BOTH the asthmatic person and the non-asthmatic friend -- mainly because neither one understands the other.  So before I give my asthmatic friends my tips, I want to explain something to those who don't have it:

If your buddy with asthma is even getting out and TRYING, give them kudos!  Too many people use asthma and other health issues as excuses to not even try to workout and get healthy.  So the fact that we are even making the effort is something!

We need patience: while other people get motivated by having a friend or coach standing next to them yelling "try harder!  Suck it up! Push through this!", this tactic is NOT inspiring for us.  Truth is, if we are pushing hard and not talking, it's because we can't.  Literally. When I am having an asthma attack induced by exercise, I can not talk.  If I am trying to breath through an attack, the LAST thing I need is someone yelling at me to suck it up.  I may just slap you if you do.  I think this is why most asthmatics like to work out alone... I thought I was the only one that got anxiety over running with others for this reason, but have since learned that many in my boat feel exactly the same way.  (If fact, I am a total wreak this week in anticipation of the Ragnar this weekend!)  If you are running with someone who suffers from Asthma, we would rather you run ahead and get your workout in then stay behind with us and "deal" with our struggles.

Asthma doesn't just affect your lungs while working out.  Think about it, if your lungs are swollen, your whole body isn't getting the oxygen it needs to carry on.  I know with me, it's a full body struggle when I run. I struggle to keep my lungs open.  If my asthma flares up, the first thing I get is side cramps, on both sides going up and sometimes around my collar bone.  Then my legs and arms start feeling weak.. and sometimes a little numb.  The first time it happened I thought I had a blood clot or something... but then learned that it was just my body not getting enough oxygen in the blood.  When this happens, don't get frustrated with us if we have to walk it out for a few minutes just to get the circulation back in our limbs.

Believe it or not, we are more frustrated with ourselves than you are with us.  I have been running on and off for 4 years now.  It has just been since this last March that I really started pushing it.  I run AT LEAST 3 times a week, and at most 5.  I have been training super hard for a while.  Just when I start feeling good about myself, my friends who haven't been running for either years or never, now start to train to run a 1/2 marathon and within a month they are kicking my trash in speed and endurance.  AND they are losing weight like there is no tomorrow.  And then there's me.  I am all like:  Yeah, here I am going slow and I am still fat.  AHHHH.  It is so frustrating! Not to mention that our asthma meds are STEROIDS.  Yeah, so it makes it hard to lose weight... but I have some great big muscles! lol (Quick note: they are minor steroids so we aren't growing facial hair or getting manly or anything like that... however, there is this ONE evil little hair on my chin that I have to watch...)

Now, those things being said, here are my tips for those WITH asthma:

(Disclaimer:  Many of these are not necessarily "doctor approved", they are just what works for me.)

Take a puff of your "rescue inhaler" 30 min prior to exercise.  Lots of people tend to think they can only use their inhaler when they REALLY need it.  Not true.  My doctor actually gave me this suggestion and it makes the WORLD of difference for my run.

Be patient with those who don't understand what it is like to exercise with asthma.  This one is hard for me, because sometimes I can go blue in the face describing what asthma does to me when I work out and people still don't understand it.  Those are the people I don't like working out with.  But they are still my friends, and one day they will understand.

Don't use asthma as an excuse to not work hard.  It make take you longer to "get there", but working out is the best thing you can do for your asthma and physical fitness is possible!  For me, asthma is my excuse FOR working out!

Always be prepared!  Never forget your "rescue inhaler" -- I have done it and it was awful.  I thought I would be okay as I started out, then I passed a freshly cut alfalfa field and my lungs swelled up like balloons! Just take it with you....  Also, if you are running on a windy day or on a dirt road, take a bandanna with you in case you need to cover your face -- I did this for the color run and it was great.

Don't compare your self with others, because chances are, they aren't dealing with asthma.  Let me be the first to admit that I am a total hypocrite to give you this tip, because I do compare myself to others, like all the time.  It's hard not to.  I will be all excited to run like 8 miles and an hour and a half, after MONTHS of training.  Then my friend who has only been running a month or so runs 8 miles in like an hour and 10 minutes.  This kills me!!  Sometimes I even throw something to feel better... like a glue stick or pen.  Sometimes I cry a little and wonder why I got this stupid trial.  And other times, I will just sit in bitterness.  Then I get over it :)  If I can, so can you.  The key is just not giving up!!

Only compete with yourself.  Something I really like about most runners is they never talk about who is faster, they are always talking about their "PR" or Personal Record.  The only person most people are racing against is themselves.  Remember that.  You are not only racing against you, you are racing against a chronic illness, it's tough, give yourself some credit!

Do exercises often that can strengthen your lungs.  Swimming and yoga (believe it or not) are amazing for helping with this!  And I am sure their are MANY others too.

Caffeine can help.  I know a lot of runners and fitness people who would freak out about this.  So many people are ANTI-soda these days.  But when I am done with my run, my chest is SUPER tight.  After drinking the water I need to, I let myself have a diet Pepsi once in a while and the caffeine works as a stimulant for the LUNGS and relaxes them.  Caffeine works different on people with asthma... it's crazy, but true.  It doesn't keep me up or make me jittery, it actually relaxes me and helps with anxiety and nervousness because it helps my lungs get more oxygen so I can breath deep.

Get ALL your sleep.  I have heard that lots of people with asthma don't get a lot of oxygen while they sleep, so their REM cycles can be off.  Get what sleep you can and if you aren't, you may need to see a doctor.  As for me, I had this issue until I started to use doTerra's "Breath" on my chest before bed time.  It opens my chest up for more oxygen so my sleep is deeper.  (Side note: I also rub it on my chest before running and it really helps too)  Humidifiers are of the devil for me.  They swell my chest up and make me feel like I have pneumonia. (The steam room at some gyms are AMAZING though...)

Stretching is more important than ever!  I don't know if it is medically proven, but my limbs are less likely to get super numb while running if I do a great stretch before AND after a run.

Don't be afraid to try new things!  Don't let asthma control your life.  Try everything!  Live as if you don't have it, and then deal with it when it flares up.  We only live once, so LIVE!

Any other great tips that I have forgotten?

-Cat

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On an unrelated note, I want to share real quick about what happened yesterday.  Here was my Facebook post:
I was siting in sacrament meeting (the first hour of church) today and my purse started vibrating. It was Ben on the phone telling me he was home a whole day and half early!!! Best Father's Day surprise, EVER!!!! I took the boys to primary (the children's Sunday School class) and then snuck away with Jake to pick Ben up from the school. We then brought him back to church to surprise the boys when they came out of primary. It was great!
So happy to have my man back after a month, even if I only get him for  a couple days at a time.
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Oh, and one last thing!  Please pop by and vote for my blog!!  I have been on and off between #3 and #4... I would really like to keep #3 place!
I don't think I deserve 1 or 2.  I feel like I should have gone through a REAL deployment, not just 9 months of training, to earn one of those slots.  But #3 is a great place to be!  Help me keep it!!

Thanks for your support!!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Hi new friend! Just came over to your blog and love seeing your before and after pictures with your weight loss journey. You have come such a far way and I'm so excited for you! PS - Not sure when Jacob was born but I think he and my Drew are around the same age. Anyway, I'm your newest follower and can't wait to read more! PS - I'm giving away a pair of PowerSox right now which you'd LOVE on your runs!

Come enter my giveaway for a pair of PowerSox! Our Journey