Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy!
Exercising with Asthma
This year has been a tough year for me in terms of managing asthma. I did not have asthma as a child and was diagnosed a few years ago, in many ways I’m still learning how to manage my condition and how I can keep doing the things I love doing (namely running, asthma tends not to affect my guitar playing to any great extent). I’ve learned a lot since Christmas about managing and coping with my asthma and how work this in with my exercise.
The first lesson I really had to learn was to know my triggers. I had been under the impression that every time I got a cold that it became a chest infection and, to be honest, I was getting pretty worried about that. This was not the case, the reality of the situation is that my asthma is triggered by me getting a cold. This information is useful in two ways, it explains why the only symptom I get is shortness of breath and why antibiotics don’t help, it also indicates what I need to do to avoid the problem, which is to use my preventative inhaler. Similarly, in summer hay fever is a big trigger for my asthma. As a consequence of this I can track pollen counts on the weather reports and take appropriate action, such as an antihistamine or steroid.
In addition to know when my asthma is likely to be worse, being really diligent with my preventative (steroid) inhaler helps a lot. In essence, by the time I realise I need the inhaler it’s too late, so I need to anticipate when I’m at more risk and plan accordingly. When the kids are back at school after a break in the winter there tends to be colds going round, so I make sure that I’m pretty consistent with the preventative at danger times and also in the early summer when the grass pollen is high.
If I’m having a particularly rough week I may take a reliever (blue / Ventolin) prior to going out for a run. The advantage of this for me is that it often stops the onset of symptoms and allows me to enjoy my run. The physical benefit here is obvious but there is also the psychological aspect. I find asthma symptoms frightening, the tightness and pain in my chest, the feeling that I can ‘t get enough breath and the need to cough all the time freak me right out. If I can avoid symptoms while I run it means I enjoy the run more and get more benefit from it.
It logically follows then that my next suggestion is to always have a rescue inhaler / reliever with you when you run. I usually run in a running vest to hold the dog lead and a few other bits but even when I don’t I have a running belt in which I keep a spare Ventolin. It’s fair to say that there are few places in my house where I don’t have a rescue inhaler within close reach.
My final tip is probably super obvious but I’ll share it anyway, stay close to your asthma nurse. Most nurses will be able to help with asthma however it’s usual for a health practise to have a nurse that specialises in asthma, this is the person you need to find. They will often be very up to date on the latest treatment and techniques for managing asthma and give excellent advice. My local specialist has found a new type of inhaler that combines a preventative and a slow release bronchiodilator within the same dose. Not only does this reduce the amount of medication I need to manage, it has also been very effective through a tough grass pollen season (so far).
The main thing to remember is that asthma symptoms can change or worsen and it’s easy to become disheartened when running becomes hard but it is very much worth pushing on. Cardiovascular exercise does wonders for asthma symptoms as well as improving overall body and heart health and will overall improve quality of life, even if a morning run can sometimes feel like the marathon des sables.