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8256 Views 12 Replies Latest reply: Nov 4, 2010 9:38 PM by ZachSp
RunningFroggie Rookie 2 posts since
Sep 10, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Oct 31, 2010 1:55 PM

Running with asthma?

I'll start by saying that I have asthma. And, yes, I love to run, except that I've never been a distance runner. I've always loved the feel of the wind rushing by my face and the fun of running, but I never ever thought I'd do any races of any sort until I was first told I had asthma. I decided that I wouldn't let it take control fully, and set my eyes on a 1/2 marathon, though starting with a 5K.


Exercise certainly has helped my lungs, and I'd be a lot worse off if I didn't exercise, but I seriously can't follow a schedule for more than a week because of my wonky lungs (and I'm not talking about mild asthma here.... I'm talking about moderate persistent asthma... asthma that I deal with symptoms almost daily to some extent). Still, I get out as often as I can, but I'm really puzzled how people manage to run even a mile without having to slow down to a walk to catch their breath, and I really don't get it how they can run more than a mile without their lungs clamping up on them. Right now, I can't go farther than a 1/2 mile before I have to slow down, or I risk a full blown asthma attack.... I've come too close to that too many times, and even that 1/2 mile requires using my inhaler to catch my breath. I should be really pleased with being able to go a 1/2 mile, as at first I could only go a 1/10th of a mile. Still, I want to be able to run 5K without having to slow down, and no one I know seems to have much advice.


I did run my first 5K 2 weeks ago, and managed to do it in 37:13 (10-15 minutes faster than I've ever done it and expected to do it in) by alternating between running and walking, and I have to say, I'm totally hooked on running.... I can't wait for the next event. But, I want to do better... my dream would be to run the whole thing... anyone else here deal with running and asthma? (and yes, I am working on getting the persistent asthma under control with my pulmonologist, so I'm not doing this all on my own, I am working with my doctors)

  • thedevotedrunner Legend 439 posts since
    Jul 7, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Nov 1, 2010 9:38 AM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    CONGRATS!!!! SO many people would have let the asthma stop them.  A TRUE runner lets NOTHING stop them.


    Am glad, as well, that you are working WITH your doctors and not AGAINST them. Very important in your situation.

    Running the straight and narrow,


    "Run because you love it. If you don't, learn to love it. Running will bring things into your life that you could never imagine." - Scott Jurek, Star of "Born To Run"

    The Surgeon General has determined it is OK to smoke your opponent!

    Flollow me on twitter

  • BlondeMonkey Rookie 1 posts since
    Nov 1, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Nov 1, 2010 11:26 AM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    I'm a new runner and also have asthma.  Just did my first 5k Saturday.  It was my first time running in the cold, plus horrible hills but I finished without stopping which was my goal (time was 33:21).   My personal trainer helped me so much with my breathing when I first started running. The best advice he gave me is to create a rhythm and stick to it whether on the flat or hills.  For me it is "In, 2, 3; Out, 2, 3".  After a while it became natural but at first I had to really think about it and concentrate.   This has helped me not get so panicky when I come to a hill or sprint and start feeling like I can't get a breath.   I hope to increase my speed but realize with asthma it may be difficult.  Baby steps!

  • brcolema Rookie 1 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Nov 3, 2010 12:05 PM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    I've run distances with asthma since I was 16 years old and I am now 42.  I was diagnosed probably around 10 years old and I always loved sports and running.   I believe running has helped me "grow out of it" some.    I ran a marathon when I was 30 and am trying to get to that point again. In the decade after that  I've done tons of 5Ks, 10Ks only.  When I trained for that marathon in '98, I did not get sick once.  When I don't run for 3 or 4 days straight or during busy times like the holidays, when I tend to eat more, I find that weezing starts to begin.  So for me, it is a way to control it.    I take a preventive inhaler fall through the winter and only take Albuterol like meds if I'm really bad.  I think because I have Asthma I tend to get sick more often.   So what I try to do is really work on my immune system by eating well, getting a lot of sleep and taking vitamins and supplements.  Probiotics I swear by.  Glad you are working with your doctors on this.            

  • Mark Gale Rookie 1 posts since
    Oct 2, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Nov 3, 2010 12:13 PM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    I've had asthma since I was 6 months old and have led a very active life playing Rugby, Soccer, Cross Country, Swimming, Track & Triathlons.  Clearly inhalers and other longer term preventive medications are essential to maintain active lifestyles with asthma however there are other things you can do that will significantly help. In my case, exercise induced asthma is always a given anytime I participate in anything that involves running and the speed of onset is typically directly correlated to how quickly I get up to top speeds - so activities involving sprinting versus jogging induce asthma much quicker. The only exercises I can perform without inducing asthma are swimming and moderate paced bike riding.  I started swimming when I was 6 and swam competitively for many years - swimming significantly helps develop lung capacity and muscle strength and will greatly improve your ability to participate in any kind of running based endurance sport.  I still swim regularly and compete in Triathlons - in fact there is a very noticeable increase in my asthma whenever I stop swimming.  I would strongly encourage you to do some swimming, start slowly and build up distance.  The other activity is bike riding - long periods of bike riding at a comfortable pace will give your lungs a great work out also.  Be careful not to go too fast or start climbing steep hills, the goal is to maintain a consistent pace and give the lungs a good work out without inducing asthma and as you get more proficient you can elevate the pace.  Lastly Yoga is also a good activity to help with asthma because of the relaxation techniques it teaches you.  Breathing exercises taught in Yoga can be applied to running and help increase your lung endurance and capacity.

  • BigGillyStyle Rookie 5 posts since
    Nov 27, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Nov 3, 2010 2:00 PM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    I've got asthma, too, and had a check-up with my pulmonologist early this year, as I was planning on doing a Half Marathon in May and then a full in October (both of which I completed).  My asthma is pretty well-controlled by a combination of Albuterol and Flovent (both taken twice daily).  Of course, there are varying degrees of asthma, and it was worse for me when younger and less so now that I am middle-aged.  I have not found that any amount of running will "improve" uncontrolled asthmatic symptoms...only the proper medication can do that.  However, having a stronger cardiovascular system has many other benefits.  For example, I had H1N1 (which led to pneumonia) last fall, and my healthy lifestyle made the symptoms not as bad and the recovery better.


    Make sure to stick with your doctor and do whatever running is allowed/recommended/prescribed.  You don't want to do permanent damage to your lungs by trying to "run through" asthmatic problems, so it's good to be a student of the feedback your body is giving you.  Push yourself when you're healthy enough to do so.

  • iammskto Rookie 4 posts since
    Feb 2, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. Nov 3, 2010 6:00 PM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    I have had asthma forever and it is not mild. As a child I was never able to run and learning to run has been the hardest part of training for sprint tri's. Every morning I take Singular, Advair and an over the counter allergy pill then a pre-exercise puff of albuterol. Most of the time I can forget I have asthma and then every now and then I am back to my doctor to adjust the medication.

    Running has help me breathe better and finally as I begin my second half century I can run better than when I was a kid!  If you are lucky you can properly medicate to not notice the wonky lungs. Uncontrolled asthma is frightening and dangerous but controlled is freedom!

  • Sherstheone Rookie 2 posts since
    Oct 23, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    7. Nov 4, 2010 9:42 AM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    I was diagnosed with asthma at 18.  I am now 47.  I  decided to start running a year ago, limiting myself to 5Ks for fear that I will pass out if I go any further.   I have worked out regularly my entire adult life  and do think the exercising has helped my lungs.  However, I have serious problems running in the cold, as both cold air and cigarette smoke are the two biggest triggers for me.  I ran a 5 K last week when it was in the 40s and thought I would just pass out 1 mile into the race.  However, I kept on pushing myself and ended at 28:48, no small feat when you cannot breathe and your knee starts to hurt!   I was proud of  my time, but sure wish there was a way I could run in the cold without  these issues.  As you all know, once you have an asthma attack, it is tough to get it under control, at least for me.  I use my inhaler, but then it takes another 20 minutes or so for my lungs to open up and for me to stop coughing.

    I think asthma sufferers that continue to exercise are doing themselves a favor and not letting this disease take control.   Too many people make too many excuses for not doing things.  We should be commended for our efforts!

  • PedDoc1 Pro 159 posts since
    Apr 25, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    8. Nov 4, 2010 10:29 AM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    It is interesting reading these responses.  I am very glad to see you getting some very good advice from some of these folks.  I would make several observations.  In my office, my rule is that if you can't exercise the way you want due to your asthma, I'm not doing my job.  As a runner/swimmer/lifter, I fully understand how important exercise is in the lives of my patients.

    My first thought is, are you truly on enough controller meds?  This is "mission critical."  If not, there is room to work.  The quantities of the meds you're on are not very high and, if I'm reading correctly, there is LOTS of room for movement here.  Work closely with your pulmonologist, even if it means you're annoying him/her with the frequency of visits, until the ASTHMA symptoms from exercise are gone.

    However, something about the way you described your symptoms made me wonder about the possibility that you're still in the "getting fitter" stage of running.  Many folks on this site mention that sensation of breathlessness even though they don't have asthma.  This seems to pass as you gradually increase your mileage and frequency of running.  If you spend a lot of time going back through the threads started by other individuals, this sensation has become a relatively common theme.  Often, the cause is running too fast (I know, I know, you're thinking, but I'm not running fast!).  Try keeping tabs on your heart rate during your running.  Keeping your heart rate in the 60-70% of max heart rate (OMG!  I've just touched another conversation that's really common here.  For the purpose of this discussion, max HR is 220-age in years) should be a goal when trying to increase your distance.  You may have to slow down quite a bit to get there.  You may even discover that your walk/jog pace hits that heart rate for most of the distance.  Or, as others on other threads have mentioned, get used to running a pace at which you can hold a slightly breathless conversation with a running partner.  By keeping heart rate down and respiratory rate down, you can go longer.

    Please don't misunderstand me.  I am in no way minimizing your asthma.  I feel very strongly about asthma care here in the office.  However, it's just that some of your description reminds me a lot of how others on this site have described their sensation when trying to increase their distances even without asthma.

    Good on ya' for persisting through this.  You're on a great website for encouragement and information.



    P.S. I just finished reading the thread about HR zones.  That would be a good place to look for a little more information regarding heart rate.

    05/09 Bridge the Gap, Quincy, Ill HM: 1:45:27
  • Carrieous Pro 146 posts since
    Feb 8, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    9. Nov 4, 2010 10:58 AM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    Hi there.  I also have asthma and have had it since I was an infant.  As a child, I could barely walk across a room and spent several nights in the ER.  Still at 37 I have it and I consider it moderate to severe- altho I have gone thru periods of time when it didnt bother me much at all.  Pets, smoke, air polution, stress, cleaning products, and low barometric pressure all aggravate my asthma.


    For the past year I have been doing really well on Advair- two puffs a day and I usually only need my rescue inhaler once a day if at all.


    Also, when running I find it easier to control my breathing if i run with my tongue out and to the side.  Sounds (and looks) a bit silly but this controls how much air i try to GASP in.  I also use my ventolin about 15 minutes before my run.  While running, I concentrate on my breathe and try to belly breathe as opposed to chest breathe.

    I totally feel you on the long distance running- a 5k is a major accomplishment for me and I feel like if I could just breathe normal, I could run forever.  How i long for leg or foot or ankle pain to be the reason I have to stop instead of my lungs threatening to collapse on me!


    If you havent tried Advair yet, I highly recommend it.  I tried Singulair years ago and it did nothing for me but Advair is a wonderdrug (for me)


    Good luck!

  • PedDoc1 Pro 159 posts since
    Apr 25, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    11. Nov 4, 2010 11:42 AM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    Whew!!! I'm out of breath just reading your response.  I think now all of us have a much better handle on your question than your original post suggested.  This is FAR more complicated than, "I have asthma.  What have some of you done for it?"

    I think most of us would be proud to have accomplished what you've done and, yes, reflux, asthma and celiac all in the same person make ANYTHING a challenge, let alone a physically competitive activity.

    Kudos to you, keep on trying, and absolutely, keep working with the pulmonologist to try to get it under control.

    05/09 Bridge the Gap, Quincy, Ill HM: 1:45:27
  • ZachSp Rookie 1 posts since
    Nov 4, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    12. Nov 4, 2010 9:38 PM (in response to RunningFroggie)
    Re: Running with asthma?

    I've had asthma for as long as I can remember. I can completely relate to being in complete awe watching people run for miles without getting tired. What has worked for me is to keep a steady breathing pattern (like others mentioned above) and to constantly push myself to the absolute limit. I know my limit is when I start to get light headed. I stop at this point and rest. I do this 5-7 days a week. I noticed very quickly after about a month of this I was able to run 3 miles. Now since my lungs have become stronger I have been really picking up the pace on a mile. Originally my average mile pace was about 10-11 mins. Now I'm able to run a 6-6:30 mile. Pushing myself to run 1 mile faster has helped when I do long distance running. I think this is because my body is use to incredble stress in a short period of time, so small stress for longer periods isn't as taxing. As long as I keep on a steady pattern with breathing I can go for about 6-7 miles now around a 9 min pace. I use to not push myself to my limit and I noticed that my asthma never got better, it was only when I kept on pushing myself to my absolute max I noticed a change in it. This might not be the same for everyone it is just what I noticed has helped me. Sometimes pushing yourself to your limit can be scary. I have had times where I almost fainted and I have had times where I have dry heaved. So be careful if you do decide to try this.

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