I was asked by a new friend, Bryce Knudson, as to the effects of my asthma on running. Instead of a short and unhelpful answer, I decided to go ahead and just post my lengthy response to my blog.
As long as I can remember, I’ve had pretty serious asthma. (“Serious”, because I’ve gone to the hospital a few times in order to find relief. Sometimes the inhaler just doesn’t cut it.) My parents were aware of my breathing difficulties, long before I knew why I struggled to gain oxygen, so many times in my growing years.
There was a time, as a kid, that I’d go to the doctor for weekly allergy shots. My allergies were inherent to my childhood and not, I suspect, as a result of poor eating habits. My mother was very careful to not give us Nelson kids processed foods or a lot of sugar. We were raised on homemade wheat bread and local honey. This is an oversimplification, but it helps to set the scene for how I ate in my youth. Even with this simple eating/living, I was highly allergic to animals (dogs, specifically) and any exercise would trigger some pretty terrific (as in, not awesome) asthma attacks.
To give you an idea of how easily my asthma was trigger, if I were to all of a sudden, up and run for 10 seconds, it would likely cause an asthma attack that would require a couple of puffs from my inhaler. (I carried my inhaler EVERYWHERE) I went.
When I turned 26, I decided that I wanted to start to run (Running is something that my father and family participate in, so the tradition and pressure system is already in place.) I began by running in Springville, only a telephone post distance at a time. As I’d add a telephone post’s distance, each run, I became stronger and stronger. Eventually, if I started slowly enough, I could get through an entire run without an attack (Although, many times I’d have an attack as soon as I’d stop running, which was weird.)
Over the course of years, I’ve managed to get to where I can run as far as I want, without taking my inhaler. I still keep it on me for most runs, but I only have to take it around 1% of the time. Clearly I’ve made significant progress.
There are, however, a few times when my asthma is an issue on a run. Some examples of this are:
1. I’m already sick with a cold or something, but decide to run, anyway.
2. The air quality is horrible (a bad inversion, or something).
3. I sprint for any amount of time (unless I work up to this, slowly in speed.
4. Cold weather can induce an attack. So I run much slower in the winter.
Otherwise, I really have managed to get my asthma under control. The other day I was sort of struggling to breath, on a run with Bryce Knudson, but I think that this was mostly due to poor air quality.
A couple of years ago, I ran through some very bad air quality days. I started off with a cold, which eventually turned into a nasty case of pneumonia, which caused me to miss running for a couple of months (not to mention a bit of money due to doctor’s visits. Oh yeah- and a trip to the hospital when one doctor thought I might be having a heart attack.)
Overall, I actually attribute my recent bout of less asthma, due to my running habits. I feel that my body responds well to the stress, as long as I am careful and don’t overdue it. Mileage, I think, it’s so much the issue, as is the weather and how fast I run.