Running With Asthma

Running With Asthma

Recently, I stumbled across an interesting article on exercise with asthma in Women’s Health Magazine. It has given an example of an elite athlete who has suffered with asthma from a young age.  It has enlightened me with 6 easy to remember tips for exercising with asthma.

Paula Radcliffe, GB, marathon world record holder, was diagnosed with having exercise induced asthma from age 14. This gives us great motivation through example that it is possible to enjoy cardio intensive sports such as running!

The article cites references from Bill Roberts, MD, Professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Mr Roberts is the medical director for Twin Cities Marathon Minnesota. Mr Roberts speaks from his own experience as he too, is asthmatic. He offers his advice and suggests the following 6 tips for runners who suffer with asthma:

1. Make sure it’s asthma! Coughing/sneezing? Doesn’t always mean asthma. Mr Roberts advises that there are several things that can mimic asthma. One example being vocal cord dysfunction. You will need contact your doctor to make sure your wheezing like sound is indeed asthma.

2. Take your meds! Asthma meds relax your airways. Asthmatics experience wheezing/coughing and difficulty breathing when those muscles constrict – bronchospasm. Rescue inhalers provide quick relief. These can give relief or act as preventative medicine. If your asthma isn’t triggered solely by physical exertion, you may need to be on daily medication, such as inhaled steroids.

3. Warm up! Thinking of saving your lung power for your race? Don’t! Working your lungs hard before your race may help you dodge an attack. Roberts advises that there is a refractory period for bronchospasm. Warming up to induce some coughing/wheezing is a good thing as long as it can be controlled. It usually takes 4-6hrs before you have as bad a spasm again. The key is to warm up to create just a small spasm without sapping your energy.

4. Combat against pollen! Asthma can be triggered by pollen. It makes sense to run when pollen counts are at their lowest. You can check your local pollen count online at After your run, showering can remove pollen from your hair and skin. Wash your training gear straight away.

5. Cover your face! Even people without asthma find it hard not to cough during runs in the cold temperature. Why is this? Well inhaling cold, dry air results in cold, dry airways – a trigger for bronchospasm. Roberts suggests covering your mouth and nose. The moist warm air you exhale will help humidify the air you inhale. Try using fleece material, it helps to stay warm even when wet.

6. Be smart! Always carry your rescue inhaler – you’ll be very glad you have it. Have a game plan – confirm with your doctor the progression of steps you should take if you have an asthma attack. Take extra precautions if you have severe asthma – If you have ever went from feeling really good to being in severe distress, really quickly, it may be advisable to run with a friend or at least to carry your mobile phone on you!

Lastly, why not make an appointment to get your running assessed with video analysis playback? The more efficient you run, the less you have to work!


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IMG_0129Patrick Mc Carrick MISCP

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