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Can Someone With Asthma Run A Marathon

First Grader With Severe Asthma Runs Marathon One Step At A Time

Kathy P

Luke Bilbo has severe asthma. But he also has a lot of determination. Enough determination to run a marathon.

In Lukes seven short years, hes already been in the hospital more times than anyone can count. In kindergarten, he missed 54 days of school. When he did go to school, he had to wear a mask to protect him from germs and asthma triggers. He also had a spot on his lungs that only went away after a long treatment. The last thing his mother, Amanda Bilbo, thought he would do is run 26.2 miles.

When the Bilbos moved from Texas to Kansas in August 2015, Luke surprised his parents by asking to join the marathon club at his new school. The club encourages kids to run enough miles to equal a marathon distance during the school year.

I didn’t mention when he started at his new school because I didn’t think he could do it and I didn’t want him over doing it, said Amanda. But a few weeks into school, he asked me if he could. Well, we have always lived by we arent going to limit him unless he gives us reason to. So we agreed. The very first club meeting he ran 2 miles and I probably had to pick up my jaw off the floor. I was amazed. I had been so worried but he was fearless; I just needed to trust in him.

Luke paced himself when the club met, only running if he felt well enough. He also pretreated his lungs with his quick-relief inhaler before running. His asthma improved the more he ran, until he was able to run without using his inhaler.

How Can Sports Help People With Asthma

Even if you don’t want to be a professional athlete, you benefit from and playing sports. Sports keep you fit. They help you to stay at a healthy weight. Exercise also strengthens the breathing muscles in your chest. If you have asthma, this is very important because it can help your lungs work better.

Sports have great emotional benefits too: Exercising causes the body to produce endorphins, body chemicals that can help people feel more peaceful and happy. Exercise helps some people sleep better. It can even help depression because people who feel strong and powerful can see themselves in a better light.

Getting My Diagnosis Was An Absolute Relief

Being diagnosed with asthma explained so much to me about my body and symptoms. Id had panic attacks in the past, which, with hindsight, were almost certainly asthma attacks. Now I understand what to do if my control isnt as good as it should be, I dont have the fear any more.

I wish Id known about my asthma earlier, and that those early warning signs had been taken more seriously. With a bit more time and knowledge, I could have competed in the Olympics!

How Has Your Medical Team Responded To Your Active Lifestyle

My medical team has gone from the teachers to the students. Because COPD patients dont do what I do, its been a learning experience for all of us. But exercise for people with respiratory disease is very feasible and very necessary if they want a better quality of life. Its all about building your exercise capacity gradually and consistently.

Running With Asthma Blog

Can I run if I have asthma?

Most of you know I have asthma and I am also a runner.  It’s not the ideal combination, but I make it work.  I’ve had to work through lots of health issues to run a , three half marathons, two 15K’s, one 10K and countless  So it’s safe to say I have experience on the topic and I have some tricks up my sleeve to help others figure out how to run with asthma.  So hopefully this will help someone out there in the blog world.

A note on safety first.  This applies to anyone, but especially if you have a medical condition.  Considering getting a Road ID bracelet and filling in the emergency information on your phone.  Let someone know where you are running and what time you plan to be done.  That way your bases are covered if there is an emergency.  I’ve never had one, but it is nice to know I’d have a better chance of getting help if I did.

Before we get started, I want to make sure it’s clear that this is merely my personal experience.  I am not a doctor, nor am I your doctor.  Please check with your doctor before you do anything if you have asthma and always follow your doctors advice before mine.  I am able to run with my asthma, without problems but your situation may not be the same.

Training A New Method

Running a marathon will be very different training regime for me. My previous long events have been Ironman races, which include a swim and ride. While Ill continue to swim and ride once a week for cross training purposes, my total training time will be less than previous events.

My official training will start on the May 1 and will run for the 26 weeks leading up to the race. Many of my training sessions will have a heavy focus on speed work, as I need to increase my running pace in order to complete the race in my time goal.

My coach Doug and I have been working on some new training techniques to increase my speed and so far weve achieved some promising results. I’ll be having lung function and exercise stress testing in the near future and again two weeks before the marathon so we can compare results at either end of the training program.

Part of the reason we are adopting some new techniques is to find ways to improve the health of COPD patients in general through exercise. If we can find better ways to train faulty lungs, it would be a great result.

If I can run the New York City Marathon in 5 hrs 45 minutes, then I will be on pace with a lot of people with healthy lungs, and that would be a great step forward for exercise programs for people with COPD.

I’m not suggesting that everyone should go and run a marathon, but the exercise theory we develop could possibly be used on many patients.

#5 Carry Room Temperature With You

Just like other runners, you will need to carry water with you when running. Without it your throat may get too dry and this can trigger an asthma attack.

No matter how tempting it is to carry ice cold water especially during the hot months stick to room temperature water as it works best with asthmatic people as it is easier on the lungs and will not irritate the airways

How To Know If You Have Exercise

If youve already been diagnosed with asthma, you might not need further testing to confirm your symptoms are EIB. If you dont have asthma? Youll likely perform an exercise challenge: A doctor measures how much air you can inhale and exhale, and how quickly you can do it before and after working out on a treadmill or stationary bike.

If youre experiencing airway narrowing, the volume of air that you can forcibly exhale will drop and you can see that easily on a test, says Taliercio.

How To Run With Asthma: Tl;dr

  • Roughly 15% of athletes are diagnosed with exercise induced asthma , but many people believe its a make-believe condition.
  • You can still be a runner if you have exercise-induced asthma, traditional asthma, or even exercise-induced bronchospasms.
  • Learning how to run with asthma means that you have to alter how you train. Primarily, you have to allow yourself more time. Because running with asthma is totally dangerous, you need to keep an inhaler handy, too.
  • If youre looking for exercise induced asthma treatment, go see a doctor . What my doc said to do, and what works for me, is to use an Albuterol inhaler about 15 minutes before I run.
  • Alsodont compare yourself to athletes who dont have asthma.
  • You will likely progress more slowly than other people and plans say you should, but you will progress.
  • Listen to your body. If it says you need to slow down or shift some training days or distances, do it.
  • If you feel short of breath, tightness in your chest, wheezing, and taste metal in your mouthgo to a doctor ASAP.

Hi. Im Beej, Im a runner, and I have asthma. I know from experience how tough this road can be. And thats not even including the shock from the pavement.

I started out at 310 pounds and unable to run, and eventually lost down to 155 and doing half-marathons. And there are a few things I learned along the way that helped me get miles on my shoes and air in my lungs.

How To Use A Rescue Inhaler

For you uninitiated, you have to suck the aerosolized medication deep into your lungs for it to work. To accomplish this:

  • Exhale until you cant exhale any more and you really want to inhale.
  • Put your lips around the inhalers mouthpiece.
  • Depress the inhaler while inhaling deeply .
  • Hold your breath for 10 seconds .

Most folks are instructed to take two puffs of medication, about a minute apart.

But heres the deal, asthma isnt just bronchoconstriction. There are three things going on in an asthmatics lungs that impede airflow and running PRs.

  • Narrowed airway passages
  • Increased mucus production in the airway passages
  • Image: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

    When I teach about asthma for NOLS Wilderness Medicine, I always feel like Im doing a strange infomercial.


    And a rescue inhaler doesnt touch the inflammation and mucus. Gargh!

    Long-term control medications are necessary for that. And figuring out exactly what those medications should be isnt easy. Its like blister prevention. What works for one person might not work for somebody else. And what works in one environment might not work in another.

    When I was in the Sahara Desert running this multi-day race, my heart rate was just so high

    At this 50-mile race, I was really short of breath

    Training just feels harder than it should

    Asthma Attack After Running: Risk Factors

    Athletes with asthma usually show the sign of attack after running. And due to this, their practice often gets interrupted due to severe asthma problems.

    Even for a common person who is passionate about running and exercising, it becomes very hard for them to run faster with asthma.

    The major factor which is most of the time responsible is cold dry air in winters. Running with asthma in cold weather actually constrict your airways, triggering asthma symptoms.

    And for this reason, doctors usually advise not to exercise in cold weather outside. They also recommend not to get indulged in sporting activities such as ice skating, ice hockey, etc which can easily trigger the asthma problems.

    In addition to cold dry air; factors such as pollen count, pollution, smoke, etc are also sometimes responsible for getting running asthma symptoms. Asthmatics should, therefore, avoid running in these conditions.

    Can I Run If I Have Asthma

    Run Mummy Run

    Since joining the Run Mummy Run facebook community I have paid great attention to the frequent posts about running with asthma.  I was diagnosed with asthma as a child but thought Id grown out of it until I started getting physically active in my thirties.  My asthma goes through phases, sometimes it is so mild I barely notice it until I run but at the moment I am more or less constantly wheezy.  Im working with my asthma nurse to find what works for me but in the meantime I want to know how to run safely and comfortably with asthma.

    I contacted Asthma UK to get their advice on how to run if you have asthma.

    Sonia Munde, Head of Helpline and Nurse Manager at Asthma UK, said: Exercise, including cardio vascular exercise like running, has amazing benefits for everyones general health and although some people with asthma may feel anxious about exercising, it can be particularly beneficial for them.  For instance, we know it can improve the way your lungs work and help you manage your weight, which might reduce your symptoms and cut your risk of an asthma attack. Its also worth remembering that many world-class athletes including Paula Radcliffe have asthma.

    The Basics

    Running with Asthma in Winter

    Exercise Induced Asthma

    If you get a cold and your asthma symptoms get worse and youre worried about starting a new exercise regime or exercise-induced asthma, have a chat with your GP or asthma nurse first for advice.


    Youll Get Temporarily Shorter

    Run a Marathon When You Have Asthma? Yes, You Can ...

    Yes, its true, youre expected to lose almost half an inch in height during a marathon. According to the Journal of International Medical Research, this loss in height is a result of the back muscles tensing under strenuous conditions and fluid loses between the intervertebral disks. Dont fear, this is only temporary, your height will be fully restored when fluid levels are replaced.

    Running With Asthma Be Kind To Yourself

    Finally remember, running is hard for most people.  Running with asthma is even harder.  Go easy on yourself and don’t compare your times to others.  If you have asthma, your personal best may be different that others.  However, if you can overcome your breathing issues, finishing a solid run or race can be even more gratifying.


    Thanks for stopping by today!  Come back tomorrow for a easy one pan dinner with little no clean up.

    Im linking this post with Jill Conyers for Fitness Friday, Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursday,  Coaches Corner, and Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday.

    Your turn!

    How do you overcome your running challenges?

    If you have asthma do you have any additional tips?

    Focus On Breathing Correctly

    If you can learn to breathe more controlled and efficiently while running, it will be easier.

    Focus on breathing through both your nose and throat and into your diaphragm.  By turning your attention to getting as much air as possible, you can keep those fast panicked breathing moments at bay.  The last thing you want to is to chest breathe, using your diaphragm is key.  Control your breathing for as long as possible by taking a long breath in and an even longer one out.  I like to count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand in and four-five of the same out.  Run without music for a few runs to get the hang of it.

    Another trick I learned is to put the tip of your tongue on the back of your top teeth and push the rest of your tongue down.  That will allow more air to get through your throat at a time.  Sounds strange, but if I’m having trouble it helps me.

    New York City Challenges

    When I arrive in NYC, Ill be confronted by two major triggers: cold and pollution.

    I am planning on combating the cold by wearing appropriate clothing and by doing plenty of night and early morning training during the Australian winter. While the winters are pretty mild where I live, it will help me cope better in New York.

    As for pollution, training in an exhaust filled room is probably not a great simulation idea. So well explore the option of wearing a mask of some type not ideal for a marathon but it could be a necessity.

    This will be my first race of any type outside of Australia. While being a great adventure, it will also be a little daunting.

    I like to see the course Im competing on before an event so I can piece together how I expect the race to unfold. I will arrive in New York around a week before the race and will be using that time to recover from the flight over 18 hours flying time on oxygen and acclimatizing to the New York cold.

    Whats Been The Biggest Challenge For You Since Being Diagnosed With Copd

    Challenging normal ideas about what a stage 4 COPD patient can do. A lot of people are skeptical of how I can do what I do, as people with my stage of disease dont do Ironman events or run marathons. But the truth is that a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of exercise will give you a better quality of life.

    Take Inhaler Before You Run

    I take my rescue inhaler 30 minutes before I run.  I didn’t always do this, but it made a HUGE difference when I started.  I was worried about taking extra medicine, but this is what it is for!  These medications are meant to help.  This is something my doctor and I talked about and agreed upon, so make sure you clear it with your doctor.  Also take your inhaler with you at all times, you never know when you might have problems.

    Also, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medicines if you are still having trouble.  I switched mine out for years before I got a winning combination.

    You Are Different Train Like It

    One problem for me, though, was that I still couldnt quite hit the intervals I wanted to. Even pre-gaming with my inhaler, running with asthma was making things harder. I came closer to my goal, but I still couldnt progress as fast as some of the training programs wanted me to.

    And again, after a while, I realized that was okay. If you have asthma, you arent the programs target audience. Youre different. You have a medical condition.

    In general, a good rule of thumb is doubling the length of an interval training program to account for asthma. If a program or app says it can get you into running a 5k in 9 weeks, then youre probably safe to assume that it would take someone with asthma 18-20.

    Dont feel bad about that, either. Youll get there.

    It might take you longer to hit certain milestones than someone without asthma, but youre overcoming a lot more than just leg aches, shin splints, and scheduling conflicts to get to the gym, you know?

    If you look at it like thatyoure kind of a badass, right?

    Symptoms Of Exercise Induced Asthma

    Some of the symptoms of Exercise Induced Asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightening in the chest, fatigue during exercise, and poor athletic poor performance. These can happen during or after exercise. Many people dont realize they have EIA because they think the symptoms are their bodys response to exercise.

    My personal symptoms start with a feeling like tingling in my extremities. I always think that they feel like they are not getting enough oxygen. I start to feel weak and my body suddenly needs to slow down. If I try to push through, I feel like the continued lack of oxygen will cause me to faint and even feel like I have encroaching blackness in my peripheral vision.

    As asthma attack can be a life threatening occurrence. Get immediate medical help if your symptoms continue to worsen even after using a rescue inhaler or if your symptoms continue after you are finished with your workout.

    My Journey As An Asthmatic Marathon 25000 Down The Road

    Running with asthma is hard

    The Beginning

    When I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed as having asthma. It was a bit of a trial and error process over the next few years as we figured out what my triggers were and we finally figured it was many of the usual suspects  dust, molds, strong odors like paint/glue, and exercise.

    Those various triggers kept me from pursuing some things when I reached my teenage years that I had really wanted to try out. When I was 16 years old, I experienced the worst year of having asthma yet with multiple trips to the emergency room by ambulance due to different things triggering my asthma and the breathing difficulty.

    Some of those experiences were complicated by anxiety. My doctor told me to tell anyone that wondered to take a straw and to try breathing through it to see what it was like to have an asthma problem. While I had not liked to hear that I was having anxiety issues, it did help me to be able to try and get the breathing and attacks under control before letting the anxiety of not breathing normal kick in. I was able to learn to deal with that a bit more and that helped me significantly.

    Why Running?

    My sport as a kid was baseball. I loved playing it and because it was not excessive exercise all at once, I was able to play it without any significant issues. But, I wanted to try running since I saw how much other people enjoyed it. The problem was that running even a few hundred yards would cause me to start wheezing after a bit. So, that was that or so I thought.

    What Extra Considerations Does Someone With Your Condition Need To Take Before During And After A Race Like This

    To do this race poses challenges that I havent dealt with before, especially running in an environment that is cold and has pollution. While I have been training in the cold so my body can adapt, its hard to train for pollution. Other important factors to consider are heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. I regularly monitor all of these during training. Recovery time between training sessions is important, as endurance training can play havoc with your immune system.

    As a COPD patient, Im very conscious about keeping my immune system strong so I dont become sick. Race week is all about rest and freshening up your muscles before race day. Rest after these events is important for the same reason. It takes a lot out of you, and its important to not only look after your body, but to listen to it.

    Other Exercises Can Help Too

    Most asthma experts agree asthmatics should stay active. This is true no matter how severe your asthma is. Some of my asthma friends enjoy walking. Thats fine! Thats great! Sometimes I walk too, others engage in and . But if you want to try running, perhaps my tips will help you accomplish your goal.

    It’s Ok To Take Walk Breaks

    Once I start running, I generally HATE stopping for walking breaks.  It makes me feel like I failed.  However, I’ve had times I just have to get over myself.

    If you are having trouble with your breathing sometimes it’s better to take a short walk break early on, than let the breathing issues get out of control.  It may seem like a failure, but there is no shame in a walk break if you are having trouble!  That walk break may allow you to finish your run without any extra trouble.

    What Was The First Big Race You Participated In After Your Diagnosis

    Australian Ironman at Port Macquarie was my first event after my diagnosis. I had already entered the event five months before I was diagnosed. It had been a dream to complete one of these races, which entails a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and ends with a marathon. My respiratory specialist told me I wouldnt finish it, but that made me more determined to complete the event.

    Running With Asthma How To Keep Breathing Easy

    Running is one of the worst exercises for triggering asthma, and with high dust levels and pollen counts, its not been a good year for asthmatic runners. However, it neednt be the end of the road

    Thanks to the continuous physical exertion it requires, and being a largely outdoor activity thus exposing asthmatics to environmental triggers running is, alas, a particularly strong asthma trigger. Charity Asthma UK report that over three-quarters of their correspondents have reported exercise such as running as a trigger. But it neednt be the end of the road: famously, Paula Radcliffe was diagnosed with asthma at 14, and 25% of the London 2012 Team GB athletics squad had it. It doesnt have to hold you back and there are ways around it.


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