Running with Asthma (5 tips for running successfully with asthma)

May 08, 2024

Asthma can be a challenging condition, especially when it comes to physical activities like running. Whether you were diagnosed with asthma as a child or it crept up on you later in life, the thought of running, let alone becoming an ultra-athlete (running more than a marathon in 1 day), might seem like a far-fetched dream. But it doesn't have to be. In this blog post, I'll share five critical tips that have enabled me to enjoy running and even compete in ultra races despite my asthma.

Tip 1: Complete a Thorough Warm-Up

A proper warm-up is crucial for any runner, but it's especially vital for those with asthma. Initiating your exercise with a gentle walk or dynamic stretching can significantly prepare your lungs and heart for the more strenuous activity to come. By gradually elevating your heart rate and loosening your muscles, you'll enhance your performance and reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack. I like to either do a yoga sun A flow, some dynamic stretching, or start with a quarter to half mile walk.

Tip 2: Start Slow and Steady (and get even slower if you are running a half-marathon or more)

Many novice runners, particularly those with asthma, make the error of starting too fast. A measured and gradual start is essential not only to prevent triggering asthma symptoms but also to build endurance over time. Remember, the goal is not to sprint right out of the gate but to maintain a consistent and manageable pace throughout your run. Even if you are training to run a 5K instead of a 50-mile ultra-marathon like me, you will want to start your training slowly to warm up your muscles. And on race day you will want to warm up your muscles before the start of the event so you can kick some butt.

Tip 3: Walking Is a Valid Option

There's no shame in walking. If you feel your asthma symptoms flaring up, or if you simply need to catch your breath, slowing down to a walk is a wise choice. It's important to listen to your body and respect its limits. Stay active at a pace that suits you—every step you take is a step towards your health and athletic goals. This is especially important with the longer the event you are participating in, or if you are like me and just like to see how many miles you can be moving on your feet in a given day, walking is your friend. During the first 50 mile run I completed, I walked for 5-10 miles of it.

Tip 4: Master Your Breathing Techniques

Breathing effectively can be one of the biggest challenges when running with asthma. It's easy to become frustrated or overwhelmed by breathing difficulties. However, focusing on techniques such as locomotive breathing, where you emphasize a longer, more controlled exhale, can help stabilize your breathing and make your runs more enjoyable. Focusing on your exhale really works. For me, I find it a lot easier to focus on my exale than my inhale. And by focusing on my exhale, my inhale tends to calm itself down.

Tip 5: Always Cool Down and Stretch

Finishing your run with a cooldown and a stretching session is as important as the warm-up. It helps in preventing asthma symptoms that might arise after physical exertion and plays a crucial role in overall muscle recovery and flexibility. Establishing a routine that includes stretching and cooling down after each run will aid in long-term asthma management and enhance your performance.

Running with asthma may require some adjustments and a bit of extra planning, but it's certainly achievable. By incorporating these five tips—thorough warming up, starting slow, being open to walking, focusing on your breathing, and cooling down with stretches—you can not only manage your asthma effectively but also thrive as a runner.

Your journey will be unique, and it's important to prioritize your health and comfort. Embrace each challenge as an opportunity for growth, celebrate every bit of progress, and persist in moving forward, one determined step at a time.

Remember, running is not just about the physical benefits; it's also a journey of self-discovery and resilience. As you adapt these strategies, you might find that running with asthma not only becomes possible but also profoundly rewarding. Here's to taking your running goals in stride, no matter the obstacles!


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