Dear Asthma – Kiss my ass – Love, Determined-ass Runner
I was put off by running because I felt that I was such a huge lard-ass that it was not for me. Granted, I saw other runners who clearly weighed more than me running just fine, but I rationalized that my fat cells obviously must be comprised of some sort of special compact lard DNA that was somehow more evolved in a “Fat Ass American” sort of way. Like, a pound of lead is small, and a pound of feathers is huge, but they still weigh the same. Clearly my fat cells were of the “pound of lead” variety: although they be but tiny cells, they are heavy with lead-like fat. There was no other rational reason why running outside for a mere minute would make me feel like a fat kid scaling Everest for the last Twinkie.
Well, turns out there was. Exercise-induced asthma. It was made worse when I exercised outside, due to environmental allergies. I can run for days on a treadmill inside, but put me outside and within a short time I’m gasping like Claire in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle after Peyton empties all her inhalers.
Well that sucked because I joined a gym and the only show playing on the flat screens that lined the gym walls at the hour I prefer to workout was Supernatural, and apparently I’m the only person on the planet who finds that show a big snooze-fest (seriously, the show has been on the air for 7 years, WHO is watching it?!?!).
This year I moved to the amazing Marin county in Northern California and, as luck would have it, I live within mere minutes of this AMAZING trail. I love the hike that I do on this trail because it is a gradual incline and offers options for a really steep hill climb. It unexpectedly made me challenge my asthma head-on because, I started off the steeper incline of the hill, but then it gave me a rest for a short, flat-trailed, period, then I got hit with another hill, and so on. After a short time, I realized that it became easier and easier and, while on particularly windy days, my asthma was still a struggle, it definitely improved.
I am obviously no doctor, so I don’t know the explanation of this. I will just use the term that CAH uses when he can’t explain something, “A miracle of science.”
But because I don’t have the patience to just “wait til it gets better,” there are a few things I did in the meantime that seemed to help:
NOTE: We’re all adults here, but I’m going to say it anyways, always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Especially if you have asthma.
1. Energy goo: My awesome and beautiful cousin Wendi, who is a fitness powerhouse, posted a great article not long ago about a guy who made his own energy goo. He used ingredients much more natural than the stuff sold commercially. From that post I started taking a spoonful of a mixture of honey and blackstrap molasses (about equal parts of each) before each run. I found that, not only does it give me an energy boost, it nicely coats my airways to make breathing a bit easier.
2. Ginger tea with turmeric: both ginger and turmeric are excellent anti-inflammatories, which can help those angry airways. Drinking a ginger/tumeric tea before and after each run is a huge help. Steep some ginger tea and add some turmeric (available in the spice aisle of your grocery store) and even a little honey. Extra credit points if you add a little cayenne pepper, also a fantastic anti-inflammatory.
3. App: There are a ton of great apps out there to help you get in tip top shape, and they are practically like personal trainers. My absolute favorite phone for the iPhone is 5K Runner. It is free and gradually works you up to running by telling you when it is time to run, and when it is time to walk. I love it because I can listen to my own music and it talks through my music. It really makes jogging a breeze. If you have an Android, I’m sure there are tons of great apps (let me know in the comment section if you know of any).
4. All hail the mighty shoe: It’s crazy how much the right shoe can make a difference. I didn’t believe it myself until I found the right shoe for me. Everyone has an opinion of the “ultimate” shoe, but shoes are as personal as underwear. Not every pair is universal. Take me for example: I have weak-ass ankles and so I’ve always focused on finding running shoes with the most ankle support, paying attention to little else. Turns out my holy grail running shoe is the Saucony Women’s Hattori Running Shoe, which is very different from other shoes I’ve tried. But they are the first shoes I’ve used where I didn’t deal with shin splints. So play around with different shoes and do your research, it is so worth it. Also find a good running shoe store in your area – they can measure your feet and get a good idea of how your specific foot hits the ground so that they can recommend the best possible shoe for you.
5. Make those lungs your bitch – The first day I really pushed myself to run outside, I had to stop at least 6 times because I felt like my lungs were on fire – no lie. I think what kept me going this time was realizing that the 5 pounds of porous tissue sitting in my chest was holding me back every time it decided to throw a temper tantrum. So I called its bluff and persevered through. Don’t get me wrong, my lungs put up a good fight, and in the beginning, there were about 20 times per run that I was ready to say “Screw this, you win lungs, I’m heading home.” But instead I would stop and commence with an ugly coughing/wheezing fit, and when it stopped, I just kept right on going. And now, they still act up from time to time, but I’m stopping a whole lot less. I think for many of us asthmatics, it is the fear of an attack that holds us back more than anything. Push through the fear, and you’ll find it is a lot easier to push through the asthma.
So there is what I’ve been doing to overcome my exercised induced asthma. I still carry my inhaler with me just in case, but I’ve not had to use it once.