Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Let's talk about Asthma...

Folks who don't live in AZ think we have such great weather... and we do, mostly, if you don't count the summer months where we sweat out 120 degree days. But it's a dry heat. Yeah, dry like sticking your head in an oven set to broil. Lol. We've also got all this "desert" - so allergies should be better here, right? Wrong. I've had more allergy issues since moving here than ever in my life. And the Asthma. Yeah, that developed here, too. The big whammy comes when they hit at the same time. Then just for kicks and giggles, dive down into my chest and set up a congestion/anti-oxygen party.

In the last two days, I've gone through two boxes of tissue. My nose is peeling, my upper lip is peeling, and just to add insult to injury, I got home from a meeting this morning (with the ROCKSTAR) to discover that fever blisters have formed between my nose and my lip. Awesome.

My youngest laughed at me and my peeling, blistered face, then had to run for the box of tissue because she's having allergy issues, too. Karma, darling. Karma. I would have laughed right back at her except I didn't have enough air to do so.

Needless to say, this little turn of events has banned me from the gym. Not only would it be stupid for me to try to lift with a lack of proper oxygen, but let's face it - this is me folks... I'd get frustrated by my lack of strength and energy, and push myself. And  you know what happens when I push because I'm frustrated... I hurt myself. Yep. Let's just skip that, shall we? Lol. ;-)

Anyone else fight with allergies and asthma? I know the ROCKSTAR does, and she just competed and kicked serious arse at The People's Choice here in Scottsdale - all while battling a vicious asthma flare. How do you handle asthma when it interferes with your activity/goals?

Here are a few things I've learned about my own asthma...

  • Attacks happen. I carry my inhaler at all times. I've had attacks come out of nowhere - in the mall, the grocery store, a school event, doing cardio, or while lifting. Having that inhaler just a reach away makes all the difference. It's not a pretty thing to carry around, and I'd bling my inhaler just to make it a little more attractive, but we all know that I'd probably end up sucking back a rhinestone and choking during an asthma attack. Lol.
  • There's no reason to be embarrassed. Being the shy girl, having a public asthma attack (which because mine is largely exercise induced, my attacks mostly happen in the gym) was worse for me than the actual attack. I had to learn to just roll with it. Sure, I sound like a barking seal for a few minutes, but whatever. So what? What's the alternative? Skip the gym forever? Nope.
  • My heart rate monitor is a tool and a weapon. Wearing my HRM allowed me to discover trends. When my HR goes over 175, I'm susceptible to an attack. When it goes over 180, I just reach for the inhaler and puff because that ship done sailed. When I see my heart rate reaching up in the 170's, I've learned to focus on my breathing (deep and slow), take sips of water, and slow down if necessary (always a last resort, lol)... whatever it takes to maintain control. Most often, I can watch my HR, and I'll take a puff or two as soon as I feel any tightness. I can usually keep going if I'm on top of it.
  • Know my limits. This one is tough for me. I'm the asthmatic who ignores it, pushes forward, do-or-die... then suddenly my lips and fingers are blue and I can't stand upright. Dumb. I track my attacks now - how many, how often, what were the triggers (and let me tell you, some ladies need to ditch the freakin' perfume cloud in the gym, lol). If I see an emerging pattern, I adjust to it as best I can. I've also learned to seek medical attention before I turn into a smurf.
  • It's not a joke. Asthma is a serious medical condition, and left untreated, it can be life threatening. Further, each attack can damage the airways and lungs causing permanent damage, so doing everything you can to prevent attacks and properly treat them when they do happen can literally extend your life - possibly even save it. 
  • It's not an excuse. If you're overweight, and you're not working out to lose weight because you have asthma, then you are doing  yourself and your body an enormous disservice. The less weight you have pressing down on your lungs (fat), the better they can expand. Building a strong heart and lungs (cardio/strength) helps your body better fight against attacks - and recover from them. And guess what? The fitter you are, the fewer attacks you're likely to have. Ditching the weight and getting fit allowed me to eliminate the daily meds I'd been required to live with just to breathe. 
For the last several years, I simply have my emergency inhaler to deal with the few attacks I get. Now, that said, allergy season is always harder, and my asthma makes me more likely to develop respiratory infections, so I try to keep my allergies under control. However, when they do go berserk, and my asthma jumps in to join the party, I have to be hyper-aware of my limits and do everything I can to protect my lungs. Often this involves nebulizer treatments, and occasionally a steroid shot. It is what it is. 

While having asthma isn't an excuse to stop exercising, it's also important to know when exercise can cause more damage than good. And it's important during those times to know that this is temporary. This asthma flare will end, and I will be back in the gym, strengthening my lungs, heart, and body. There's no cure for asthma, but there is treatment. It's foolish to ignore it, or to deny it (talking to myself here, too, lol). The key to living with asthma is to treat it properly, but not let it become an excuse to stop living.  

Did you know... 
There are many amazing elite athletes who have asthma. Take a peek at a few... 

Jackie Joyner-Kersey - Olympic Track & Field 
Amy Van Dyken - Competitive Swimmer
Jerome Bettis - Professional Football
Dennis Rodman - Professional Basketball
Paula Radcliffe - Marathon Runner
Pete Vanderkaay - Competitive Swimmer

So if they can do it - we can do it. Right??  

What are your tricks and tips to living a fit life with asthma? 


  1. I have asthma too, and always carry an inhaler with me. In fact, one of the criteria for a new dressy clutch was that it be big enough to carry an inhaler. :) I use mine BEFORE I work out; otherwise, it's almost guaranteed that I'll have an attack during training. My asthma is also tied somewhat to my HR, but not necessarily. I can have an attack when my HR is low too. Glad you've got a plan and things are under control!

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