The Runner’s Guide to Managing Asthma

How to cope with asthma as a runner

If you’re an asthma sufferer who runs regularly then you’ll know there are few things more irritating than having your run or jog brought to an early end by painful symptoms.

Over 5 million people have asthma in the UK and, although it is generally quite easily managed, that does not mean you will not sometimes experience the symptoms. Cardio exercises are among the most common triggers for symptoms of asthma and, because it generally mixes physical exertion with an outside environment, few cardiac exercises are as likely to trigger symptoms as running.

Asthma symptoms can vary from person to person and range from light coughing and chest tightness all the way up to a full asthma attack. Though it is unusual, asthma can even lead to hospital treatment in some cases. As a runner you are likely to risk symptoms each time you begin so it is extremely important that you know how to manage them. It might not seem like much at all, but even something as simple as an extra inhaler left alongside your running shoes could make the difference if you ever needed help.

Managing your asthma

Although asthma is a highly personal condition with many people being affected by it in different ways, there are several factors you can bear in mind, and several changes that you can make to ensure that you aren’t at risk.

Plan your route

Are your symptoms worse when you run in parks or fields? Do you struggle to breathe when you run in city streets or in areas with a lot of cars? It could be that environmental factors are triggering your asthma. Planning your route can be an effective way of cutting out harmful symptoms – if you suffer whilst running and when exposed to pollen, for example, then your asthma can be exacerbated beyond what it normally would be if you were suffering from just one of the symptoms. Avoiding fields if you’re affected by pollen or avoiding busy streets if you’re affected by smog can limit the strength of your symptoms and the likeliness of attack.

Prepare

Always being ready for symptoms is the best way to effectively deal with them. General management of your condition – including regular medication when needed, and visits to your doctor or asthma nurse – is key to staying on top of the condition, especially if you regularly take part in activities like running that are likely to exacerbate your asthma. When you go on your runs make sure that you’re prepared–take your inhaler and let someone know where you’re going and how long you will be. OnlineClinic medical advisor, Dr Hilary jones, has also stated: “Asthmatic symptoms if left untreated could potentially prove harmful. For sufferers of the condition, it is essential to have the right inhaler treatment to hand."

Build your own resilience

Asthma is a condition that your body can become more used to if given the correct time; building up over days and weeks can allow your body to become used to the exercise. Start with light runs and slowly increase your effort day by day – it’s different for everybody, but if you give yourself this time to improve then you can, over time, complete longer, more satisfying runs.

Recover

It’s important you give your body the time it needs. All pain and discomfort, including the symptoms of asthma, are signals from your body that something is wrong. It is important not to ignore these signals. If you have an attack whilst running then allow time for your body to recover and then, when you begin running again, keep in mind that you will have to go easier than you might want to, to allow your body to recover properly.

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