Heading Into Week 6: On Asthma and Falling Ill

While I type, I am intermittently coughing, blowing my nose, and sneezing (just to paint a beautiful picture for you on this fine Monday). So though the weather is finally growing nicer, my training for the Half Marathon is grinding to a halt for the next few days while I let my lungs settle out (because, remember, I’m hopelessly asthmatic).

From my run earlier this week, when the sun was shining (and my lungs were functioning)

From my run earlier this week (look it’s the beautiful PNC Park), when the sun was shining (and my lungs were functioning).

While this blog post will focus on living with asthma and training with a sinus infection, I’ll begin with a review of last week and my fledgling, sad plan for this week.

Review of Last Week:

Planned Schedule
Monday: Day of Rest
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: No running, 5:15 Boot Camp
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: No running, 5:15 Boot Camp
Saturday: 3 miles
Sunday: 9 miles

Actual Schedule
Monday: Day of Rest
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: No running, 5:15 Boot Camp
Thursday: No running due to ankle pain
Friday: No running, 5:15 Boot Camp
Saturday: No running due to illness
Sunday: No running due to illness

I ran outdoors (in a tank top, no less!) last Tuesday. This is proof!

I ran outdoors (in a tank top, no less!) last Tuesday. This is proof.

You read that right ladies and gentlemen. Due to my illness (and arch pain on Thursday), I ran a grand total of 3 miles last week. And I skipped my long run, which is a major training faux pas according to my dad’s training tips. But when you have recurring respiratory problems as I do, you know when you need to dial it down. All I can say is, thank goodness I am ahead on my training by a week or so, because this set-back stinks but shouldn’t destroy my training.

Next Week’s Plan:

Monday: Day of Rest
Tuesday: Day of Rest
Wednesday: Day of Rest
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: No running, 5:15 Boot Camp
Saturday: Day of Rest
Sunday: 9 miles

While this plan looks, well, measly in comparison to most weeks, it gives me ample time (hopefully) to recover and eases me back into training.

Another view from last week's one run. I hope the warmth continues this week!

Another view from last week’s one run. I hope the warmth continues this week, even if I can’t enjoy it.

Topic of the Week (In Two Parts): How To Live with Asthma/Train While Sick

Part One (How to Live with Asthma):

Having asthma is not enjoyable. You wheeze. You can’t breathe. And there is a misconception out there that asthma is an excuse lazy people use not to workout (have you seen any nerd movie ever? they always carry an inhaler). And while I’m sure asthma is abused by some, that misconception trivializes the severity.

I wanted to go into my experiences with asthma, because many don’t know what it’s like to live with it, and because I’ve had a few mom’s ask me about how their asthmatic kids will grow up.

While I don’t speak for all asthmatics (and I’m not a doctor), the short answer is this: As long as their asthma isn’t too severe, they carry an inhaler, and they know their personal triggers, asthma should not impact their daily life or working out. But the long answer, for me, is this:

I’ve had asthma since I was a kid, and I’m on daily medication to control it. When I was little, my asthma was worse (I had several asthma attacks), but now that I’m older, it’s not as bad. My asthma is triggered when my allergies are bothering me and when I work out, so I use an albuterol inhaler before working out and carry one with me while running (it gets worse if the air is cold). But my asthma really rears it’s ugly head when I am congested.

Mikey from The Goonies actually throws his inhaler away when he becomes a brave man. Spoiler: As an asthmatic, you can't throw away you're inhaler. It connects you to the breathing and the staying alive-ing.

Mikey from The Goonies actually throws his inhaler away when he becomes a brave man. Spoiler: As an asthmatic, you can’t throw away you’re inhaler. It connects you to the breathing and the staying alive-ing.

I get sinus infections about once a month during the winter (thank you immune system), and normally, I catch it early enough so it doesn’t settle in my lungs. But this time, my pesky sinuses directly launched their cruelty on my lungs, and I woke up wheezing every few hours the past few nights. Yowzah.

So I had to go to the doctor where they put me on a basic antibiotic and twice-a-day breathing treatments. Breathing treatments make you look like an elderly person on a breathing machine (no disrespect), when actually, you are breathing in a steroid for 15 minutes or so to help loosen up your muscles.

Side effects of breathing treatments: shaky hands, occasional twitches of the face. Side effects of breathing treatments when you’re 10 years old and you’re on a girl scout trip: everyone thinks they can’t breathe in the air around you when you’re doing a breathing treatment, because it could hurt them. (Don’t worry, I educated them.)

Me with my nebulizer's mouth piece. Who knew breathing treatments could look this ... tired.

Me with my nebulizer’s mouth piece. Who knew breathing treatments could look this … tired.

When it comes right down to it: Having asthma does not affect me everyday. I can still do things like train for a half marathon and sweat it out in hot yoga. But when I’m ill, it really bothers me. And only once in a blue moon does it actually scare me (and I own a nebulizer, so I am never far from a breathing treatment if I had an asthma attack).

Do any other asthmatic runners have advice?

Part Two (How to Train While Sick): 

Based on my research, most people (or just the smarties at Runner’s World) advise that you can train, cautiously, if you’re merely congested in the face region, but you should take a break if you’re having respiratory problems/body aches/fever. Since I’m currently ruminating (begrudgingly) in the latter category, I’m sitting it out for a couple days.

If I wanted to, I could do basic strength training (no cardio) during this time, but I feel so lousy, I’m just going to focus on getting better. My doctor told me I should be okay to run later this week/this weekend as long as I feel up to it. And the aforementioned Runner’s World folks advise that those with sinus infections (which I have), should take at least 72 hours off of running.

In the end, it’s a judgement call, but I’d rather go back to running when I feel ready, instead of going back because I feel obligated to clock my milage, especially given my asthma. How do all of you veteran runners deal with training while ill?

I hope you all stay happy and healthy this week.

Until next week,
Jessie (AKA, lil wheezy)

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2 thoughts on “Heading Into Week 6: On Asthma and Falling Ill

  1. I’m feeling a bit tired lately. Seems like a good time to take a break! It’s early enough that it won’t have a negative impact and I can finish the rest of my training on a strong note!

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