Asthma and Winter

After finding out last year that I have asthma, I followed my doctors instructions on managing it last winter.  Come spring, I  gradually weaned myself off the preventer until I was able to go drug free for over 6 months during the warmer weather.  With the first cold snap around Easter and a mild cold virus, symptoms kicked back in again and I started back on the preventer.  I was nearly through my script though, so it was time to go back to the doctor and get a plan together as to how I should properly be managing this, as I felt like I was making it up on the fly with no real guidance.

Since we moved house at the end of last year, I hadn’t needed to visit the local GP and find myself a new doctor.  So off I went, was told how damn healthy I was, but that I should get a spirometry test to check things out.  I was booked in for the following week and, following some reading on the internet, took myself off my preventer for the week prior.  Luckily things had settled down and nights weren’t nearly as cold, so it wasn’t too much of an issue.  Turns out I did the right thing, although I probably didn’t need to stay off it for quite so long.

The test itself was pretty simple.  Breath out into a tube as hard and for as long as you can.  It took a couple of goes to get the hang of it and then turned out 3 fairly similar results in a row.  That gave us a baseline.  Then it was two puffs of ventolin, wait 10 minutes and go again.  All done and dusted and I was booked in to get the results later the same afternoon.

My GP was happy with the results.  They showed that I do have asthma, but it is very well controlled and has likely not caused long term damage to my lungs at this point.  After the ventolin, my output increased by approximately 5%.  He helped me put together a bit more of a plan on how to manage things.  Two puffs on the preventor each morning during winter, adding in two puffs in the evening as well if I start to get any sort of cold/virus/respiratory infection.  Ventolin as needed if I start feeling like I can’t quite catch my breath.  Then, as spring starts, as long as I’m not needing to use the Ventolin I can start backing off on the preventor with the aim being to wean off it for the summer again.

Other things I found out is that I have excellent lung capacity at approximately 120% of the “normal” for my age/sex/ethnicity/height.  I also seem to be taller!  I’ve “always’ been 168cm, last year at the GP I was 169cm and this year I have reached 170cm.  When I mentioned this, they re-measured only to confirm that I may even be a bit over 170cm.  Both of these things I’m going to give the credit to running (well, ok and genetics, especially for lung capacity).  My posture has definitely improved since I started running and I stand taller and slouch less.

So management has started.  I have a healthy baseline from the spirometry testing which can be used for comparison in the future.  I am more confident in what I should do daily and how to manage any minor issues that crop up.  Fortunately, other than when I had swine flu a few years ago, I’ve never had a major asthma attack and hopefully with good management, I can keep it that way.

Best part – all the doctors I saw (three different ones) told me to keep up the running!


Lessons Learnt

Some big lessons, some reminders and some things I really should know better after last weekends trail race.

  • Don’t ignore your asthma, just because it’s seasonal, mild, whatever. You have it.  Carry a puffer. Don’t be slack with taking the preventer.
  • In preparing for a hilly trail race, run hills and trails in training. To be fair, I knew this  and had planned more hills and trails. Calf issues early in the year and achilles pain more recently had me pulling back on this and running mostly flat road runs. Which would have been great for a flat road half marathon. Not so much a lesson as a reminder that the way my training went meant that while I am fitter this year, I’m still not trained for the terrain. It did at least have me fit and able to run, rather than injured and having to sit it out completely, but I was never going to get my time goals training this way.
  • Strength training will help! Yes, of course I know this. But I’ve never had it thrown in my face quite so effectively 🙂 Those calf raises, squats and bridges my physio keeps telling me to do? I need to start doing them. I worked out a bit too late the perfect time to do my calf raises – while I wait for the train in the morning on my way to work. Every day from now on! Now to find the perfect time for the others.
  • Sort out fueling. My husband told me after the race that I need to start fueling earlier as I was getting snappy. I think my first thing was less than 40mins in though.  Personally I think I just don’t like people talking to me when I’m not in the mood for it as I often do runs over an hour without anything. But I do need to sort it out, I just didn’t prioritise it. Work out if trailwind, nuun, whatever, work for me and test them – preferably before I hit a trail with no nearby toilet stops!
  • Make sure I get out on the course a couple of times in training where possible. I had been on the first part several times in the past six months which made it a comfortable, known section. While this is our third year running the event, having a couple more outings on the latter parts would definitely help.

Plenty to work on for next year and I’m sure it will help with everything in between as well.  There were some things I did right as well though, so maybe they will make it for another post.  Next up, Sydney Turkey Trot on 2nd July!

Managing My Asthma

After the last two runs where I struggled with my breathing – more than expected after not running for a while – it was time to head back to the doctor and find out more about managing my asthma.  Luckily my GP is also a runner and keen to get me back out being able to run normally again as soon as possible.

He got me to do a peak flow test – not ideal when I’m still suffering symptoms but still worth starting to track so we can identify any changes.  Apparently I was at 96% of expected.

After reducing my dose as initially directed, I’m now back on two puffs twice a day for at least two weeks to try and get it under control again.  After that, down to one puff twice a day for a couple of months but going back up to the higher dose if I find it’s not controlling things enough.  Then maybe, just maybe, at the end of winter I will be able wean off it entirely – until the next time, anyway.

My trail run is the only run I’ve done since going back on increased asthma meds and it started tough too, but I don’t think things had completely kicked in at that point.  Not sure when my next run will be.  Hoping for an orienteering run on Saturday, but that’s weather and health dependent.

Added “bonus” – the steroids in the inhaler have made my voice husky, so I’m going to have a crap voice for several months.  I hope this doesn’t happen every year.


Yay – Exercising Again

With a long, wet winter forecast, a job that has me leaving around dawn and getting home after dark, I needed to find some way of getting in some regular exercise during the week this winter.  Then there’s the added bonus of Nick traveling for work occasionally which means that I can’t get out of the house to even run around the oval.  Last year was dismal, I think I ran on average twice a month and didn’t do anything else.

This winter will be different.  We hired an exercise bike for 3 months and tonight I gave it a test run.  30 minutes on program 4, average RPM of 75 – which gave me approx 14km with average heart rate 107, bike told me around 300 calories, while the garmin tells me only 130.  Recovery was easy, my quads definitely felt it though.  Felt really good to be moving again though and should help keep my legs in shape while I can’t run as frequently.


Yep.  That’s me.

I didn’t run this weekend.  I should have, but I didn’t.  Saturday couldn’t happen, but Sunday should have.  I felt like crap in the morning though – tired, cranky and sore.  I had a nap at lunchtime.  In the afternoon I really should have run.  But it just didn’t work out that way.  I did get a ton of food cooked up for the week so I don’t have to live off random crap for dinner all week.

But I still should have run.

I just checked my  weekly distances for the past several weeks – 5km  / 0km / 26km / 15km / 3km. Really, really no consistency at all.

Home Run

I have a number of routes near home that I just refer to as “Home Run” with the distance a the front.  This evening, I got home from work, put my gear on and headed straight out for a much needed run.  My watch took aaaaages to pick up satellites but finally got them just as I was about to give up.  I set off undecided as to whether I was doing 5km Home Run or 6km Home Run.  By the end of the first kilometre I had decided this was a 5km run.

It started off hard, as it always does.  And then it just felt good.  Really good.  I had two planned walk breaks, switched my watch on to just show me heart rate details and refused to check my splits.  Tonight was just about running.  About pushing it a bit for the first time in a couple of months and enjoying the fact that it wasn’t so damn hot anymore!

I finished hard (for me) and checked the numbers:

  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 31:31
  • Elevation: 24m (nice and flat)
  • Fastest km: 5:51

I actually had two splits under 6 mins, it’s a long time since that happened!