Making Plans and Achieving Goals

Working Out With Asthma

There is no better way to impress a girl than to show her your inhaler collection.  Unless you are showing it to her because your face is purple and you aren’t breathing.  I kid, I kid.  I wanted to write about a personal topic today.  Working out with asthma and just in general living with it.  Hopefully, we can change some stereotypes and get some practical information.

What is Asthma

I feel like when people hear asthma they always think of someone like Leonard from Big Bang Theory.  There seems to be this thought out there that people with asthma are just these ticking time bombs where the smallest excitement or exercise will set them off.  My best friends mom growing would not let me go on trips with them.  His mom was afraid of me having an asthma attack and dying.

Asthma is nothing more than a condition where your airways swell and produce extra mucus.  This is what gives us that lovely wheezing noise.  It also causes you to cough and cough and cough and cough.  Like seriously the amount coughs per hour is extraordinary.

Asthma can’t be cured but the condition does tend to change over time and some people will outgrow it almost completely.  Asthma symptoms can be triggered by exercising, allergies, cold or infection, cold air, certain medicines, no apparent reason at all, and on and on.

Despite the vast number of people who have asthma (estimated around 8% of people in the US) they really aren’t sure where it comes from.  Basically environmental and genetic factors play a role but they can’t point to a certain gene or anything like that.

Around 250,000 people will die from asthma attacks every year.  People tend to not think of asthma as a killer but it certainly can be when not treated.  That is why getting diagnosed early is super important.  Start working with a doctor who can prescribe you the proper rescue medication.

A Brief Personal History

I got diagnosed with asthma when I was three years old.  This was not during a check up or something but was actually during an emergency visit to Baptist Hospital.  I actually had acute asthma and was having an asthma attack.  I was there for five days and they really had no clue what was going on for the first few days because no one in my family had asthma.

Finally, some young doctor figured it out, treated me and I was able to go home.  I actually saw the same doctor for the next 15 years of my life and he still has a practice in NC today.  My condition has improved but will never go away.  It has more shifted from life threatening to chronically annoying.

My doctor was really awesome about encouraging my parents to still let me play and run around as much as I wanted.  I think my parents gut reaction was “Are you crazy!  What do you think brought us to the hospital?”  But, they went along with it anyway.  I played soccer, ran cross country, lifted weights, and anything else a kid would do.

Working Out With Asthma

It should go without saying but I am not a doctor.  The below advice should be taken with the tiniest grain/bucket of salt.  And, please talk to your doctor before dramatically changing anything you do.

  1. Never use it as an excuse – Absolutely never say you can’t do something because of asthma.  If the team is running laps then get your ass out there and run some laps.  We all have different strengths and weakness and if asthma is your biggest weakness then you are blessed beyond measure so go run.
  2.  Be Prepared – You should always act as if you have the lungs of an Olympic marathon runner but you should be prepared for reality.  For the most part, your rescue inhaler will be able to take care of anything that flares up during exercise.  If you are already tight you should get and use a nebulizer (amazing how cheap these are now compared to 25 years ago).  The nebulizer will deliver the medicine slowly in a mist form and is far superior to an inhaler.
  3. Push Yourself – Always be willing to test your limits.  You have no idea what your potential is unless you keep pushing the boundaries.  Sure you are at a genetic disadvantage when it comes to endurance.  But, it does not mean you can’t maximize what you have.
  4. Own it – Let your friends and coaches know you have asthma.  Tell them it is a non-issue but you wanted them to know so they wouldn’t panic if they ever heard you wheezing or saw you using your inhaler.  Don’t feel like you need to run and hide to use your inhaler or nebulizer.

Cool thing is most people’s asthma will improve with age.  This means it kind of acts like a performance enhancer as you get older.  It is almost like you have been training with one of those exercise masks and every year someone is making the holes a little bigger.


If you or someone you know has asthma don’t be afraid of working out or playing.  Don’t create artificial boundaries for yourself.  Mine was on the severe end of the spectrum growing up and I was able to stay out of the emergency room after I knew what it was.  And remember if the only box you have to check on those medical forms is asthma then you should be extremely thankful for your health.

Do you have asthma?  Have you been able to workout with asthma?





4 thoughts on “Working Out With Asthma”

  • I don’t have asthma but one of my best friends growing up did. He had to have the right conditions to sleep otherwise he would wake up with asthma attacks which were really scary. Needless to say we didn’t have many sleepovers at my house so that his parents could monitor him and keep him in the right home environment.

    • That is brutal. I hope that as he got older he was able to outgrow it some.

      I remember my parents had to get rid of their lovely shag carpet and put a humidifier in my room for the same reason.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • I really love the part where you mentioned to push yourself and test the boundaries. Everyone of my friends that I’ve known with asthma have never used it as an excuse in the gym. It’s definitely one of those perseverance trait builders. This is a great post.

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