Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Running and Wheezing - Lungs, Asthma, and Smoking

Let me first say I wasn't smoking on my run tonight.  I'm sure that was obvious but I just wanted to clear the air, so to speak.

When I was in elementary and middle school I had some breathing troubles.  Asthma is a reactive disorder that causes constriction of the lung passages and therefore makes it difficult to breathe.  I was on different medications and a couple inhalers for a while, but pretty much grew out of it.  I had some trouble in high school, but nothing major.  I was never the kid that was hauled off to the ER at 2:00 am turning blue.  I feel bad for those little buggers.  I can't imagine how they must feel.  I still deal with seasonal allergies and have trouble with mold in the air, but I don't need medication anymore.  I do have a rescue inhaler just in case, but I'm not really sure why.

The main point to this post is that I had a lot of trouble breathing on my run tonight.  I did two miles, and had to walk twice.  I was actually feeling pretty rough and I was having reactive airway problems.  My allergies have been really flared up for the last few weeks and now harvest has begun in Minnesota so there is a lot of dust floating around.  I almost gave up on my run early, but the short walks did help.  The first walk was at about 1.5 miles.  My lungs were really wheezing and I ran past a bench across the street from St. Mary's Hospital.  This bench is where Hospital employees take their smoke breaks since they aren't allowed to smoke on the hospital property.  When I ran by, there were three of them sitting on the bench and as soon as I got a little second-hand my lungs shut off.  Cigarette smoke usually doesn't bother me but just half a whiff kicked my ass tonight.

I walked for half a block or so, then was able to get going again.  A stitch in my side stopped me again a couple blocks later, but that resolved quickly just by putting my arm up for a second.  I ran the rest of the 4 blocks home.  As I was nearing our house I pulled my phone out of the case to check my distance covered and was glad to see it was almost two miles.  I ran past our house to finish those last 5/100ths of a mile.  Probably not necessary, but I like round numbers.  As I hit the 2 mile mark I looked at the pace.  9:13/mile!  15-20 seconds faster than normal, and all while my lungs were shutting down.  Pretty nice for my slow legs and it's no wonder my lungs were burning a bit.  I'm glad my conditioning is improving well.

The moral of the story is that I'm glad I finished the run.  I know it's never best to push it when you aren't feeling well, but in this instance I'm glad I did.  I wonder what my pace would have been if I hadn't walked that little bit.


  1. like you i grew up with asthma but not bad enough to wind up in the hospital. i learned some time ago it's best to breathe through your nose. so when i started to take up running over two years ago i forced myself to breathe through my nose. it was extremely hard to learn. i did it and now do it with ease. now i notice if i breathe through my mouth on my run i start wheezing. big motivation for me to slow down and make sure i continue breathing through my nose.


  2. Interesting, Mike! I actually tried that on Tuesday when I was out and noticed a difference. Like you said, it will take some work to change. It was a lot different. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!