Running, one breath at a time

imageYou never realize what you have till it’s gone. How often have I heard that and commented on its truth, yet it has never been more true than when applied to the ability to breathe. How many of us has given this gift of life any thought at all and wondered what it means, aside from death, if it is threatened. Runners, fitness enthusiasts and other athletes should strongly identify and give thanks, but I doubt it, for we are often a people too caught up, too busy getting there to wonder or question how it is at all possible.

Recently, I’ve begun having difficulty with breathing while running. At first I associated this difficulty with not practicing proper breathing techniques and not pacing myself properly. After all, It is common knowledge that a strong respiratory system is a gift to runners and improves your running tremendously; and so there I thought I had it. Now, I’m trying to imagine the difficulty for runners with asthma. It is fortunate that as with most things, breathing or lung exercises can be taught to increase oxygen to your muscles and fuel your endurance. Pilates and Yoga are two forms of exercise that some runners use to give focus to proper or deep breathing techniques. And even with asthma, it is said, one can get treatment and run quite effectively.

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Yet, I am not convinced that any of the above fits my symptoms which leans more on the side of a well-known condition, known in running circles as Running-Induced Asthma. I am still in the early phases of checking this out and for sure will visit with a doctor, but in the mean time I’ve been hearing all sorts of rumors of this condition also known as Exercise-Induced Asthma and one other, Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction; two different conditions, which may not be associated with a prior asthmatic condition at all. On the one hand, the former is brought on by vigorous or prolonged exercise or physical exertion. According to an article titled “Exercise-Induced Asthma” on WebMD, In exercise-induced asthma, the muscle bands around the airways are sensitive to the changes in temperature and humidity brought on by inhaling colder and drier air through the mouth as is common with runners as oppose to normal breathing which is done via the nasal passage through which the air is warmed and moistened. Thus, they react by contracting, which narrows the airway. The result is symptoms such as:
Coughing with asthma
Tightening of the chest
Wheezing
Unusual fatigue while exercising
Shortness of breath when exercising

The other interesting condition that turned up in my research is Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction. Runners World, Running Times, posted an article in May on their Newswire about a recent study: “High Prevalence of Laryngeal Obstruction in Athletes” when conducted, it was found that although many athletes are diagnosed with asthma, and given bronchodilators and other forms of treatment, a large percentage of these athletes continue to have respiratory problems when exercising. One common problem, the study authors say, is exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction, or hindrances to breathing fully in the larynx, commonly known as the voice box. Authors claim that the 2/3 of the athletes under study were mistakenly taking asthma medication while showing no evidence of an asthmatic condition. They found this to be quite alarming.

At this point, I am “say what!” Too much, too soon; but this is all too real. The lesson here I guess, is to be thankful for every little sense and ability you have, to not take it for granted but to cherish and use it to its full potential while it lasts. With that said, to plod ahead in hope of some enlightenment even as I continue to run one breath at a time.

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