Ever runner on the road has fought some battle, be it obesity, thyroid, cancer or for that matter Asthma.
Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways in the lungs. These airways are always inflamed in Asthma patients, making it difficult for air to move in and move out of the lungs. This in turn causes symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest tightness.
There are various types of asthma and the most common one is the one caused by dust and pollution. Some suffer from exercise induced asthma and others who have a family history of asthma are likely to be prone to developing this condition. For those who suffer from exercise induced asthma, physicians devise effective ways to keep the symptoms under control before and after the activity. Staying active ensures a healthy living and it is believed that this condition should not restrict one to the side lines or keep them from outdoor activities.
The running community prescribes to the above philosophy and refuses to be bogged down by this condition. They have managed to defy this chronic ailment and have gone as far as to add several miles to their credit and bagging medals at several events.
On World Asthma Day, which fell on May 2nd, several runners from varied backgrounds came forward to share their inspiring stories on how running has benefited them and some useful guidelines for other runners who were in the same boat. They hoped to shed the myth that asthma patients were nothing but slaves to medication.
Sopan Upadhyay –Chief Manager of Marketing at IDBI Federal Life Insurance, was 106 kg and diagnosed with Asthma a few years back. The doctor advised him to stay away from the humid and polluted weather of Mumbai city which apparently did not suit him. Says Sopan “I had loads of allergies with regards to dust, perfume fragrance, pollen grains etc. At times it becomes too difficult to run in extreme conditions. However my regular running has helped me not only lose 15 kg+ weight but also helped me improve my timings of half marathon by 45 mins. Now I can run in most weather conditions and also do it flawlessly. “
Hari Iyer A positive who works with ICICI Bank narrates his experience as well. True to his name, Hari decided to develop a positive approach and has managed to battle his condition which was persisting him since his childhood. He would refrain from activities during his childhood days and proclaimed himself to be a geek. However during college, he decided to join NCC which he said was not a piece of cake by any realms.
Says Hari: “I was always last in the cross country runs. Every day was a struggle, and I use to ask myself whether I would be able to complete this or not. There were moments when I decided to QUIT, but my heart use to say QUTTING is not the option- stand and face the situation. During school days also, I never participated in any sports events due to Asthma. So everything was new to me. Asthma has taught me to be strong. I use to run with my pump in cross country runs. But one thing I have noticed in life, if u have a sheer determination, nothing is impossible. You can overcome everything. I was awarded the best cadet during my college days.”
In his opinion, Asthma is a common disease across the globe, mainly due to the pollution. He feels that an important aspect to control Asthma lies in one’s diet. According to him, runners should be able to identify the food that suits them depending on their body. Some types of food apparently aggravates asthma and advises runners to eliminate those items that act against them. He also advises that asthma patients should eat only 75-80% of the stomach as a fuller stomach tends to cause suffocation, making breathing more difficult.
He said that there was no permanent cure for this chronic condition. Allopathic medication gave only a temporary cure. He strongly recommends Pranayama/breathing exercises early in the morning on empty stomach. Other precautionary measures include covering one’s face while travelling by bike and avoiding heavily crowded areas.
“Half of the disease is caused due to unnecessary tension.” He expresses with a smile. “Life is too short to take tensions. Be free, be alive. I had started running marathons from 2011 and have run 7 full marathons and 4 untimed ultras. Now it’s like, if I don’t run I feel suffocation. I still have asthma but I’m not suffering. As it is said, ‘Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional’. “
Anju Gupta Kaudanya, Chairperson & CEO of Novo Medisciences who is a part of Happy Feet Runners-a group at Navi Mumbai says “I have been diagnosed with asthma after years of sinusitis which is very painful. However I just started Running, rather walking and jogging with my Coach Amit Kumar. But I am very slow and really scared what I will do when the monsoons approach. However I have all confidence in my Coach under whom I seek guidance. I currently am off all pumps and steroids since the last one month.”
Renata Pavrey another enthusiastic runner, was diagnosed with asthma since infancy and spent most of her childhood in the gloomy ambience of hospital rooms. She could not participate in sports during her school days. Since dust, pollen and such particles triggered her breathlessness, her family doctor suggested that water sports would help and thereby recommended swimming. However that never happened due to the inability of finding a good instructor which made her eventually resort to Yoga instead. Her college days showcased a lot more activity in comparison to her school days as Renata got into Karate, dance, Muay Thai and Capoeira.
“Running happened a lot later. Since I was already living with asthma, I knew how to work around this.” she says. “With running, I need to avoid dusty routes. If I’m running in the morning I start early before the sweepers begin their day. In the evenings I stick to the park if I see a lot of traffic on the road.
I have pets at home, so the day before an important race/dance show/martial arts event I don’t hang out with them too much to avoid triggering any wheezing. Changes in season also bring on attacks of breathlessness. Here I stick to yoga, Pilates and mat exercises since I tend to get home bound till the episode subsides. Then I’m back to doing whatever I want to do.”
Shiv Iyer, Assistant Manager at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) was diagnosed with asthma due to prolonged sinusitis. Until last few years, he was using a pump to get relief from wheezing bouts. His doctor recommended strengthening his lungs by doing activity that would force the lungs to take control of his breathing.
Says Shiv “I started cycling and in order to put pressure on my lungs, I started doing uphill cycling. I never imagined I could run. Then I ran my first Half Marathon. I could feel my lungs becoming stronger. Even though my sinusitis is still not cured, my wheezing bouts have disappeared and I no longer use pumps. My energy levels have increased. I now cycle (minimum 20k) and run daily (minimum 5 k). My legs may want to give up but my Lungs don’t!!!”
Ameya Patil, 2 times Half Ironman and a runner from Kalyan Dombivali Runners (KDR) group, shares his inputs. “I was diagnosed with asthma from childhood but that never stopped me from being active during my school and college days. Actually the humidity aggravates my problem but I usually take a tablet before commencing my exercises. So far during my events I haven’t encountered any attack as such but I always carry my inhaler with me just in case of an emergency.
People who have asthma can most certainly get into running and other outdoor activities. All they need to do is consult a sports doctor, be under the guidance of proper medical care and after that-sky is their limit!!”
It is said that a doctors words of advice are golden as they offer a scientific and inspirational approach to the whole thing.
Dr Oak is a paediatrician and a comrades finisher. He was diagnosed with asthma since childhood and was allergic to perfume, dust and cold weather. Despite this he would run a lot during his childhood.
He took up long distance running from 2004. Initially he would carry a pump but said that it was of no use. Instead he would take a small dose of medicine before and after the run which would help in relieving his chest from the congestion. During his mileages he would carry a couple of his tablets with him which he takes the minute he encounters wheezing.
“There is no permanent cure”, he says. “One needs to anticipate and fight. Most of the elite runners are asthma patients. In fact there are many people who have scaled Mt Everest and high altitude places despite suffering from asthma. So this condition should not stop anyone from indulging in outdoor activities. “