Running with Asthma: How the Superwoman Overcomes

Sophomore Alexa Davis running at a Mattawan sponsored Cross Country meet at Protage West Middle School. She is the number one Varsity girl for Loy Norrix. Photographer: Jenny Dantes
Sophomore Alexa Davis running at a Mattawan sponsored Cross Country meet at Portage West Middle School. She is the number one Varsity girl for Loy Norrix. Photo Credit / Jenny Dantes

At the meets, there is such a diverse group of runners. Those that have been through the chaos for four years straight and those that have just started. There are runners with injuries and illness and also a select few who have asthma or exercise induced asthma who are very hard to point out unless they are seen taking an inhaler before they have to be at the start.

“When I think of asthma, it brings to mind really heavy breathing with wheezing in between,” said sophomore Alexa Davis, who has exercise induced asthma.

As Davis runs beside her teammates during the warm-up after school, her breathing is more off beat than those that flank her from all sides. She tries her best to control the way she breathes, but it is not as easy as it looks.

“Focus on controlling your breathing, slow down, or stop,” said Davis, who is more used to breathing troubles than most.

Experts, such as Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik, say using a breathing pattern of three’s and two’s are good for long and easy runs, and two’s and two’s for hard workouts and sprints.

“I’ve tried it, but I lost focus. When I can find a breathing pattern, it gives my brain something to think about rather than my ragged breathing,” said Davis.

Some runners who are less experienced in the art of running may have a mental block on asthma, thinking they might pass out if they stretch past their limits. They decide the second before they run, to go long and easy. Once halfway there or more than halfway, they experience issues and turn back even if they’re almost to their goal. Davis, on the other hand, has a hard grip on her running style. She takes on a positive outlook whenever she runs and does her best to stay out of the pessimistic hole some runners have often visited.

“Have a positive attitude. It’s going to be okay. You’ve done this before, you can get through this again,” said Davis.

There are many ways to get a better grip on running with asthma or exercise induced asthma. Talk to a doctor or trainer. There may be other things that haven’t been tried that might help. Do breathing exercises at home or before practice. Most importantly, don’t give up. These things are frustrating, but that’s bound to happen. Make this a strength, not a weakness.

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