Running on Empty

I am not really a runner. I am envious of runners, with their fancy shorts and their gps watches and their fanny packs of water. And, you know, their running. But I’m not really one of them. Maybe what I do is jog. What is the difference between running and jogging, I wonder?

I have asthma. I’ve probably had it most of my life but it wasn’t diagnosed until my early 20s*. I have the type that some pharmaceutical ads describe as “well-controlled.” It took a while to figure out the correct cocktail, but with a combination of allergy meds, inhaled steroids, and the occasional puff of albuterol, you most of the time wouldn’t realize I even had asthma. Unless, of course, you were with me when I was exercising aerobically. Then you would know. Because I sound like a seal.

I DON'T sound like this kind of Seal, unfortunately.

I used to use the asthma as an excuse to not exercise at all. That was not a good idea. Then I decided to become an asthma warrior, and DEFEAT my asthma by running until I had beat my lungs into submission. Also not wise. Now I think I have found a happy-ish medium when it comes to exercising.

I like to be able to measure success (it’s the educator in me). I want to feel some real progress when I exercise. So I am naturally drawn to activities that involve traveling, like running and biking. Weight lifting just doesn’t do it for me. Nor would using a treadmill, for that matter. But there are some restrictions to the amount of running I can do:

  • No running when it’s under 55 degrees. In an ideal world, it should be above 60. Under that and my lungs seize up and freeze and ache like the dickens.
  • No running on Code Red or Orange days. Actually, not too much walkingon Code Red days either. You know those days they talk about on the news when it is so super hot and humid that the concentration of pollutants in the air is through the roof, and they say old people and babies should stay indoors in the AC, and they let you ride the city bus for free? Yes, I am in the “babies and old people” category on these days. It’s like trying to breathe pudding.

    Air Quality Index Table

So when you take those two caveats into consideration, it becomes apparent that there is a limited amount of time in which I can run outside. April-June and September-November, give or take. (In the off-time, I try to keep active by doing yoga and Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred.) I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that these limitations on my running schedule mean that I’ll probably never be able to condition myself to run a real 5k. Which I am totally fine with. But it’s why I don’t really feel like a runner. More like a “jogger.” And that’s okay.

*NB: Do you know how they diagnose asthma? BY INDUCING AN ASTHMA ATTACK. They give you a chemical that, if you have asthma, brings on an attack, and they sit there with an inhaler and some more serious life-saving measures and just see what happens. Terrifying.


5 responses to “Running on Empty

  1. I love this post for many, many reasons. One, I also have asthma that was diagnosed in my twenties via a chemically induced attack. Good times. Mine is quite mild luckily but does require daily controller meds or I start to cough a lot. Two, I also hate running. I am not sure whether I can actually blame that on asthma though – like I said, mine is mild. But my cardiovascular abilities have always sucked and this might have something to do with it.

    And my main reason for loving this post? That you have self calibrated your symptoms to the air quality index! That makes you kind of a super star. And I know this because I do air pollution health research, focusing mostly on its effect on asthma. (Though don’t even get me started on the limitations of indexes like this.)

    • Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that I hate running. I LOVE running. I just can’t run. Much. With optimal conditions I can manage about half a mile in one go. I really do enjoy it, if it weren’t for feeling like I might die.
      I am always amazed when people don’t know about air quality. Especially people with asthma. It makes SUCH a difference!

      • Oops, I guess I applied my own tendency of ‘find something difficult’ = hate doing said thing.

  2. dude, that sucks! it sounds like you’ve done a lot to mitigate it, good for you finding ways to exercise (severe asthma is the sort of setback that would have realllly set me back, I love a great excuse to not exercise).

    and for the record, 30 Day Shred is no joke – massive props to you.

  3. Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could e-mail me?


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