Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Experiences Running in High Elevation with Asthma

I remember the first time I felt the tightness in my chest. It was in November 2010 and I was training in the early morning hours for the Vegas Half. By the time I had gotten home, I felt like my chest was on the verge of collapse.

I was told that I might have asthma, and it was brought on by the cold weather. I began to wear a scarf to keep my mouth covered,so that the warm air would be pushed back into my lungs. It worked, but running with a wool scarf made me so uncomfortable and overly warm.

Fast forward to February 2011. I ran a 5K race in very cold temps with a head cold. When I crossed the finish line, I began to have a coughing attack that even made the EMT’s worried. I knew I needed to investigate the asthma diagnosis even further.

I began to research options, and I didn’t want to go on meds. Thus, began my journey of proper breathing before and during runs/workouts. I learned that deep breathing is essential as a warm up before a run. I learned that we must get the oxygen flowing into the lungs and warm up the lungs. This made a HUGE difference in my training, but it was not enough.

On my fateful day of injurying my hip during a Half in March. Those who assisted me across the finish line told they could hear me WHEEZING. That scared me. I finally decided to go to the Dr to find out what is really going on.

I was officially diagnosed with Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA). I was put on allergy meds (as needed) and a rescue inhaler (to use before runs and/or as needed).  I also started using a Neti Pot (I can't say enough good things about the Neti Pot - I rarely use my allergy meds, because of it.  Even my husband uses it on a regular basis). 

I have used my rescue inhaler ever since, pre-runs. Measureable difference in my tightness in my chest, or lack thereof.  Especially noticeable on race days when I am pushing myself (and of course, my breathing). 

This past week, I traveled up to Salt Lake City, UT to visit friends. In the low-land area, their elevation is at 4700, in the high elevations, it reaches close to 6,000. I felt it would be perfect training for me to see how my body handles inclines/hills and in high elevations. I would rather test during training than during a race.

My first run was during an overly hot day 90+, I ran 3 miles. Felt great – just a little muggy.

My second and last run was on an overcast day, some sprinkles and 12 miles. Including in that 12 miles was 5 miles of some serious inclines on the back end. Humidity was significantly higher than I am use to – almost 40% (vs 1% in Vegas). The elevation is more than twice of Vegas,too.

I felt great during the entire run – walked the last mile, as I didn’t carb load enough to give my legs that needed energy at the end.

The next time I am planning a high elevation run = double carb load

All through the run I concentrated on my breathing. Deep breathing, it is now second nature to me when I run. Breathing form. How and when have become essential to my running.

In fact, when I meet with a new client, my first few times are all about Breathing and Body form. Throughout their pacing runs, I am constantly monitoring their breathing and teaching them to get in the habit of good breathing form. More oxygen to the bloodstream, the better an athlete will perform.

I can only hope I have the same results at my next high elevation race in August.

What have been your experiences with EIA and High Elevation runs? 
I would love to hear your input.

(c) C. Ragsdale 2011

Celebrate Your Finish,  

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV  
Certified Sports Nutritionist, Running Coach and Public Speaker  
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