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How to Get Running and Competing in Races with Asthma

Runner with asthma in a group determined to reach the finish line
Getty Images / lovro77

Well-controlled asthma can open up many opportunities concerning exercise and sports. Some people fear running when they live with asthma, as they may have had a previous bad experience. However, Beki Tovey is determined not to let asthma stop her from being active.

Today, Beki shares 5 tips for running races with asthma while remaining safe and healthy.

Remember, paying attention to your limits is crucial when doing any physical activity. If running causes worsening asthma symptoms or you find it difficult to control your condition, please consult your healthcare provider.

Mixing asthma with intense physical activity can sound like a disaster waiting to happen. But living with asthma doesn't necessarily have to stop you from being active or competing at the highest level. Did you know that 25% of the 2012 Team GB athletics squad had asthma? Likewise, Paula Radcliffe, a marathon world record holder, was diagnosed with the condition in her early teens!

Running with asthma (or despite it!) is definitely something you can enjoy if your condition is well-managed and controlled.

I realised a while ago that I'll never make an Olympian. Still, I definitely have a taste for gold medals and other winners' bling. Here are a few tips to get you started if you're the same as me.

5 Tips for running and racing with asthma

1. Take the asthma medication prescribed by your doctor

As racing is an intense physical activity, don't shy away from taking your asthma medication on your run. Don't have any pockets or a suitable running belt? Ask a family member to look after your medication while spectating your event. This works particularly well if the track means you'll see said family member several times.

However, I recommend carrying your medication when possible, as you may need to access it quickly. Running belts can be awkward, especially when you need to feel streamlined for a race. But it's always better to be safe than sorry!

2. Dress for the weather and physical activity

Running with asthma can be further complicated by the unpredictable British weather. If you’re running in winter or spring or the weather’s looking fickle, I suggest wearing multiple layers.

The morning of the race day might be chilly, so any extra warmth may prevent asthma from getting triggered by a combination of cold weather and intense activity. You can then remove layers as you warm up.

Don't worry too much if you lose your top layer. Many races will donate discarded clothing to charity – so it's a win-win situation.

3. Manage your expectations

Running with asthma can be tough, so you should be proud of getting out there! If you feel like you're having an off day, cut yourself some slack. Appreciate that you might not be busting out a personal best and focus on (safely) finishing the race.

The combination of asthma and physical activity means I often pause to catch my breath. My go-to "moving break" is walking up the hills and running the rest.

Don't force yourself to run if you're struggling too much with asthma symptoms that day. A race should never be completed at the expense of your health.

4. Focus on the positives

If the race isn't going how you want it to, or if you find yourself struggling, try to focus on the positive aspects of your achievement. Admire the beautiful surroundings, enjoy the freedom on the downhills, and smile at spectators. Running with asthma is no mean feat, so don't beat yourself up if you find yourself flagging. It happens to all of us.

After the race, give yourself a pat on the back for finishing, completing a certain distance, or even making it out of bed to race when many people wouldn't have! 

5. Take time to recover after running

If your asthma’s not under control after the race, you may need medical help. However, while running can make my asthma flare for a short while, this often goes away once I've had a warm shower and a cup of tea.

When you've crossed the finish line, focus on controlling your breathing with deep, slow breaths and lowering your heart rate. Try to put on some extra layers to keep your chest and lungs warm as your body cools down.

© 2023 Life Effects by Teva Pharmaceuticals

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen​. 

This site is intended for UK and Ireland residents only.

Date of preparation: August 2023
D: COB-GB-NP-00137 (V1.0) / T: COB-GB-NP-00160 (V1.0) / M: COB-GB-NP-00159 (V1.0)

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