Friday, April 16, 2010

Gasping for Air

I never thought of myself as having a disability. Using my inhaler before doing anything athletic was just second nature to me. I didn't really think anything of having to go to the Nurse's office every day before gym class to use my inhaler so I could participate in class. I never let asthma get in the way of doing any activity I wanted to do.

I always carry an inhaler with me, and usually find one stuffed in the pocket of a winter coat every Fall. My inhaler is like my cell phone; I feel lost without it, and stress out if I don't have it with me. In short, my inhaler is my ticket to normalcy. Almost.

Because Albuterol (the medicine in the inhaler) is most effective 30 min after taking it, I always use my inhaler BEFORE working out. Not in the middle of training or cardio - always before. Just because I use the inhaler doesn't mean it always works, though. There have been numerous times when I've finished an intense activity like a sprint or a long weight exercise and immediately have difficulty breathing. The key is to take slow, deep breaths and calm the mind. Panicking only makes it worse ... but I'll admit it's not easy to keep a calm mind when my bronchial tubes are so constricted, I can't get enough air in my lungs.

Without even thinking too much about it, I've adapted my training style to fit my lungs' capacity. It's not my muscles that give out first - it's my lungs. Completely reversed for most people. I rest a bit longer between sets, and hadn't done a lot of super sets or high intensity plyometrics, because I'd have issues breathing.

When I first started training with Jerry, I assured him that my asthma wouldn't affect my training. Little did I realize how much I'd adapted exercises for my lungs! The first time we had an issue, he'd asked me if I could do jump squats in between regular squat sets. I said, "Sure I can! I'm not disabled!" Then I promptly had an asthma attack in the middle of the jump squats and had to sit down for a couple minutes before resuming regular squats. We've tried other plyo and high intensity combinations, and have realized that while my body can handle the intensity, my lungs just can't. It's so frustrating! And it's scary for others to see.

The first time Jerry saw me having an attack, he freaked out. He looked at me with wide, helpless eyes, and asked what he could do. I just shook my head and told him to give me a couple minutes, and I'd be fine. And I was. I don't like pushing my lungs to their breaking point. It's scary, and it's unhealthy. The more attacks I have, the more inflamed my lungs get, and the more easily I have attacks. It's best if I listen to my body and stop before things get out of hand.

I'm having a difficult time accepting the fact that I just can't train like the other figure/fitness ladies. A lot of them are talking about all the high intensity, functional training and plyometrics and track workouts that they're doing. And I want to give them a try to see if they're effective for my prep. If I could increase the intensity of my workouts, I wouldn't have to spend so much time on the treadmill every day. So we gave it a try ... and I failed miserably.

This is the first time in my life that I've truly come face to face with asthma as a disability. At least once a week, I have trouble breathing while on the treadmill, and I have to step off and slow my breathing down before resuming cardio. I'm doing super sets now, but we're very selective about which exercises I'm supersetting. I can't have 2 high intensity exercises back to back or I have an attack in the middle of the second exercise. I need to come to terms with doing hours of slower cardio because I can't do the high intensity workouts the other girls may be doing.

I'm disappointed with my limitations. And I'm realizing that asthma is indeed a disability. But it doesn't have to limit or prevent people from any activities (other than scuba diving, that is). I can still do cardio, train, and compete; I just have to modify my training and workouts to be the most effective for my body. I guess it's kind of like competing natural too - it's a longer road, but it's possible.

I hope others who read this will be encouraged to try new things and to not let a disability or a handicap prevent them from chasing their dreams. With my inhaler in hand, I'm running as fast as I can toward my dreams.

No comments:

Post a Comment