Exercise-induced asthma, huh? Never woulda thought it...
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
I did the Cherry Creek Sneak 5 mile course this weekend, and I learned something I never expected. I can't run the whole distance because of my legs, but because of my lungs.
A few weeks ago, I noticed my heart rate would spike to the upper 160s, and I'd feel very light-headed and weak. I'd slow the treadmill down to a leisurely walk pace to recover. Panting and out of breath, I wondered what was happening to my heart. (Early heart attacks are rampant in my family, and it freaks me out.) Once I'd recovered and my heart rate was normal again, I'd pick up the pace, but my chest still felt "heavy." I kept thinking I'm more out of shape than I thought, or carrying too much extra weight for my legs to survive running for anything more than 5 or 8 minutes.
But at the Sneak, I kept an easy pace - I'd jog for a minute or so, then walk for a minute or so. I didn't want any crazy heart rate spikes. But, sure enough, right around mile 3, I suddenly couldn't breathe. I could, obviously, but it felt like the air I was desperately sucking in just clogged in my chest, forming a huge brick of pressure in my chest, all while my lungs screamed for me to take another breath. This was definitely not my heart going all hinky.
I mentioned it to my mother-in-law, and she suggested it could be asthma. I've never, ever had any other symptoms, but I thought, what's it going to hurt to see my doctor? So I did, and she agreed it sounded like textbook exercise-induced asthma. It explained why, even after a 5 mile race, my legs didn't hurt, just my chest. My legs can do the work just fine, but my lungs can't keep up.
Just goes to show maybe we don't always know our bodies as well as we thought, and - more importantly - ignoring symptoms or playing them off on something else could be a very bad idea.
I used my inhaler for the first time this morning, and I really did feel different. It wasn't such a strain to breathe. My bet is I'll see more progress now.