Asthma + Speedwork?

I've been asthmatic for 11 years now (I'm 22), but was never a very active teenager. However, within the last 2 months, I have started running pretty seriously. I have a 10km race coming up in the next month, and eventually want to do a marathon next year.

So far I have got up to running between 5 and 8km 4 times a week, during which I have very few problems with my asthma, but I need to try and increase my speed if I'm going to well in my race. I tried fartlekking but suffered a horrible attack after only 1.8km. 

 So, basically, my question is does anyone know of any speedwork an EIA sufferer can do that won't put too much strain on the lungs?

 Thanks in advance,



  • Warm up really, really well before you try any speed work - that is basically the long and short of it.

    A visit to your GP may also be useful to see if you could be offered any other medications to help with EIA, if you've not already done so!

    Something like "pyramids" may help - where you gradually build up speed and/or distance in each interval, so you're not outright sprinting to begin with.



  • TheraThera ✭✭✭
    It depends on what triggers your asthma (not all asthma is exercise related). I have asthma and have found that I had to build up slowly to let my lungs get used to the hard work. Once I had done that I found that my asthma improved overall. Like Basil Brush says, pyramids are a good way to build up.
  • Hi Runningped

     I guess it depends how bad your asthma is and what triggers an attack. I've suffered from asthma for about 14 years now but luckily never had an attack from exercise. I take two puffs of ventolin before exercise and then a 1M warm up at easy pace before launching into speedwork. Are you running the speedwork at the right pace ( i.e. not all out sprint). I use McMillan's running caluclator which is on line and I find this a great tool to keep you on the right pace.  Make sure you don't skimp on the recovery between efforts as well. However, if you want to be safe may be wise to check it out with your GP or asthma nurse if your surgery has one.

  • Funnily enough the first training session that induced an asthma attack for me was a pyramid but it was very cold and the cold def. affects my asthma.  I now make sure I use my blue puffer before any session I deem to be "hard" so speedwork or a really long run, or if it is very cold out. I also make sure I carry it with me if I am remotely worried.

    I certainly do a speedwork or hills session every week despite this.

  • You sure it was EIA - could have been moulds - they are causing my non-running beloved all manner of grief at the moment.

    I'm already eyeing up balaclava type hats to warm my breathing space for winter running, because cold is a big problem for me.

    Get an asthma update with the nurse, especially to check your inhaler technique - I've got a kiddy's spacer for my ventolin after doing that because my technique is so rubbish!

  • Ah, but spacers are not just for kids image - I have good technique but I use one for my regular meds because spacers improved lung deposition of the drugs so much compared to using an MDI straight into the mouth. If you're taking the drugs, you may as well be making sure they're getting to the right place! image

    Also, if you're in dire straights, they can help you get the medication to where it's needed without the need for co-ordination/deep breathing. 

    You may have gathered that I like spacers image

  • Coordination and/or deep breathing are not exactly my stengths. I might go back and ask for the right inhaler for my steroids to be used through the spacer.

    I am an infrequent user of steroids, because 4 months on them (different inhaler and yes I did use a spacer at the time) did not improve my peak flow from bad, so I agree now with the doctor I should only treat for 2-4 weeks when I am likely to end up with shockingly bad peak flow (i.e. colds, bad hayfever).

    Always entertaining watching new medical staff the first time they see me with a shockingly bad peak flow...hand poised to dial an ambulance, but looking at me as I can still speak in sentences and don't seem to be overly troubled by shortness of breath...another example of statistical abnormality strikes again!

  • My peak flow is terrible, I'm lucky if I get over 400 but I can still run  5 miles (and still increasing) and do intervals with no problems image . Taking my brown pulmicort twice a day keeps me sorted - I really notice if I forget it.
  • Mine averages 350 and should be about 430. We've agreed not to bother worrying about it unless I'm unwell, as well. Regular treatment has fixed my cough and salbutmol means I can crank up the training and race.
  • Thanks for all your replies, and suggestions. My asthma nurse has just changed me over from salmeterol steroid twice a day to seretide (salmeterol + fluticasone) twice a day plus salbutamol when necessary.On my smaller runs this week my lungs felt fine - although my legs were having none of it!!! - but the proof will be tomorrow on my longer distance!

    Does anyone usethe Montelukast Singulair tablets? Are they worth it?

  • Yes, and yes. I have found them to be very good for EIA and general asthma control. They are one of the drugs - which also includes long-acting-beta-2-agonsists like salmetarol - which are proven to be useful for EIA. If you're still symptomatic when you've been on the seretide for a bit, it might be worth asking if these would be suitable for you.
  • I just came back from an 11km run (1hr09mins - not brilliant but my first ever +10km!!) and had absolutely no problems with my asthma. It was a steady, so I need to try out a shorter, faster run, but my asthma has never been better than this!

    And, Basil Brush Mk II, I used my spacer with salbutamol beforehand, which could have been a contributing factor!

    It's so nice to talk to other people with EIA, no-one else I know has it!! 

  • image Ahhhh, the spacer... never has there been such an underestimated piece of kit image

    It took me quite a while to figure out how to run with my asthma - that may sound odd, but you really do need to figure out how your lungs react to certain kinds of exercise and how you can work around that. It really is trial and error, even when you understand all the pathophysiology of what's going on.  And sometimes I still have a "bad lung run" for no particular reason, but now I just chalk it up to experience and don't overanalyse it too much, unless it's forming part of a bigger pattern which might indicate an infection developing, for example.

    Well done on your 11k! When you go for your shorter, faster session, make sure you warm your lungs up slowly before starting the speed work. Fingers crossed for you.

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