Since no one seems to know why Ive been getting so sick, so frequently lately , and since there’s a tendency to blame walking as a trigger, I decided to do a little experimenting to see if I could find a link between taking long walks, and my breathing flare-ups.
Last Saturday just 4 days after being released from the prison, I went out and repeated the very same 8 mile walk that I thought might have put me behind bars in the first place. Let me first say, I wouldn’t have even attempted a repeat walk so soon after a hospitalization , but I was breathing easy the evening before, and with the steroids were making me so antsy , I decided to go for it. Though I had to walk slower than I would’ve liked (18 min/mile) , my lungs behaved nicely and the walk went relatively well. I felt so good in fact, that I actually ended up walking 9 miles instead of 8. I tried my best not to racewalk, but foolishness got the best of me and I probably did about a dozen or so short sprints. During the 3 hour walk I experienced chest tightness about every other mile , and think I used my inhaler about 8 times( pretty much normal for me for that distance.) The biggest problem I had was muscle fatigue and the tell tale signs of impending calf cramps, not surprising considering that I was on 40 mg of prednisone at the time and had been bed bound just a week earlier. Anyways, I finished the walk feeling strong. I came home, took an ice bath and had only minor breathing problems the rest of the day.
Sunday morning arrives, and my dyspnea level is noticeably worse than 24 hours earlier and it continues to escalate as the day wears on. ( I know somethings not right when I get SOB just walking around the house.) My peak flows are still pretty good , but my FEV1s start to drift down. By Sunday evening I’m miserable and to make things worse I couldn’t blame anyone but myself for the way I felt. After all, I brought it on myself right?
Monday morning rolls around and I’m breathing great again, so I think to myself… OK, one day of bad breathing doesn’t sound like a bad trade-off for one good day of walking, so why not go for it again . That afternoon I did my 5 mile bridge walk. Monday night I’m still breathing good, and in fact, felt better after the walk than before. Tuesday morning, a repeat of Sunday…..I can’t believe it. I do a walk , and 24 hours later…I can’t breath again! This is just plain weird. This time however, the SOB spills over into Wednesday, and by that evening my dypnea level goes through the roof. Wednesday night was so bad, I actually thought I was going to suffocate and that would be it. Not only did I feel hyper- inflated , but I could feel my airways tightening up ( bronchospasm) . I was so SOB that I even had a hard time using my nebulizer. I couldn’t take a deep enough breath to get the meds in. Now, I’m not an anxious person in general, but I can tell you , that the anxiety of not being able to breath was making things worse. Just the extra brainpower that you consume when you’re anxious, can make you more SOB. Afraid of falling over the edge and having to 911ing it, I pulled out every trick in the book to relax my lungs and my brain ! By doing diaphragmatic breathing exercises, purse-lip breathing, anti anxiety meds, opiates and neb treatments every hour, I made it though the night ( sitting up). That was probably a dare devilish move on my part, but at least I’m home right now and not in the hospital.
Thursday morning , exhausted , and still dyspneic from the night before, I did the unthinkable, ( actually two unthinkables). First , I bumped up my steroids back to 40 mg , then I went out for a 5 mile walk! I figured what the heck, I’m so SOB anyway, how much worse could it get. I complete the walk in 2 hours in 86 degree “Spare The Air Day” weather, and surprisingly , I was breathing BETTER after that walk…. than before I left!
Its now Friday morning and I’m still breathing fairly well. My PF’s are back in the green zone and my FEV1 is 39%. So whats up? I do a walk when I’m breathing well and I get sick 24 later. But then I walk when I’m sick and 24 hours later I’m breathing well again. I must be wired backwards or something. Maybe bumping up of the steroids had something to do with , but it usually takes at least a day for the extra steroids to take effect.
After a week of good and bad days, the question remains ..is my walking causing my flare-ups? Maybe it’s something in the environment? Maybe its just me? Is there some kind of physical stress that I don’t perceive when Im walking that causes a gradual worsening of my symptoms. Was it foolish to walk when I was already way too SOB to begin with? That last question is debatable because many so-called experts will tell you to exercise even when you’re SOB. ( in all fairness , that last statement refers primarily to COPDers and not so much to COPD/ asthmatics) .
The experiment was inconclusive. Because of the delayed response from the time I exercised , till the time I develop symptoms, I still cannot say with 100% certainty, that walking in and of itself, is making me sick. The search for the elusive trigger continues… but until its found, I will continue to walk my ass off.