AsthmaExercise&FitnessFitness WalkingMarathon walkingWalking

Yes, I still walk

Found these in my closet today. Sure brings back a lot of memories, mostly good ones. They were my very first pair of race walking shoes that I purchased 12 years ago while training for my first full marathon. They’re a little beat up and don’t have much tread left on them now, but I wore them today during my regular morning walk and they held up fine. The brand name “Loco” is very fitting as well,as it sums up my crazy marathon journey. The Loco running company doesn’t make shoes anymore, but they still hold races on the east coast.

A lot people who stumble across my website while searching for asthma related stuff, might not realize that even though I write a lot about asthma, I originally started this blog as a way to chronicle my foray into the world of fitness/endurance walking (something totally unheard at the time for a person with advanced lung disease.) You might say I took it to the extreme.

Between the year 2005 and 2011, I clocked over 10,000 miles, with the majority accumulated by crossing the Al Zampa Bridge in the town where I live. I racewalked that bridge 1158 times to be exact. Mind you, this was at a time before Fitbit or other fitness trackers were a thing. In 2006 I thought I was super cool by having one of the first GPS trackers by Garmin. I used it mainly for tracking my pace in real time, but the location and other features were nifty too.

During those first 6 years I completed a string of races, which included 8 full marathons and 12 half marathons and a couple 10k races. After finishing my 3rd consecutive Boston marathon in the spring of 2011, I decided that Id had enough. I just didn’t have the motivation or drive anymore to push myself so hard, it just seemed like a good time to stop.

Though I wasn’t training for anymore races, I continued to put in at least 20 miles per week up until 2013. But, with declining health I cut that back to about 8 miles per week. Then in mid 2014, I got this crazy urge to train for one more marathon. For 4 straight months I ramped up my mileage and got myself mentally prepared, but training for that race was a lot more difficult that in previous ones. I was older, my body wasn’t as strong, my asthma was out of control, and frankly the passion Id had for those first few races just wasn’t there anymore. Despite all the training set backs however, I went on to finish that marathon, albeit just barely.

Since that last race in 2014, I haven’t trained for or entered any other races, or even taken any walks greater than 5 miles. But make no mistake, come rain or shine, crappy breathing or not, to this day I still get out and walk several miles at least 6 days per week. And when I say crappy breathing, we’re talking sometimes less than 48 hours after leaving the hospital’s intensive care unit.( Ok, maybe 72 hours if I was on a ventilator). Seriously though, I walk even when Im actively flaring or recovering from a really bad flare. Fitness walking is such a huge part of my life that I consider it part of my ongoing asthma therapy, especially after severe exacerbations and hospital stints. I don’t ascribe to the notion that you should rest and take it easy after a bad asthma flare. I mean who can relax or sleep while when they’re breathing well or are on high doses of prednisone? I know I sure can’t. I think the worse thing you can do after a bad flare is to turn in to a couch potato. All you’ll do is gain lots of weight get and become even more deconditioned. Sick or not, I figure my body will tell me if I’m over doing it.

My main motivation for exercise nowadays, is primarily to preserve what little endurance I still have left and also to break up the monotony of the day. I take further advantage of that time by listening and/or studying a piece of music that I’m trying to learn, and sometimes I use my walking time just to free up my mind and get some fresh air. Being a slightly hyperactive person by nature, I get claustrophobic if I’m cooped up indoors for too long.

Because I’m no longer training for formal races, advance planning of where I’ll be doing the actual walk is not an issue for me anymore. I rarely travel into the city anymore to do those longer walks. Mostly, I just walk around the small town I live in. I’m a lot more casual and less regimented now with my walking and how I dress for it. And because I’m no longer racewalking, the type of shoes I wear is less important, though I do try to wear distance appropriate footwear.

Currently I do a short walk in the early morning and another one in the afternoon. Each one is 1.5 miles and takes appx 28 minutes to complete, so on a daily basis were talking about an hours worth of walking. This is about 60% less walking than I was doing just 3 years ago, but still a lot more than most totally healthy people do.

Pre-medicating with nebulized albuterol has become more important than ever now and seems to make a huge difference. Not only because my lungs get tighter much faster now when I exert myself, but also because the neighborhood route where I walk has a pretty steep grade to it. The first 1/4 mile is mostly downhill or flat. The next 3/4 miles are totally uphill, ascending 150 feet during the first half mile of that section and the last 1/4 mile is both up AND down. Even though I’m walking much slower than than I used to ( 17 min/mile pace), the uphill portions of my current route tend to induce a lot more air -trapping in my lungs. Getting my lung maximally dilated prior to the walk helps reduce the air- trapping and chest tightness significantly. Upon returning home I do another neb treatment.

It’s difficult to stay physically active and fit while being constantly sidetracked by health issues and frequent hospitalizations, but in the interim I try to lead as normal a life as possible. While no more marathons are planned, Im not excluding the possibility of a 5 or 10k charity event in the future.

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