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Exercise Induced Asthma: My battle.

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Several months’ back I wrote an article titledExercise helps find medical problems. Basically it stated that through exercise you might find out that you have a medical problem that you would have never known about otherwise.

In the article I explained some of the symptoms I had been having during and after workouts (severe shortness of breath, dizziness, coughing spells etc.)

At the time of that writing I had just begun to have blood tests and every other test a doctor could give me to find the root cause of my symptoms. After a couple months of visiting various specialists, I was no closer to finding an answer than when I began.

This began my own search. What I found was a condition called EIA (Exercise Induced Asthma). Basically it’s exactly what it sounds like, it’s an asthma attack that is brought on by exercise. 

The more I read, the more I was convinced that EIA was exactly what I had.

My Past

This info got me thinking that I’d probably always had some form of EIA. If recollection serves me I’ve always had a very hard time breathing when running, or doing any type of extended exercise, regardless of how hard I practiced. In the past I’d always chalked it up to being out of shape. It never occurred to me that I might have some sort of asthma.

The only form of cardio I’ve never had an issue with was swimming. (I learned this could be because the air in the pool is moist, which never brought up any asthma symptoms).
Since I began doing workouts that got me out of my comfort zone (Running, Rowing, Burpees, Box Jumps, Wall Balls), the symptoms kept popping up, but it wasn’t until recently that I took notice. Dizzy spells, followed by severe coughing will do that.

The Second Visit

With this new information, I visited the doctor again. This time she gave me a breathing test, which came back negative for regular asthma. The doctor stated that this only meant I didn’t have regular asthma, but it didn’t mean I didn’t have EIA.

She said there were only two ways to tell for sure, and the choice was mine. 

1. First I could wait to visit a specialist who would give me a breathing test before, and during exercise, which would give them the info they needed to make a determination.


2. She could prescribe an inhaler, which would be taken fifteen minutes prior to exercise. She said if the symptoms went away after using the inhaler then I had EIA, if not, I could visit a specialist later for further tests.

That was a no brainer. Since I’d recently committed to competing in the FTF challenge (Masters Event, yep getting old, this month I’ll be 41!) I needed to find out what was wrong now, not later.

That evening after getting my inhaler I decided to try one of my nemesis WOD’S from the Open, 12.1.  (7 Minutes of burpees). This WOD nearly did me in the first time around. In fact I felt pretty bad for several hours following the WOD. Since that time I have worked hard to improve my burpees, with pretty poor results.

So I decided 12.1 would be a great test. I figured it like this, if I used the inhaler and was still dying:

A. I was either completely out of shape or
B. Something more sinister was wrong.

After taking two large puffs of the inhaler I waited the prescribed fifteen minutes, then began 12.1 again. I had no dreams of grandeur; I just wanted to see how my lungs and limbs felt during, and after.

As I neared my first twenty burpees (usually my indicator of how I’d be doing) I noticed I was breathing hard, but wasn’t dying. My body was getting tired, but I wasn’t exhausted. 

Around number thirty-five I realized that my lungs definitely felt different from usual, no pain. As I kept going I got tired, but it wasn’t the exhaustion I usually feel, and I never got dizzy! I finished without dying at 70 burpees and could have done more.


A few months back I was attempting to improve my burpee numbers by performing my own “unbroken burpee challenge”. I finally worked up to 65 total, but this ruined me for the entire day. I was exhausted; very dizzy and lightheaded, plus I needed an extended rest period afterward. 

At that point it felt like no matter what, 65 burpees would be my max limit forever. Guess I was wrong.

Fast Forward!

My next test was the Open WOD, (12.3), which left me gasping for air the first time around. I remember that sad day like it was yesterday. I was dead after my first round, sucking wind like a Hoover, bent over at the waist while standing on top a 24” box wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into. Damn and I was only a few minutes into the WOD and I still had 15 to go.

I got a whopping score of 65, was completely shot, and had to sit in the parking lot for a while to compose myself. I’m sure the folks at Indian Hills CrossFit were thinking WOW he’s exceptional!

This time around I paced myself, got very tired, but knocked out a score of 80. I wasn’t dying, wasn’t coughing and was able to function normally afterward.

Long story short, I have EIA. It looks like it was causing all of my symptoms. One of the worst things about this whole experience is that it kept me from pushing my body harder, kept me from working out on numerous occasions, and kept me from achieving some of my fitness goals.

My plan now is to push harder, knowing that breathing won’t be a problem, and maybe enter a few more events in the future.

Sound Advice

My suggestion to anyone who is experiencing any sort of setback in the gym is to seek qualified medical advice. Hey if everyone around you eats the same, is about the same age, does the same workouts and you suck compared to them after a couple years of hitting it hard, maybe you have something wrong.

Like I said before, had I not exercised the way I have been, I would have never known I had EIA, which if left untreated could have led to normal asthma and possible additional medical problems.

Get checked!

See you in the hills.




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