Sharing how I've learned to manage my asthma through the colder months
When you have Asthma cycling in winter can be especially tough. If you are like me then your Asthma can be triggered by extreme temperatures. I can have an attack if I over heat whilst training indoors, or by breathing icy cold air outdoors. We are all very different and I highly recommend seeing your GP or Asthma nurse at least once a year. It's also worth starting to be more mindful of how your Asthma manifests, as there could be simple solutions that make a big difference to your enjoyment of cycling and general quality of life. Here's what I've learned over the years:
Despite always being a pretty active person, when I discovered cycling in my 40s, and started to do harder and longer rides, I found I was more prone to attacks than ever before. Your asthma can change during your life, so, don't assume that you're out of breath just because you're not fit, your age or any other physical changes. If an effort that you used to be able to do easily suddenly starts affecting your breathing go get it checked out! In fact, if your asthma worsens at all when you exercise, you need to check in with your GP or Asthma nurse. After months of trying to work through it, I finally went to my GP. They changed my medication and it made a huge difference!
Ensure you are always well hydrated. Drink plenty every day and whilst exercising. This is good advice for everyone but especially important if you have Asthma. An article on Asthma and dehydration on the Asthma.net website states: "There have been a number of studies done, particularly in Europe, that show histamine is produced at a greater rate when a person is dehydrated. For those that suffer from any kind of asthma, but allergic asthma in particular, that would be an important component. If histamine is being produced, allergies are triggered, and therefore asthma is aggravated." Source. Exercise induced dehydration can also cause reduced airway surface hydrations, resulting in restricted breathing. Source. I tend to aim for 500ml per hour, even in winter, and more during the hot summer months (or, more accurately in the UK, weeks!)
An asthma nurse once suggested I try using my inhaler around 20 minutes before exercising, especially before a hard training session and before heading out on a cold day. Before I started doing this it would take my lungs around 40 minutes to feel warmed up to exercise and stop hurting, and even longer on colder days! Doing this has meant that after the 20 minute warm up of an indoor cycling workout, I am actually ready for the hard efforts, and I'm less likely to trigger an attack when things start getting hot. Please check with your own GP or Asthma nurse first.
Wear a buff over your nose and mouth when heading out on a cold day. This helps warm up your breath before the cold air hits your lungs. This was another game changer for me! A simple trick, but works great.
Do you have any tips or advice? What's your experience of cycling with asthma? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org