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How do I help my teen with asthma train to run the mile?

My son is in JROTC this year and has to train to run the mile in under 8 minutes for a fitness test. He has moderate asthma and exercise-induced asthma. 

He ran the mile in class last week in 6 minutes, so thankfully, he's off to a great start. But he wants to train over the next few weeks to make sure he can consistently beat the 8-minute mark. 

Do any of you have advice for helping him train with asthma? He knows to take his quick-relief inhaler before activity and to pay attention for symptoms. I can't give him much advice on how to train because I have a difficult time doing any kind of consistent cardio. I get bronchitis every time. If I'm running, it's because I'm being chased.  

Any advice I can pass onto him is appreciated. Thanks!

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  • Megan Roberts

    Whew he is fast!!

    First off, make sure he is pre-treating and does an extensive warmup.  The colder it is, the longer and more gradual a ramp-up in intensity the warmup will need to be.  The warmup is probably the most important thing you can do to prevent an asthma attack that doesn't involve medication! If he can manage it, he needs to do the warmup directly before the test actually starts, so he still has an elevated heartrate when the test begins.  

    Have him run WITH his inhaler both in training and in the test. (I wear mine in a tiny belt with a pocket that I tuck under my shirt– no one else even sees it. And yes I use it during the middle of races sometimes.)

    As far as his training plan, build in some endurance (steady state runs) as well as sprint workouts like 400m repeats with 1-2 mins rest inbetween or 1 min high intensity 1 min easy effort. There are free training plans online I'm sure to prepare for a 1 mile fitness test he could find if he wants more workout structure.  Get in a good volume of training especially now and taper off in the week before his test.  During his training, monitor for symptoms and take note of what circumstances cause them.  This should go without saying, but, if he is struggling to breathe from asthma, he should stop working out immediately.  Especially since he's so close to the fitness test date.  It can take days to recover as you know, and pushing through in a workout can cause more damage to lung tissue.  Hopefully that will not be a problem for him, though.

    It sounds like he is already where he needs to be, he just needs to make sure he can control his symptoms for performance.  It is totally possible!  I hope he crushes it.

  • tlb2002
    Megan Roberts posted:

    Whew he is fast!!

    That's what I told him! 

    This is so helpful. Neither of us really knew the best approach other than take your inhaler before and stop if you feel symptoms. He trained in jujitsu for years but training for a run is a bit new to us. Thanks, Megan!

  • Jen

    @tlb2002 Have you talked to your son's doctor to ask what they recommend in terms of pretreating and treating during running?

  • tlb2002

    Yes. The allergist said 2 puffs of his quick-relief inhaler 15-20 minutes before running and stop and treat if he has symptoms. 

  • K8sMom2002

    My doc always wanted me to run any training plans by her before I started. She said that some of them were a bit, er, ambitious because they were made for folks not managing asthma. So before you guys get started, could you run your final choice of plan by the doc?

    And would a 504 plan help with JROTC? It might give him longer or more tries to pass that fitness test. I think he'll end up appreciating any flexibility you guys could build into that test.

  • tlb2002

    Honestly, we haven't had a chance to start yet. The last few weeks have been full of football games, marching competitions and rehearsals. Marching season is now over so we plan to start this weekend. 

    Thanks for the ideas of the 504 and running the training plan by the doctor. During our summer appointment, we talked about ROTC and physical activity (we even had to have the doctor fill out special medical paperwork for ROTC along with a school physical), and he just reiterated pre-treating before exercise and watching symptoms. But he didn't offer any other recommendations, like longer warmups, etc. And at the time, I didn't know what specific activities to ask about. 

    I had not pursued a 504 yet because the school system here has been excellent when dealing with DS's asthma and allergies. And their paperwork is pretty thorough. I do have health/action plans on file with the school and I gave copies to his ROTC commanders. I also had conversations with them about his asthma and peanut allergy. One of the commanders is allergic to peanuts too and they have others with asthma in the program. His teachers and the school administration has been very understanding and accommodating and seem to have a good plan in place. I don't anticipate any issues from the school or his commanders if he needs some extra flexibility with the test. But a 504 plan might be some added insurance. DS plans to stay in ROTC all four years, so now would be the time to set that up.

  • K8sMom2002

    Hmm … what usually triggers his asthma, environment wise? I know for me, temperature extremes and high humidity, plus high pollen days, tend to make my asthma (and my stamina because of it) worse. 

    Glad you have folks who understand the need for flexibility! Could you circle back and ask the commanders what things have worked out well for folks who have had asthma in the past?

  • Megan Roberts

    Found this AAFA video from 2016 with Rashad Jennings which has some really useful information for anyone exercising with asthma (not just kids!).  Another great suggestion: use an app to monitor pollen/mold counts if he has those allergic triggers.  Avoid exercising outdoors on days where pollen count, humidity or other factors will put him at risk.  He can take his workout indoors if he has access to a treadmill at school or a court to run around on.  If he has a 504 in place, maybe he can avoid testing on those types of days too, which would be ideal.  That's so great his commanders are understanding and supportive.  

  • tlb2002

    Well, @Jen, he hasn't had a chance to train nearly as much as we had planned. Band activities have made it hard for him to train outside because it gets dark so early, and our treadmill broke during his training. But with the bit of training he has done so far, his time looks good. The test is Friday. His asthma and allergies are good right now (knock on wood) and the "cold" snap we have had this week has taken the humidity down and is hopefully holding off some of the tree pollen that is getting ready to start here. That will work to his advantage. 

    Pretreating definitely helps him and I have been stressing the importance of pretreating 15-20 minutes before the run. He has lunch just before ROTC class, so it will be easier for him to pretreat then. He just won't get time to warm up, so he says. I told him to warm up as much as possible on his way to class. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Saying big prayers and sending the very best of his way! Way to go on all his hard work so far!

  • Megan Roberts

    @tlb2002 I'm sending your son some strong running and smooth breathing vibes for his test Friday! Not that he needs it. Sounds like you'll have a nice moderate temperature by then, low humidity, and he'll have chance to hit that inhaler early during lunch (hopefully he remembers!).  Even if he just does jumping jacks in place for a few minutes as they're giving directions before the test, that will help him out. I have a feeling he is going to crush it.  

  • tlb2002

    Thanks, everyone! I'll let him know you all are cheering him on. 

    And I did clarify that they will do warm-up exercises. I asked DS what they will do with the other 42 minutes of class. He said, "We'll do stretches and stuff before we run." When we talked about warming up, he thought I meant warm-up exercises where they practice running before the run.  

  • Kathy P

    Lol on practicing running before running. Kids are so literal! 

    We are all cheering him on! 

  • tlb2002

    HE PASSED!!!!! 

    He was disappointed he only had 20 seconds to spare, but I told him that doesn't matter. What matters is that he passed AND had no asthma flare ups.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Katie D

    Wahoo!   That is awesome, what a great way to go into the weekend!  Time to celebrate 

  • Megan Roberts

    Oh, what a great relief! Thank you for letting us know.He can always work on improving his mile time. He just needed to get the job done without asthma getting in the way. And despite some other challenges along the way (training time, broken treadmill), he still managed to do it! Woohoo!!

  • Kathy P

    Woohoo! And I know I prioritize no asthma over my time when I'm biking. Keeping the asthma control will help him be able to work on his time.