Smoke, stroke, ironman bloke

My name is Russell Winwood, I was born in 1966 in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve had a good life thus far but have had a few health issues along the way. I decided to take to blogging to share my experiences with other people in the hope that it can help others with similar health issues.

I was diagnosed with asthma when I was young, but managed to have an active childhood playing sports and doing what most kids do. In my late teens I started smoking socially, I’m not sure why as I knew it was bad for me but continue to be a social smoker until I was 36.

Christmas Day 2002 I collapsed , too many years of not looking after myself had caught up with me in the form of a stroke. Time to change my habits , I gave up the cigarettes ,cut down drinking alcohol and  started eating better, at the time of my stroke I was 88 kg about 15 kg over weight . My son had just started cycling and talked me into taking it up, best thing I ever did . The weight started coming off and I started feeling like a 36 year old should.

A friend of mine suggested I should do a triathlon, and after a little hesitation because I wasn’t a great swimmer I agreed. So for the next eight years I competed in varying distances of triathlons from sprint to Half Ironman as well as a couple of ultra marathons.

port swim

The run leg at Port Macquarie, 2012.

In 2011 after noticing my training times were getting slower, exercise was getting harder and I was constantly short of breath, I took myself off to the Doctors. Spirometry and lung function tests confirmed I had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), with a FEV 1 <30% of predicted. That basically means my lungs are operating between 22-30% of there predicted capacity. I was told that I would possibly need a double lung transplant at some stage in the future.  Surprisingly the scan showed that there was no damage to my lungs from smoking. My airways had become very narrow due to years of chest infections, causing a build up of scar tissue.


In May 2012, six months after diagnosis I completed my first Full Ironman event, hopefully my blogs will give some insight on the benefits exercising has had in combating  COPD and respiratory disease in general.


  1. Jodi McInnes · December 20

    Just passed two people running up this highway in Carrum/Edithvale wearing DonateLife colours, along with a few pink hat supporters. Very proud to see you out there, hope you finish well. Jodi


    • russwin66 · December 20

      Thanks Jodi, we did very late into the night, but well worth it.


  2. runatmeZoe · December 20

    Hi Russell, thanks for reaching out. Our stories are quite similar it seems! More and more I’m hearing of how people came to triathlon and the challenges they have since overcome. But it’s the love of the sport that keeps us going!


  3. runatme · December 20

    Hi Russell, thanks for reaching out. It seems are stories are quite similar! More and more I’m hearing of the challenges traithletes have overcome, and it’s the love of the sport that keeps them going. Congrats on Melbourne IM! I’ll be doing my first full up in Cairns, I would love to meet up for a chat, one lung disease survivor to another ;)


  4. russwin66 · December 20

    Sounds like a plan, be great to exchange thoughts. I have a guest blogger lined up to tell her very inspiring story in the next few weeks, would you be interested in doing a guest blog ?


  5. Can you write more? Youre my favourite poster in 2014


  6. russwin66 · December 20

    Thanks, I’ll try.


  7. Alice · December 20

    i have COPD. Diagnosed 7 yrs ago showing early signs of emphysema. I have been in the nursing field since I was 16… I just turned 44. I too crashed after not taking care of myself. I wore muself out and kept pushing forward and smoking away! I didn’t think it would ever happen to me but I got double pneumonia. CO 2 went above 105 and I was touching the hand of death! I was rushed to hospital straight to ICC floor where they got me hooked up to some machines which I assume I coded as they all sounded off they ventilated me stablized me and 3 1/2 days later they took me off the vent… 6 hrs after almost went into cardiac arrest due to anxiety and I was re ventilated for another 3 1/2 and they told my husband if I didn’t come off that time I would had a trachea done… But I did and I held on and did a lot of praying and that started 2-14-14 and I was released from the hospital 3-6-14. I took 36 rehab visits and thought I was doing good… Just on one liter of O2 and I can take it off in day time when I feel like I can I wear a bi-pap at night with 02 and that’s permanent. I’m still not exactly where I want to be yet but better and stronger. So I was surprised to know I was being referred to Vanderbilt to be evaluated for a double lung trasnplant. Lots of tests etc and then listed on a waiting list. All I can say to you is hold onto faith believe no matter what the Lord has his hands on you eat lots of veggies and fruit especially kale drink 8 8 oz glasses of water a day cut caffeine and sweets along with carbohydrates get your vaccines practice good hand washing and stay clear of lots of people who may be sick. Walk do weight baring exercises to stay strong. Keep ovine and if you feel bad don’t hesitate to get to the dr!! God bless and good luck


    • Lynne melanson · December 20

      I am so happy for you. Having a transplant will kick that COPD right out of your life. I’m too old but wish the best to anyone who can receive a healthy set of lungs


  8. tingkai37 · December 20

    Great post!
    I know it is tough dealing with asthma because i have seen how bad it can be. So i created a website specifically to help the asthma community.
    Check out! I hope it helps



  9. Kim earnheart · December 20

    hi I am in the third stage of COPD but for the last three days I have had a wonderful time about two wonderful granddaughters Charlie who is 21 months old and aria who is six months so you guys you can’t give up you’ve got to go go go and never stop the more you exercise the better you take care of yourself your grandchildren will let you see as stay strong and the will to see them through their young lives.


  10. Stephanie Winkleman · December 20

    Very impressive Title “Smoke, Stroke, Ironman Bloke”. This is real things for every human and we should care always.


  11. Martin White · December 20

    Hi Russ I am too at Stage IV although at 69 years old I have a bit of a lead on you. Your blog is quite inspirational, one I would really like to emulate. I just about manage 1 km on the flat each morning and an occasional exercise bike ride (yesterday I managed 4 kms in 24 minutes – so I am not in your league, but I am going to try and do better. I intend to follow your blog and see how you go.


  12. fleetpen · December 20

    Good afternoon/evening! I am working on an article for (29 million readres monthly!) about adjusting to life with COPD. I’d love to include your tips and insights for our readers, as well as a bit of your personal story. I was hoping we could email or even speak in the next few days. I am on the East Coast of the US, so about 12 hours behind you, I think. Email me if you are interested –


  13. Lissa Landry · 20 Hours Ago

    Why do you get a sqeeky voice.? I have been smoke free 7 months been on predizone and antibiotics almost every month weight gain depressed no energy sleepy all the time


    • russwin66 · 20 Hours Ago

      Hi Lissa,
      Some people do notice a change in their voice and weight gain when taking Prednisone, I personally haven’t experienced it. Is your diagnosis COPD and have you seen a respiratory specialist ?


  14. russwin66 · December 20

    Excellent, my email is are you happy to write something yourself or would you prefer a Q& A format ?



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