Asthma and COPD are lung diseases.  They both are defined by reduced airflow through the airways to the lungs.  Asthma is generally diagnosed in young  people and triggered by allergic reactions.  In conjunction with your Doctor,  asthma can be well controlled by taking the correct medication at periods prescribed by your Doctor.  COPD has similar symptoms to asthma, however, with asthma when breathing tests such as a spirometry test are done, the airways may show some changes, but these are mostly or completely reversible back to normal with medical treatment.  Generally speaking COPD gets worse over time, and symptoms don’t usually appear until over the age of 50, and the changes in the airways shown by a spirometry test do not usually  respond much to medication. Some people have a mixture of both conditions.

I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 8 yrs old and took a variety of medications, Theo Dur, Becotide and Ventolin were prescribed for a number of years with some success.  These medications undoubtedly would have been more effective had I been more diligent with taking them but as a kid there were far more important things to do like being outside playing with my mates. Thankfully I had a diligent Mother.  In hindsight I should have taken up swimming a long time ago as it’s one exercise I can feel the benefits from very quickly, but as a kid I hated swimming in a pool as it would make me wheeze and become short of breath.

My respiratory specialist tells me my COPD  has stemmed from many chest infections over the years. These infections have continually built up scar tissue in my airways which in turn leads to the airways becoming narrower over time.  The key is now to slow down the process of the airways closing so I can avoid a lung transplant for as long as possible.  Age is another factor in reduced lung capacity.   From the age of around 45 you will lose 1% of capacity a year;  my current capacity is between 22 to 30% needless to say there’s not a lot to play with. The graph below gives you an idea of the decline in healthy people.

photo 1

There are four stages of COPD , they are determined by your spirometry test results. The table below shows the four stages and the FEV (Forced Expiratory Volume) percentage of each stage.




I am at stage IV and have been lucky enough to be able to continue to train and participate in triathlons and cycling events. My doctors are at a loss to explain how I can do the volumes of exercise I do as people with IV stage COPD are mostly housebound, confined to bed and need oxygen therapy. I do have bad days, days when simply brushing my teeth, showering or just getting out of bed can leave me breathless.  Where my body may fail me, by mind takes up the slack as I have a very strong mind and simply repel any negativity.  I make the most of the good days and cross my fingers that the bad days and race days don’t align.

Whether you have asthma or COPD managing your condition can be difficult but it can be done. Take your medications and exercise as much as you can, eat a healthy diet and keep the weight down. Set yourself a goal to help keep you on track and always remember no matter how tough it gets there’s always someone doing it tougher than you.  Put simply, the body will do what the mind tells it to!!


14 responses to “Asthma, COPD and me

  1. I also have COPD and run. You are an inspiration to me, on those bad days,sometimes weeks, to keep at it and it will get better. Keep running, we’re counting on you.

  2. I read your story. You are an inspiration. I am thinking maybe I can keep living. I used to hike, climb, and backback. I used to be strong. I hate what I have become and think about ending it all. Your story has made me think. Maybe I can live, and improve. I recently lost my photos from my last healthy trip. Maybe just maybe I can get strong again. THANKS

  3. you are an inspiration to us all!!!! thank you. The mind and the human will to live is unpredictable in its ability to persevere. god bless you for sharing.

  4. I have just been diagnosed with COPD and have had bouts of bronchitis on and off through my life. I am very active sports wise and participate in weekly cycling events, and have done a lot of endurance cycling particularly last year. I have noticed my capacity to oxygenate my muscles has severely decreased in the last month or so, but your journey gives me hope. I am over 50 and before this, amd apart from bronchitis on and off I am very healthy

  5. I have recently been diagnosed with COPD. I am and have been very active my whole life and more recently have been cycling endurance, regular sportives and have just got my racing license… I am over 50 and remember that I have had bronchitis from time to time over the years. Since being diagnosed with COPD I have noticed my capacity for staying energized and keeping my speed consistent has dropped dramatically – within a period of only about a month ~ I have just had blood tests and am waiting for the results so am not sure what stage I am in. I do find hill climbing a much bigger challenge but I am very inspired by your story and will read more of your blog. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. I’ve just started spin classes and really want to lose some weight, im going to step up my swimming and feel really inspirered by the possitive messages peaple have left, going to give this COPD and asthma a real run for its money,,, NO SURRENDER

  7. I am 58 stage IV and never smoked. Chronic asthma or Celiac probably destroyed my lungs. At any rate, I was once a gonzo athlete as a mountain biker, road biker, hiker, trail runner, climber, x-country skier, 2nd-degree blackbelt and martial arts teacher. It seemed I went from stage one to stage IV in about ten years. That is really a mental jolt.

    I am at 5400 feet on the Colorado plains (a mile high) and need about 6 lpm of liquid oxygen to get outside and walk. I walk a few times a week for a couple hours, lift weights, and traded my road bike in for a motorcycle. It takes grit to get out there but the alternative is worse and not working out for a couple weeks or more is devastating. It is like starting all over again.

    I am being evaluated for LVRS as a bridge to transplant. My goal now is to get up to 100 pushups and 100 situps a day by doing alternating sets of each 40/40, 30/30. 20/20, 10/10. I want to have a pretty solid core for either LVRS or transplant. It is nice to read about other athletes with COPD that are still out there kicking it. You all inspire me to keep going and maybe add a little more.

    For those that are considering working out, I have said for decades that working out follows the laws of physics. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest must overcome inertia to gain motion. If you can make a deal with yourself to work out every day for a week or five days a week just for one week, you overcome inertia. At the end of the week, you will feel better. Then just stay in motion.

    Get out there Greg

  8. This is indeed inspirational. Just today diagnosed with mild to moderate COPD. Many bouts of bronchitis. Really down right now as I have always been very active but now find myself weaker more and more. However, tomorrow I’ll get up and stretch, exercise and eat breakfast. I ALWAYS hope for a good day. Thanks.


  10. I am amazed that you race in triathlons with stage lV COPD.
    it really is inspiring.
    I also have stage lV (FEV 22% of expected) and a couple of years ago was on oxygen and mentally on the way out. I am 65.
    Changed my diet to one very similar to the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) and started walking every day. Am now occasionally reaching the iconic 10,000 steps a day (without supplementary oxygen) and have just bought an exercise bike.I hope to eventually get the old bicycle out and go for a decent run on it.
    I will not be racing anytime soon but hope to stay out of hospital and continue to challenge myself.

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