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!!


48 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

    1. Thanks Greg. Your resistance to quit is inspiring. Just like Russell. Played college tennis and played competitively until 40. Had a tragic accident and then diagnosed with COPD ST 50. I kind of gave up and quit all activity thinking I was conserving oxygen. Having 2nd thoughts now. Maybe I should reconsider

  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.

  11. Man this is life/mind pushing thing that you are doing .I Never smoked but three days ago doctor said i have Stage 3 copd and i am fucking just 21.And the reason is my parents.Keep doing it man and hopefully survival will be easy as easy,yeah.

    Fortunately i am not on oxygen and can walk without any breathing problem.Probably i am young or something like that.

    What do you think of Buteyko Method of breathing?

  12. So inspiring. It seems almost unreal that you could run a marathon with stage IV copd. My husband is in stage IV. He exercises when he can and walks on the treadmill. He has always exercised and has been in good health, but cigarettes changed that. He quit but the damage was done. He is on oxygen 24/7. Do you use oxygen? I would love to see my husband get stronger and not need it all the time. Thank you!

    1. Hi Eileen. I do use oxygen sometimes. It maybe worthwhile looking at your husbands nutrition, it made a big difference to me.

      1. Hi Russwin66, I have severe COPD. I use oxygen with activity. I exercise every day. I’m learning to live well with this disease. You have been a big inspiration to me. When first diagnosed I went to a pulmonologist that was highly recommended. I was afraid to exercise as I thought I might have heart or respiratory failure. I was reading all about COPD and then asked if I should be exercising & about nutrition. This was in 2007. He answered oh yes. I find it hard to believe that I had to ask. I know nutrition is always important but was afraid of exercise.
        I feel so much better and have purchased an e-bike. I was having a little trouble first few times as I’m surrounded by big hills. I strapped oxygen on securely and used that. It helped me very much.
        Then the other day I tried without oxygen. I think before I was getting anxiety just by looking at the hill and fearful I wouldn’t make it. I have Catskills & Helderburg mountains in my back yard. Relaxing and at a even cadence & possibly weather that day all helped me. I’m new to your site but want to learn to be as strong as I can. I do cardio every day for at least a half hour. I see that you suggest longer. I’m a gardener and quite active during my day. I have avoided all exacerbations this year. First time in over a decade. I think it’s due to Covid-19 & most all people wearing masks & the flu being almost non existent. . I practice social distancing.
        I need to read more on your site but if you have any tips for me that would be great. I’m 68 years old. I’m a very good weight and physically my legs are very strong. It’s my upper body that I suffered muscle wasting somewhat. Lifting weights seems difficult to me but maybe I have to continually try to do that?
        When first diagnosed it was like a death. Denial, depression & finally acceptance but now the journey is to live my best and focus on what I can do. I believe with everything bad there can come something good.
        Since Covid-19 happened and with all the research and money for vaccine maybe a lot will come from the studies for respiratory and other diseases that have a lot of inflammation associated with them.
        Thank you for all you do. Words can’t express how you have given me such incentive. I had read so much of the awful things people have to contend with and though valid it is so refreshing to hear there is still life after this type of diagnosis.

        1. Your story is so inspirational Katie. Sounds like you’re doing a great job. Be consistent with everything you do and you’ll be in the best place you can be.

  13. Just found you! Was diagnosed just this past Monday and am devastated. I have been an athlete all my life, runner, swimmer, cyclist, hiker., etc. I have participated in triathlons and qualified for Nationals in my age group. Have been asthmatic all my life. Recently, breathing got more challenging and trying to digest this new reality. I ride 4-5 hours on my bike and so the reports of this disease are scary to say the least. I am glad I found this page and for you bringing hope to my desire to stay active. I also have celiac and so my diet is what is recommended. I am 60 years old.

  14. The body will do what the mind tells it to! I just love that phase. Thanks for sharing & you humble me to want to try harder.

  15. I’m 38 years old just being diagnosised with emphysema and/or mild obstructive asthma from my ct scan. I see the pulmonary specialist at the end of the month. I used to run cross country in middle and high school, as well as, weight training at the local gym. I did this all for the fun of it. But looking back, I always ran in the middle of the crowd. I wanted to go faster but I simply couldn’t. I blamed my mom for smoking in the house all my life to why I couldn’t jet up front. At the end of practice or races, my coaches would say I had too much energy at the end. For that stretch I could do without breathing and push it. I wonder now if I had/have asthma. The bad news is I picked up heavy smoking for 21 years. I’m trying to quit. My first breathing test after my pneumonia said I was at 75% for my age, height. My capacity is at a 95% and with a inhaler 105%. I don’t drive, so I bike everywhere. I love the tranquility of my journeys. My resting heart rate has been lower than last year, so much the nurses ask me if that’s usual. I looked it up and what I found made me so happy. I get to say I’m an athlete again. Athletes have lower resting heart rates. Hearing about your story gives me great hope and strength. I want to live. I want to breath. I want to devote myself to finding the best diet and lifestyle possible. I’m even considering training for races again.

  16. I’m an active 55-year-old and I’m wondering if I’ve developed COPD. I grew up in a house of cigarette smoke. As a result, I was a poor athlete in school, always out of breath, but always tried. I’ve been running, swimming, surfing, and lifting weights for 35 years. I always felt i could not go as fast as I should be able to but kept going. 2 weeks ago I was in an intense surf competition with powerful waves and high winds and I have not recovered. I feel a heaviness on the left side of my chest and feel I am not filling my left lung completely. I’m wondering if this is the beginning of COPD? Any insight from you, a fellow athlete, is appreciated.

    1. Hi Lulu. My advise would be to make an appointment with a respiratory doctor to see what’s going on. Spirometry is the gold standard in diagnosing COPD. Once you find out the cause of your issues then you can make a plan to move forward.


  17. Great to hear how well you are managing your condition. There seems very little information for active people. I have run for over 20 years, and doing triathlons for the last 5. Difficulty breathing when exercising for the last 10 years, slowly getting worse. Diagnosed with mild emphysema 2 years ago. I am now 64. Apparently I have the lungs capacity of someone in their 30s, so I can get the oxygen into my lungs, just not going easily into the blood. Exercise certainly helps, and even more so if you have always kept fit, particularly aerobic activity, which, in my case, seems to have expanded my lung capacity enormously. Your story helps me to keep going and never give up. Thank you.

  18. I’m 58. I was diagnosed with mild copd 5 years ago. I had no symptoms. Just a chance X-ray on a shoulder injury ( mountain biking) revealed further the findings. I was the monkey in my family. Extremely active until just recently. Now all of the sudden I have symptoms. It’s sometime a struggle to work out like I used to. But, I know it’s realkt my only chance of slowing progression. Keep fighting the fight.

  19. Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration. I’ve been recently diagnosed with mild COPD with emphysema, and find it getting more difficult to breath. I’ve never had an exercise routine, and am 59 years old. I’m encouraged to change that for the first time in my life after reading your story. I’ve purchase a recumbent bike to start. Can you tell me what type of diet you recommend, I’d like to improve my nutrition as well to slow this disease down. Any recommendations would be truly appreciated, and thank you for being a strong leader in this battle. Diane

  20. Hi Russell. By chance I ran across your name looking for info on COPD. I’m 68, and was diagnosed probably 5 or 6 years ago. Since I had pneumonia, I really didn’t hear it, and recovered, or so I thought. Unfortunately, my Dr. never discussed it with me, or sent me to rehab or a pulmonologist. Recently, as I got worse, I found a pulmonologist, who is an angel. She immediately tested me, changed my meds, and also had me purchase a nebulizer for inhalation therapy. Sad to say my numbers showed me at 44% for FEV1, and she flat out told me I should have been placed in resp. rehab as soon as I was diagnosed. I was devastated, and probably haven’t done much except wring my hands and worry about leaving my animals. I have started Resp. PT, and that was when I ran across your name. I shared it with my resp. people and told them that you gave me great hope.

    Russell, know that now, your bio is by every piece of equipment in the rehab place. They were so impressed. The hope and inspiration that you have offered to many of us is beyond words.

    Thank you for helping me get my life back, and push hard, and start laughing again..Now I go the resp. therapy and walk thru that door cheerful and dare them to push me harder.

    Thank you again.

  21. Good for you! I was diagnosed with stage 3 about 6y ears ago – I walked and walked until I could walk 6 miles a day. I started to run and could run for 7 minutes – walk for 1 minute – run 3 minutes – walk 1&1/2 minutes – then just kept repeating the cycle all over. I seemed to have plateaued and can’t seem to increase my lung function. Any suggestions?

    1. Sounds like my pattern. The only improvements Ive seen in my lung function is after I changed to the ketogenic diet. Plenty of science to support its use for respiratory disease.

  22. Good for you! I was diagnosed with stage 3 about 6 years ago – I walked and walked until I could walk 6 miles a day. I started to run and could run for 7 minutes – walk for 1 minute – run 3 minutes – walk 1&1/2 minutes – then just kept repeating the cycle all over. I seemed to have plateaued and can’t seem to increase my lung function. Any suggestions?

  23. I am 70 years old. I have been an athlete my whole life. 11 months ago I was playing tennis, swimming 5 days a week, riding my horse, and biking for 4 hrs a day. I AM NOW ON OXYGEN 24/7. i CANNOT DO ANY OF THOSE SPORTS ANYMORE. i HAVE NO PURPOSE IN LIFE. Any suggestions????????

    1. Hi Lyn, I’m sorry to hear this. For me it has been about adhering to a strict lifestyle, taking meds, the right nutrition and regular exercise. Consistently doing this will improve your quality of life. A lot of this information is contained on this site.
      Hope this helps.

  24. 44 and about to be diagnosed. My life has fallen apart and I’m trying to hold it together for my family but can’t stop crying at the moment.
    Asthmatic all my life, family of smokers, I smoked here and there at uni but never bought any myself so never classed myself as a smoker as such, nothing for years now.
    I swim, I’m a swimming coach, I ride horses and I’m a riding coach. I don’t know if/how I can continue. Reading your story has given me so much hope. I’m going to push myself hard and try the keto thing. I so want to see my children grow up.

  25. Your drive to be active let alone athletic is an inspiration Russ.
    I hate running, always have, but love swimming and adore biking. Must get my bike sorted out for this summer (USA).
    BTW, what is your choice of wearable performance tracker. Pulse, blood O2, etc.
    Trying to use my Samsung watch but it doesn’t do O2 continuously w/o stopping and ‘asking’ for that data.
    Cheers from Chicago

    1. Hi Paul,

      Good to hear your so active. I use a Garmin Fenix 6s for activity tracking. As for pulse ox I use a nonin wristox 3150 as this is the only device which does continuous monitoring with accuracy. Stay well.

      1. Appreciate the response Russ,
        The Nonin reminds me of my brother in law and his $10k USD bikes. But if you’re a serious athlete only the best will do, eh? I’ll probably never ship my bike overseas for a race, but may go to Belgium to see the F1 GP @ Spa one day.
        Or maybe …… Albert Park instead.
        Good news is that a drug store finger sensor is within 1% of my pulmonologist’s office. The Sam watch is ~1-2% high. Good enough to let me know when a workout drops it below 88%.
        Freaked out when a brisk walk drop me into the high 70s recently. But it was hot and afterwards realised it was notably uphill according to the GPS.
        Agree with you that better to push yourself than be resigned to inactivity. 100%

  26. Hi Russ
    I was made aware of you when I Started my Twitter page, I am in awe of your effort and achievement, I was already doing a substantial amount of walking, some running with my walking running club, I joined a Gym just prior to creating my FB and Twitter page, your benchmark is just a Tad high for me, I tend to concentrate on 5k which is manageable. But you have definitely been an inspiration. Good luck.
    Your approach to managing this disease is amazing.

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