Welcome to my journey.

I was diagnosed with Lung Disease (COPD) 2 yrs ago, fev1 – 22%. Like many people with this disease I was uncertain of what the future would hold for me. I started triathlons 8 yrs ago , participating in distances up to half ironman. In 2010 I entered Ironman Port Macquarie, however 8 weeks before the race I contracted a chest infection which put me out of the race.

I have been an asthmatic since the age of 9 & have learnt to deal with breathlessness while exercising, however in the training leading up to Ironman I had notice everything was getting harder to do & my times on the bike & run we’re getting slower. I reduced my training over the next 6 months & took it easy trying to get my health back under control. In the 2011 Ironman race I watched from the sidelines & cheered on mates doing the race.

That inspired me to have another crack at Ironman, this time my wife decided to join me & we trained together. Late 2011 after continuing chest infections I went to see a respiratory specialist. After having Lung function & exercise tests , I was informed I had copd with a lung capacity of 22%. Ouch, that certainly took the wind out of my sails , suddenly Ironman was the last thing I was thinking of. My Doctor told me that at some point I would need a double lung transplant, & sent me off to see the doctors at the transplant unit.

So here I was one minute training for an Ironman event the next wondering what the future holds & what sort of quality of life I’m going to have. I think there’s a point where you go one way or the other, I call it thinking yourself sick ! My wife Leanne, who at that stage was not my wife , decided that I was not going to go downhill & started looking at treatments . After trying a few different things, we went to a Chinese Doctor, I was a sceptic. The good Doctor gave me some pills & herbs & away I went still a sceptic.

After 3 months of the Chinese medicine I started to notice change , I had more energy , didn’t need the constant midday naps but best of all had the energy to train again. My breathing didn’t change nor did I expect it to, but I had energy & for those of you with Lung disease, lack of energy, as you know is very frustrating. I kept up with the Chinese medicine now that I could see some benefits & ate humble pie as Leanne always believed in it .

My next visit to my respiratory Doctor was in March 2012, We told him about the Chinese medicine & that I was back in training & determined to do Port Macquarie Ironman in May. He told me he was happy for me to try but said I wouldn’t finish the race & told me to make sure my heart rate stayed under 150 bpm. So we trained & trained & trained some more, like many who do these events it becomes all consuming .

Race day arrived & so did the nerves, self doubt, have we trained enough ? Will the body hold up? For those of you not familiar with Ironman it’s a race that has a 3.8k swim 180k bike ride & finishing with a 42.2k run with a 17hour cutoff time. The day was full of drama, from me getting cold in the swim to Leanne finishing her race on the bike leg dehydrated. However after 16 hours & 50 minutes I crossed the finish line . After a few days rest I sent my Doctor a picture of me crossing the finish line, very satisfying !

What this journey has shown me , is that for me, getting my energy levels up so I can exercise more gives me better quality of life. My lung capacity hasn’t changed but my feelings about the future has. So don’t give up, Lung disease doesn’t have to be so much of a burden.

We are now entered to do Ironman Melbourne & Cairns Ironman in 2014 follow this blog to see our journey !

Russell & Leanne

2 responses to “Copd Athlete

  1. Hi Russell. First just let me say you are quite the inspiration! I just discovered this site today after asking about runners with copd on a support site. I was diagnosed with copd on 2015 with 24% lung function. I also have Alpha1 and diastolic dysfunction. I have been exercising 5 days a week at a hospital gym in my little town for about 3 yrs before Covid hit. Then the gym closed. For the past 7 months I have been doing Beachbody workouts 30 min a day. This past week I upped it to 1 hr/day.
    I am on 24/7 oxygen and I try not let that stop me from doing anything. I want to run, but I am just not sure where to start. Or should I say how. Do I just go, is there something I need to do to get myself ready, I think I just need some direction. Would love whatever input you can share.
    Thank you for your time.

    1. First step with getting into running is to let your doctor know. Then it’s about starting slowly and being consistent. Doing some basic leg stretching followed by walking. Increasing your walking pace and distance as you feel comfortable. You will then get to a pace where you can start to run slowly. For me, I run 300-400m then walk 200m. I focus on getting my breath back while walking.

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