Keeping Active Has Helped to Manage My Asthma
Posted: Wed, 09 Oct 2019 11:28
I've always enjoyed participating in sport and physical activity which is why I now feel extremely lucky to be in a job where I get to help others become physically active. Having been born and brought up in the North East of England with inspirational people like Sir Bobby Robson around at the time it just became second nature to get active at every given opportunity.
However while I was at Primary School something changed which I thought at the time was going to prevent, or at least limit my ability to keep active for the rest of my life. I started to notice while running around in the playground at lunchtime, or during football training that I was getting out of breath very quickly, coughing and wheezing to the extent that I'd have to stop taking part in the activity. Despite my best efforts to persuade everyone that I was fine and probably just one of those things, once my teacher told my parents what had happened I was taken to the doctors. It was there that I heard the fateful words that I thought were going to end my physical activity days for good never mind achieving my ambition of becoming a professional footballer as the doctor told my Mum "Mrs Wilson your Son has asthma!"
Now I'd heard of asthma before and it was because that's what some of the children who didn't take part in PE at school had. They stood with the teacher, inhalers in hand watching everyone else having fun! I didn't want to become one of those children, but sadly I soon was!
At that time there wasn't the education there is now, so the natural line of thinking was that if exercise resulted in me coughing and wheezing then if I stopped doing it then that would make my asthma better. I was driven to school instead of walking, not allowed to take part in PE, and football club was forbidden. All of this made me feel very low, and looking back now as well as being denied the opportunity to do the thing I enjoyed most, with what we know now about mental health I also wasn't able to benefit from the feel good factor that we know comes with keeping active.
After much protestation with my parents and school I was slowly reintegrated to physical activity. I was allowed to walk to school, took part in PE stopping for breaks as required and most importantly started playing football again, but with a change of position to goalkeeper. Therefore my ambition to become a professional footballer was still alive, but now winning matches by saving goals rather than scoring them.
As I got older the list of sports I was participating in was longer than the Olympic programme. Managed carefully alongside regular medication which was also improving I was able to lead a normal healthy life. I'd still have the occasional asthma attack, but I knew by then how to manage it and they were far less frequent than when I was younger. On the whole my regular asthma clinic appointments at the doctors showed that my lung strength was improving which in turn was reducing my breathlessness and a lot of this was attributed to my levels of physical activity.
Once my footballing days were over with boots and goalkeeper gloves hung up for good, I got my trainers out and turned to running as my main form of physical activity. I still had to be careful in terms of managing my asthma so started with small distances and combining walking with running. However this built up over time with 5K leading to 10K and then to a half marathon doing the Great North Run back in my beloved North East.
Then in 2012 I managed to do the hardest, but best thing that I've ever done in completing the London Marathon. This was even more special with it being the amazing year we all now know it would be for sport in this country, but looking back now there was one thing that stood out. At about the 23 Mile mark I was overtaken by 2 people dressed as inhalers who were running in aid of the charity Asthma UK. After that initial shock and embarrassment of being overtaken by people in such large fancy dress, a sense of pride set in knowing that the funds they'd raise would help others like me to manage their asthma, so they can lead healthy active lives.
One of the best athletes of all time, Paula Radcliffe has got asthma, so I think there's no way better to end this blog than to quote her thoughts on it when interviewed by Asthma UK she said "you should control your asthma, not let it control you."
Asthma UK are part of the Richmond group who are working with Sport England on the new We are Undefeatable campaign. This aims to help people manage long term health conditions like asthma by participating in regular physical activity.