3 Reasons Why Asthma Is My Motivator

Breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out.

I was 10 when I had my first asthma attack. I was running around outside with my friends playing tag, and my throat started tightening. I had no idea what was happening to me except for the fact that I couldn’t get any oxygen. I didn’t give up and somehow made my way to my teacher, hand signals and all. It was scary going to the hospital; I never knew what it was like to not be in control of my body. I was a carefree, fun-loving pre-teen who thought anything was possible. Why would this happen to me?

Fast forward more than a decade, and now I carry my inhaler around with me religiously in case my body decides to give up on me. Asthma has so many different faces. Sometimes asthma is a visible illness, where daily tasks prove difficult, such as walking up a flight of stairs. Other times it’s not as visible, which is where I would fit in. Most people wouldn’t know I have asthma unless they saw me use my inhaler. Some days I feel helpless because I can’t control my body. My asthma is triggered by a laundry list of allergies, strong odors such as cigarette smoke and more importantly, exercise.

I love to exercise, and that’s when my asthma is the most active. I love to box, play tennis and participate in indoor cycling. All of these activities take a great amount of stamina, especially from my lungs. I have to make sure I take my inhaler before I exercise, and when I’m not feeling my strongest, take the rest I need. I should say that again: take the rest I need. Sometimes I’d like to think I can keep going without taking the rest, and that I’m somehow no longer going to have asthma. I have to remind myself it’s a called a chronic condition for a reason. However, there are three reasons this chronic illness is my motivator:

1. Patience

Being asthmatic has taught me patience, and it motivates me to pay attention to my body. When I don’t exercise as much, I can tell by the way my body responds. I’m completely out of breath, and it takes me a couple of days, sometimes weeks, to gain back the stamina in my lungs. It’s incredibly frustrating, but it definitely motivates me to work out more.

woman standing next to a wooden railing overlooking a river
Kamilah taking a rest from hiking in Great Falls, Virginia

2. Hope

I think exercise has allowed me to rebuild parts of my identity I was told I would lose, such as being a high-performing athlete. When you have a chronic illness, you feel robbed of your identity, maybe even hopeless. Constantly exercising and listening to my body is what helps me monitor my asthma as well as maintain a healthy lifestyle. There’s hope when you know your body, because in turn, you know your limits. And somehow, you get your power back.

3. Routine

Uncertainty is something anyone with a chronic illness will tell you crosses their mind daily. Several questions come to mind when I think about my asthma. Will I be able to run in five years? Will my asthma completely debilitate me? I found exercise helps me regulate my asthma, although asthma attacks are largely unpredictable. It gives me comfort knowing I can manage some part of this illness, and I think everyone has to find what motivates them, then stick to it.

My overall goal is to remain healthy and to monitor my asthma as needed. Healthy looks different on everyone, but you’ll only know what you’re capable of once you try something new.

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