How Two Star Athletes Win Big in the Battle to Breathe
Advocacy Olympic Ice Dance Champion, Charlie White, and Paula Radcliffe, three-time New York Marathon champion, share how they soared to new heights despite having asthma.
Mediaplanet: How has asthma affected your ability to compete?
Charlie White: I definitely felt like my asthma held me back from time to time when I was younger, but as I continued to be smart about it and continued to use my medication it became a non-issue! The only rough times were when I was sick, as this exacerbated my symptoms. However, because of my determination and love for the sport, I made sure to get myself in good enough shape that even getting sick wouldn't be enough to stand in the way of performing well.
Paula Radcliffe: I have never known competing without asthma over the marathon. It has always been a case of managing my asthma by staying on top of my preventer and reliever inhalers and regularly monitoring my peak flow. By learning which factors trigger my asthma (pollution, certain pollens, smoke, etc.), I can anticipate these and increase my preventative inhaler dose in the run up. I also know I have to be extra careful with any cold so it doesn't develop into bronchitis or worse.
MP: When you first started, how did you keep your asthma under control while training and how do you continue to manage it?
Charlie White: Of course being in a cold weather sport is not ideal for an asthmatic kid. Beyond figure skating, I was also a hockey player until age 18, so being in the rink was pretty much my life. But because I enjoyed skating and playing hockey so much, I always followed my doctors advice regarding being safe and making sure I stayed on top of using my inhalers.
As I got older and the stakes became higher, I found that I had to work harder than everyone else to make sure I always felt 100 percent. And I definitely feel like the necessity for that work ethic played a large part in my success.
Paula Radcliffe: I started off taking a preventative inhaler and a reliever inhaler. Later, while I was at university, my preventer inhaler changed. If I stay on top of this and am not in a trigger situation I don't need to take the reliever inhaler, but I always carry it just in case.
MP: Did you ever see asthma as an obstacle in achieving your goals?
Charlie White: I've never looked at asthma as an obstacle. I'm very lucky that the medication to help control it is very advanced, along with always feeling like my desire to succeed was greater than any drawbacks that asthma could have.
Paula Radcliffe: No, I think I was very lucky to have a great family doctor who diagnosed me at age 13. He told me that if I managed and controlled it well, my asthma would never stop me from doing my sport.
MP: What advice would you give other asthmatics looking to compete in sports?
Charlie White: My advice to anyone is that if you put yourself in a place to succeed, you will succeed. Is it going to be a little bit harder for you than someone else that doesn't have to deal with asthma? Maybe, but you can even use that as a mental edge. You have a better understanding of how hard you can push yourself because you've always had to do so.
Paula Radcliffe: I always try to pass on the advice and reassurance my doctor gave to me. That you control and manage your asthma and don't let it prevent you from getting the most out of your life and your sport.