Exercise-induced asthma

Any if you out there get exercise-induced asthma? If so, how do you beat it? I’m new to the whole biking thing. My husband bought the kickr shift and I am trying to use it to get back in shape. I’m going slowly but the asthma keeps rearing its ugly head.

I’ve had it since I was young, do you have an inhaler?

Yes, I have an albuterol inhaler I use about 10 minutes prior. It doesn’t seem to help. However, I am totally out of shape. Maybe with more time my lungs will get better

do you smoke? You may also want to talk to your doctor about the once a day inhalers like Qvar

Is there any significant change in temperature or humidity when you go to get on the bike? Going from a warm house to a cold shed can make it more likely in some people.

yes, great question, cold air constricts the lungs already and asthma on top of that is a bad combination

A friend of mine had this - he was pretty fit and strong, first started appearing after long high intensity intervals (FTP) and he just couldn’t recover easily. I would suggest just gradually getting into the riding. Gradual increasing in intensity.

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If you’re totally out of shape, it may also help to do a longer gentler warmup so you can raise your core temperature before doing any hard efforts. Whatever you’re doing now to warm up, go longer and easier.

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the Mayo Clinic has a section devoted to your problem which may provide some helpful info. Just put exercise induced asthma into your search engine and it should turn up.

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No, I’m inside.

Inside still needs warmup, you need to get your body used to the efforts.

Might possibly still be worthwhile to try riding in a warmer and more humid environment. This usually impairs performance but you can adapt to it if it seems like it helps. A longer warmup also warms you up in terms of temperature.

I would turn the power graph on - G on the keyboard if using PC. Then slowly increase intensity (over 10 to 20 minutes). The graph is on the bottom of the screen. It should go from gray to blue to green to yellow. Figure out what point the asthma starts to act up. Ideally you can get to zone 2 (blue) without discomfort. For the first while, just train in zone 1-2 (gray to blue) if you can. If it starts to get easier, increase the duration. Once in a while repeat the first test to see where the asthma acts up. You really want to do about 80% of your training in zone 2. I usually find a pace partner that works and then just watch netflix … find the right cadence and spin away for 30-40 km. Best to pick a flat route.
Always remember to consult your a healthcare professional prior to engaging in a new fitness program (or seeking advice on Zwift forums)

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When you are totally new to a physical activity, I suspect you (as in most people) may find it hard to modulate your effort. That is, your body may or may not know how to go easy. It’s possible that this may explain why you’re out of breath. If this is true, the only way i know of is to just consciously try to go easy. Take it slow.

Having had exercise induced asthma, it’s also possible it may be time to step up your allergy regimen in consultation with your primary care doctor, or with an allergist if justified. The first step is getting you a rescue inhaler like albuterol or salbutamol. These are short acting beta agonists, which give short term relief. The next step up is something like an inhaled corticosteroid. There are treatments beyond that if you need them. Again, it may be necessary to talk to an actual physician.

I have exercise-induced asthma as well as allergic asthma, so really my respiratory system is completely shot :smile:. With trial and error (lots of error) I am able to put out regular hard efforts (for me) but 100% suggest you talk to your doctor if you have concerns not some rando asthmatic on the internet.

IMO the first thing is to make sure your asthma is controlled on the day-to-day. If you have been prescribed long-lasting inhalers then make sure you take them regularly and that your environment is as allergen-free as possible if you have allergic asthma as well.

I take my long-lasting inhaler (Symbicort in my case) twice a day so if it’s a ride day I’ll take that particular dose about 15 minutes before getting on the bike. If I’m riding solo then I’ll take 10 minutes of easy riding to get things warmed up. With experience I can trim that down but generally this works well. I like to be cool when I ride so the fans will be on and the window open but I’ll ride these 10 minutes with a top on so that I keep my chest relatively warm. Once I’m ready, the top gets rapidly removed and that’s my cue to do whatever it is I’m doing that ride.

If it’s a workout then I have a set warm-up routine (2 minutes very easy, 8 minute ramp up from easy to hard, 2 minutes easy) to get things going. I’ll lose the during that 2 minute easy period after the ramp, but won’t hesitate to extend this period as necessary. I will also have a single salbutamol puff in this period if my workout is going to be a hard one.

All that to say I 100% agree with the advice already suggested for slower and longer warm-up! Also I might suggest ignoring the numbers when you ride at first, just ride by feel and go at a conversational pace. On hills get used to changing your gearing to stay at that conversational pace, forget about speed or anything like that. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, you do you. Only when you are comfortable should you bring in any sort of intensity.

Please stick at it and figure out what works best for you - other than getting it under control generally, one of the best thing I have done for my asthma is regular riding. Of course there will be days when the asthma kicks your butt and that’s OK, but it’s a great feeling when you get off the bike having achieved your goal despite it.

You got this!


My general advice to anyone who needs to control their effort on varied terrain is to put the Trainer Difficulty setting to zero so you are in complete control and not as tempted to push it on climbs. The setting can be changed mid-ride so you could do a warmup with it at zero and then increase it for a more interesting ride experience afterwards.


Thank you. Great advice.

yeah, i have it. keep an inhaler nearby, and, well, depends what triggers it for you, but i generally avoid drinking coffee or inhaling too many stimulants within 4 hours of jumping on the bike, since that usually ends poorly for me

with that said, two or three times a year maybe, it’ll get me anyway. nothing you can do then but sit up immediately and stop the session. it’s manageable though… if you’re a new rider, try to avoid doing a lot of intensity until you build up some fitness, then start adding it in real slow over time. nowadays, having built up fitness over the years, i very rarely have to worry about it or do anything different to anyone else, other than laying off the caffiene pre-ride

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While this isn’t the place to diagnosis … I was told for 25 years I had exercise induced asthma but inhalers never worked. Turns out it’s a laryngeal obstruction (you will need full pulmonary tests & a laryngeal scan to confirm this - see an ENT) … if you feel the sensation of choking or unable to get air in with serious wheezing a and it goes away when you stop exercising - it may not be asthma.

The flip side is it +%#^+ as there is no treatment. It’s evil.

When I was fit it wasn’t an issue as long as I rode pace - I could climb mountains for hours (I would do alpe repeats!). Now after being sick for 3 years and my FTP dropping to 2 wkg and struggling to ride for 30 km, it’s really a matter of just going within my (low) limits. And that’s how you shoujd ride as you ramp up - stay steady so you could actually sing to yourself - don’t go anaerobic at all other than try the occasional sprint.

Look at the ZZRC sub 2 rides if you want company.

And seek out hills too at a steady pace, keeping breathing easy and spin (I count in my head - it’s intuitive). Look for ones without a lot of gradient changes (I like the makuri 40 route as has short but steady 4% on it so can push a little harder then ease off).

I am finding all the info on the Zwift screen too much these days … would just focus on the “view” and check stats afterwards.

Also - if it’s feeling horrible I just stop, even if it’s been 20 minutes. I’ve been cycling 15+ years and am of the view it should be fun, not torture.

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Thank you Stacey. I will try those rides. I am scheduled for an exercise stress test, so we will see. I am trying to take it slow and build up my lungs and legs.