When I was about 18 I became very winded after playing a game of basketball. I sat down on a chair next to my dad, leaned forward with my palms resting on my knees to keep my shoulders high to breathe, and I said, "I'm out of shape." My dad, being the sound and reasonable man he is, said, "You are not out of shape; you have asthma."
"Dad," I said, once I caught my breath. "I'm this way because I haven't exercised in a while."
He said, "I never exercise, and I don't get that winded. You're that way because you have asthma."
Now, let's fast forward to 2012. I'm really out of shape now, and I feel like a fat, bloated pig sometimes. When I get this way I almost always feel dyspneic to some degree. I, therefore, blamed my asthma on being out of shape. In other words, I completely forgot what my dad had said.
Last weekend, however, my asthma got really bad, and I needed to be placed on systemic steroids. Now that they have kicked in and I am still on a high dose, I am still out of shape, and I do not feel dyspneic all the time. It was sitting around thinking of this that I remembered what my dad said: "You are not out of shape; you have asthma."
It took over 20 years for what my dad said 20 years ago to sink in. All these years I've been exercising just so I could breathe better. When I was in good shape, I breathed good. When I was not in good shape, my breathing got bad. But my dad's point was that I shouldn't have to exercise just to breathe normal; your breathing should always be normal.
Talking to a great asthmatic friend (Mr. (Dr.)Stephen Gaudet, he reminded me that the reason that I'm probably a little short of breath all the time is because I have bronchospasm and air trapping in the smallest air passages probably all the time. For this reason, my steroid inhalers can't get that deep to help get rid of this inflammation. For this reason, my peak flows, even my PFTs, can be relatively normal even when I feel mildly short of breath.
The reason I'm thinking of this now is that I'm just as out of shape today as I was last week when I started getting sick. I am not dyspniec with any bit of exertion, thinking I'm that way due to being out of shape. Instead, I just feel normal. Now, surely I still get short of breath every few hours and require my rescue medicine, but I do not, at present, feel out of shape out of breath (have I lost you yet?)
Now, even though I have not done one iota of exercise the past week, I do not feel out of shape dyspnea, even to a light degree, with exertion. I go up and down stairs, and I feel fine. I run a short distance, and I feel fine. My asthma might act up a bit at times, but I don't feel that out of shape dyspnea.
So was my dad right? I'm thinking that he was. He's not even a medical person, and he figured that out way over 20 years ago. I guess the reason I denied his brilliant idea was because I have never lived a day in my life with normal lungs, in shape or out of shape, and my dad has. My dad is one of those lucky guys who has smoked his entire life, and has managed to breathe easy his entire life. Great man he is.
I'm not worried about my dad's ego going up a notch because he's ego free as I am.