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Staying Active with Asthma

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In celebration of Asthma Awareness Month, I thought it would be fun to talk with a student who has asthma herself.  I interviewed Shannyn, an energetic 10 year-old who taught me all about what it is like to have asthma.  Shannyn let me know that she doesn’t let asthma get in the way of her active lifestyle and love of playing outdoors with her sisters and friends. At around age 3, Shannyn experienced her first asthma attack.  She explained to me that an asthma attack is an episode, accompanied by wheezing and coughing, which makes it very difficult to breathe.  Triggers, such as dust, chemicals and seasonal allergies, are things that can provoke the event of an asthma attack.  Lucky enough for this smart girl, she knows to avoid these triggers by staying away from heavy bathroom cleaners and helping her mom to clean the house of dust.  

Asthma doesn’t get in the way of Shannyn’s busy lifestyle.  Her love of running club, tumbling, soccer, kickball and playing in the pool are what keep Shannyn going.  By taking a daily preventative inhaler, she is able to participate in these sports and after school activities.  Shannyn is careful to also carry her rescue inhaler with her when going for runs, in case this physical activity makes her asthma worse.  She let me know that although her asthma can sometimes make it hard to keep up with others when running, that she has a few good friends that will run at a steady pace with her.  I am impressed with all the fun, physical activities this girl does!  When telling me about how she is teaching one of her friends how to do a kart wheel, I asked if she could teach me.  At age 22, I still haven’t picked up how to do a kart-wheel. 

It’s no secret that Shannyn doesn’t let her asthma define how she spends her time and what kinds of activities she does.  By knowing which triggers to avoid, taking the proper medication, and doing routine activities like running club to control her asthma, Shannyn is able to live a very spirited life.  She is looking forward to the summer, where she is planning to spend lots of time swimming in the pool with her two sisters.  She has even started to plan her next birthday party, where she and friends will have a spa day.  Shannyn let me know that asthma doesn’t get in the way of staying active and having fun with friends and family.  She is a role model to people of all ages who have asthma.

Shelby Egan was an extern in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Triathlon

By Amy Miller

This may sound like bragging – I ran a triathlon last week – but it’s not. Why not? Because I am as slow as molasses. I look like I should be fast, being tall and all, but believe me, I am not. And so I know that YOU can run a triathlon too. Now in its seventh year, the Pumpkinman has become popular for people from across New England. But more exciting, it has become a thing to do in our own town. People who have never run a race find themselves training alongside neighbors who have also never run a race. And lo and behold they all finish.

Psychologists in the field of health and fitness have been saying recently that research shows exercise could be better encouraged by emphasizing the day to day rewards instead of the eventual weight loss or years added to your life. The truth is, most of us are motivated by the here and now. And let me tell you, there is little better to brighten up your day, even your week, than spending under two hours competing in a triathlon.

Two community members decided to create this event. And it’s simply beautiful. The swim is in a private pond, one of the few triathlons based on private land. The bike goes through the rural hinterlands of South Berwick, passing near the Agamenticus conservation area. And the run is a loop that skirts some of the town’s remaining farmland.

Saturday is the sprint – one third mile swim, 14-mile bike and three-mile run. This year 35 people from my town showed up to race that morning. Sunday is reserved for tri-athletes who can manage a half iron-man triathlon: a 1.2-mile swim; 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run. Nearly 600 people come to town to compete. But even Sunday is a community event as dozens of school kids, parents, families and athletes get up at 3, 5 or 7 am to staff a water station on Pond Road, hold a flag at the corner of Lebanon Road, or mark number s on the legs of athletes.

And there are the local heroes. Like the elementary school principal who competes both days. He considers his participation an important part of role modeling for the hundreds of fourth and fifth graders who go through his school each year.

OK, I’ll confess. It takes me just under two hours. Twelves seconds under. I told you I’m slow. But I still feel good the rest of the day.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.