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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 01-20-2005, 12:00 PM   #1
Jeremy Kam
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Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts to the effectiveness of Crossfit with people with asthma.

I have EIA (exercise-induced asthma) and wanted to know how Crossfit has helped anyone else who has asthma with their sports performance. I know there have been quite a few Olympic Atheletes that have controlled their asthma and reached a very high level of athletic performance (in a variety of fields). Should I be focusing on specific types of training (e.g endurance runs / intervals and tabatas / high-intensity / low-intensity, etc...) to help counter my asthma or should the WODs as prescribed be the best choice? Thanks.
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Old 01-20-2005, 01:51 PM   #2
Ryan Atkins
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I'm not 100% sure on this, but I thought I remember reading somewhere (Zone?, NHE?, Eades?) that the symptoms of asthma could be reduced/eliminated through dietary means. Food IS a drug, IMO.

Hope this helps (at least a little),

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Old 01-20-2005, 02:12 PM   #3
Larry Lindenman
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One of the practices many of us follow is taking supplimential fish oil. Here's some info regarding fish oil and asthma:

Fish oils improve lung function in asthma patients
PARIS, FRANCE. Asthma involves an inflammation of the airway (pharynx, larynx and lungs). Epidemiological studies have shown that populations with a high intake of fish oils have a lower incidence of inflammatory diseases such as asthma. French researchers have completed a small trial to see if oral fish oil supplementation would benefit asthma patients. A total of 12 allergic asthmatic patients who were routinely receiving inhaled salbutamol, steroid and sodium nedocromil therapy participated in the one- year randomized, double-blind trial. Half the patients received 1 gram of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) daily; the other half received a placebo. Participants were evaluated every month and lung function tests performed every three months. A significant improvement in lung function was observed among the patients in the fish oil group. Forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) increased by 23% after 9 months of supplementation. The researchers point out that the treatment was well-tolerated and urge large-scale, long-term trials to confirm their findings.
Dry, J. and Vincent, D. Effect of a fish oil diet on asthma: results of a 1-year double-blind study. Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol, Vol. 95, 1991, pp. 156-57

Fish oils help asthma patients
LARAMIE, WYOMING. Asthma is an increasingly common affliction in the Western world. It is estimated that between 20 and 25 per cent of all children suffer from one or more symptoms of asthma at some point. There is evidence that a high dietary intake of linoleic acid (n-6 PUFA) may exacerbate asthma symptoms. Linoleic acid is found in particularly high concentrations in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, and corn oils. Researchers at the University of Wyoming now report that adjusting the dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may be effective in reducing asthma symptoms in many patients. Their experiment involved 26 non-smoking asthma-sufferers aged 19 to 25 years. The normal dietary intake of n-6 PUFA was determined for all participants at the start of the study and after one month. For the first month participants were given fish oil capsules containing enough EPA and DHA to adjust their intake ratio of n-3 PUFAs (fish oils) to n-6 PUFAs to 0.1:1. During the second month the participants had their n-3 PUFA to n-6 PUFA ratio adjusted to 0.5:1. The average fish oil intake required to produce the 0.5:1 ratio was 3.3 grams per day. Extensive testing showed that more than 40 per cent of the participants experienced a significant improvement in their breathing ability and better resistance to asthma attacks while on the high fish oil diet. The researchers conclude that dietary supplementation with fish oils or other enriched sources of n-3 PUFAs may be a viable therapy for asthma.
Broughton, K. Shane, et al. Reduced asthma symptoms with n-3 fatty acid ingestion are related to 5- series leukotriene production. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 65, April 1997, pp. 1011- 17

I have about 8 grams (yes grams) of fish oil a day and I don't have asthma. Kirkland Signature Fish Oil Concentrate (1 pill = 1 gram, EPA 180mg DHA 120) from Costco seems to be the recommended brand. I hope you get some additional info regarding Crossfit and asthma, good luck.

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Old 01-20-2005, 02:14 PM   #4
Larry Lindenman
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I re-read my post and I was not trying to imply my intake of fish oil prevented me from getting asthma, only that I take a large volume of fish oil for it's other benifits, not to help with asthma...sorry.
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Old 01-20-2005, 02:59 PM   #5
Keith Wittenstein
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I don't know if crossfit has any advantages for the asthmatic over other exercise protocols. However, I have asthma and definitely think any and all exercising has helped me over the past few years.

I don't have any scientific proof to back me up, but let me tell you about my experiences. I have asthma that is induced by exercise as well as allergies. As a kid, I avoided running and sports that required a lot of running. Short bursts were okay like in baseball, but extended runs like in soccer and basketball were torture.

I have found that between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, yoga and crossfit, I have experienced very few asthmatic episodes due to exercising over the last 5 years. I still have an inhaler somewhere, but it gets used rather infrequently: usually only when my allergies trigger an attack.

My recommendation is to do a lot of yoga because of the great breathing exercises. I have found that I can usually prevent an asthma attack by doing some yoga breath work. Do crossfit at lower intensities and gradually work your way up. At first, maybe substitute rows for runs because I find they don't tax your lungs as much. Do lots of tabata work and intervals to do build up your lung volume and work capacity.

I think of lungs like any other muscle. Asthmatics are cursed with exceptionally weak ones: they hold less air and work less efficiently. However, through proper exercises you can strengthen them. Take it slow and keep a diary of how often you use your inhaler. See if you notice a difference month to month and year to year.
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Old 01-20-2005, 03:01 PM   #6
Pat Janes
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Hey Jeremy,

I have chronic asthma (need to take preventer every day); bad enough to have been hospitalised a couple of times, had to take several courses of prednisone etc.

After about 18 months of concerted effort at getting fitter, the last 7 months on CrossFit, I barely ever have symptoms any more. I have also cleaned up my diet in the last couple of months (Zone, reformed vegetarian, including fish oil).

The only time my asthma flares up now is when I get sick (flu, colds etc) and that doesn't seem to happen much anymore either.

As for "cardio" or metabolic performance, where you would expect an asthmatic to fall down, I seem to comparatively good times/results for the high metabolic stress WODs.

Caveat: my asthma is not exercise-induced, so your mileage may vary. My son, has started with the Kid's CrossFit workouts on the Brand-X Martial Arts site; he has exercise-induced asthma and so far has done really well. He's only been at it for a week, but has pushed himself through some very tough metabolic challenges. He could, however, really do with cleaning up his diet.

I was doing a combination of HIIT and heavy lifting before I came to CrossFit; it was helping a great deal; CrossFit just took he to the next level.
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Old 01-20-2005, 04:52 PM   #7
Robert Wolf
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Supplemental magnesium and potassium may be helpful in addition to the other ideas.
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Old 01-20-2005, 07:46 PM   #8
Travis Mulroy
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I managed to cure my asthma a couple of years ago. Here's my story: When I was young (ages 0-10yrs old), I had very bad asthma. I wound up in the ER a couple of times, took shots every couple of weeks, had a nebulizer, etc.... Eventually, the asthma faded to the point of being not dangerous, but still a problem (ages 11-21yrs old). I had an inhaler, and I would use it before every workout and before I went to bed. When I worked out or went to sleep without using the inhaler, I wasn't in danger of dying, but my breathing would often be VERY labored and I would wheeze like crazy. I remember lying in bed all night unable to sleep because I was wheezing and I didn't have my inhaler.

I finally got so fed up with having asthma that I decided I would try to cure it. I suspected that I had become dependent on my inhaler, and that using it was keeping my lunges weak. So, I vowed not to use it, and I did high intensity BW workouts (not Crossfit, but very similar).

For the first week or two, I would just lie in bed and wheeze for hours after my workouts. I pretty much went cold turkey--no inhaler unless absolutely necessary. I knew I wasn't at risk of dying, so tried my best to tough it out. After a month or so, my asthma went away. It has been over two years since I last used my inhaler.

So, my advice to you is to do your best to tough it out. I think the crossfit workouts would very well, because they get you huffing and puffing fast.

That said, my asthma was not exercised induced like yours, so perhaps my advice is misguided.
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Old 01-21-2005, 12:41 PM   #9
Jeremy Kam
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Thanks everyone for the info.

Interesting post by Travis about how you cured your asthma. I'm wondering if my Advair is really helping or hindering me now.
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Old 01-21-2005, 01:07 PM   #10
Jeff Martin
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I can't believe I didn't get to this first. I don't have any science or supplements to add, only personal observations. I have exercise induced asthma as does Connor. After a year on CrossFit we are having symptoms less and less often. I also find I am recovering from being sick more quickly. I had bronchitis a couple of weeks ago. A year ago a bout of it would keep me from running for a month or so. But I have been able to put in a couple of good workouts this week. We also see that when we get asthma symptoms we recover faster. Connor had an attack yesterday while running a mile for time at school (he still posted his best time ever) and came home wheezing. A couple of hours later he was symptom free, without meds, and posted a very good Cindy. One of the things that has helped me I believe, was coaches advice to mix heavy squats or deadlifts with running. It seems to keep the asthma at bay.
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