I have a confession to make: I have asthma. This is something I’ve struggled with my whole life and has led to many interesting experiences throughout my career as an athlete. However, as I’ve gotten older, I have noticed that I have had less asthma attacks and when they do happen, they are significantly less severe. I don’t often discuss this with people, but when I do I mention that I have long held the belief that all the jump rope activities I do have helped my asthma. In fact, the more I push myself in jump rope (like when I was trying to break all of the Guinness World Records that I currently hold) the more I seem to be in control of my asthma. On the rare occasions that I let myself get sort-of out of shape, that’s when my asthma would kick up again.
Outside of anecdotal evidence, I really couldn’t back up my claim that jump rope helped me with my asthma, today that changes! They just published a study in BMJ Open Respiratory Research that sought to find out how exercise would affect asthma in adults. Check out what lead author Simon Bacon, a professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada had to say:
“Just 30 minutes a day of walking, riding a bike, doing yoga – anything active, really – can result in significant reduction of asthma symptoms.”
Check out the full article here. If you want to take some control of your asthma, you need to start exercising! The cool thing is that it doesn’t have to be strenuous to be effective. The key is consistently doing something for 30 minutes every day. I said earlier that I don’t often discuss my asthma with people, but I do mention it during some of my jump rope assembly programs at schools. I have been amazed at how many kids come up to me after the show and tell me that they too have asthma and were really inspired to push through it like I did. I can’t say how excited I am to now have some scientific backing to what I’ve experienced through jump rope.
To give you a little background on my experience with asthma, I would like to tell you a little bit about where I started. The very first package I ever remember getting as a child wasn’t a Christmas or birthday present, it was a box full of medication for my asthma and allergies. I remember being so excited about having a box in the mail with my name on it and how quickly that excitement faded when I opened it and my mom explained what it was for. In fact, my little brother asked my parents if they could trade me in so they could get a dog. My asthma was pretty severe. I spent numerous nights in the hospital because an asthma attack for me wasn’t fixed by a puff of albuterol. I had to use a breathing machine for 30-60 minutes.
I will go into how I got started with jump rope (and how my mom reacted at the news) in another post. When I started traveling with the jump rope team, my parents decided that having me bounce around to random hospitals throughout the world probably wasn’t the best idea. They saved up and bought me a portable nebulizer (which wasn’t cheap, especially back then). I had to carry that thing on me wherever I went. During the era prior to the TSA (and all that nonsense), I always got pulled aside and grilled because the nebulizer looked an awful lot like an explosive. Traveling with me was always an adventure, and yet my jump rope coaches dealt with it like true pros.
Going from where I started to winning world championships, breaking Guinness World Records and performing as a professional jump rope artist has been quite the journey. Has it been difficult with asthma? Absolutely. Did I learn anything along the way? Yes. When I do discuss this with students, I like them to see that we all have struggles to overcome. Real champions are those that learn to recognize their weaknesses and then fight tooth and nail to beat the odds. Some days you win, some you lose. Some days you are soaring, some days you can’t breathe. The most important thing to remember is never give up.
Oddly enough asthma has helped shape me into the man I am today. I’ve learned how to deal with a life threatening condition and still accomplish things with a jump rope that few others in the world can do. The great news is that the very same way I beat it is the same way you can take control of your asthma as well. Start slow. Pick up a jump rope (or a yoga ball or some walking shoes) and make it your mission in life to spend at least 30 minutes a day doing some activity. It may seem tough at times, but trust me, when you can breathe easily on a regular basis, all the work is worth it.