Monday, January 3, 2011

Increasing Lung Capacity and Strength

As a child I grew up with lung issues. In and out of the hospital on a regular basis, medications, injections, IV’s, breathing machines, so on and so forth. Many of you know my story. I was asked to share my story with readers on my blogspot.

I grew up with unrelenting breathing problems. I was diagnosed with asthma at age two. The cycle of drugs, hospitals, emergency room visits, and so forth went on for over a decade, before I was seen by the best of the best, a specialist, from India. After many months of seeing him a couple times a week, many tests, and still getting nowhere, I was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). I was twelve years old. Life span for COPD isn’t all that great. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I was frustrated I was surrounded by air and just couldn’t get enough of it.

It was suggested I not play sports, as it generally ended up with me in the emergency room, on a breathing machine. I did play softball whenever I could, but spent most of my time eating, watching television, and getting fat. Until one day, when I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I put on my tennis shoes and headed for the door. I was sixteen.

It went something like this:
Mom: “Where are you going?”
Jill: “For a run.”
Mom: “You can’t run Jill.”
Jill: “I’m going to.”

I ran one block, couldn’t breathe, and was rushed to the emergency room.

Next day went something like this……I put on my shoes again.
Mom: “Where do you think you’re going today?”
Jill: “For a run. Don’t worry Mom, I feel good about it. I’ll do better than yesterday.”

I got half a block, couldn’t breathe, and went back to the ER. The same doctor happened to be working, he looks me in the eye and says, “Don’t you understand you will NEVER be able to run! You can’t run!”

Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “What do you mean I can’t run, I just ran half a block!”

The next day went something like this…..I put on my shoes again.
Mom: Speechless.
Jill: “Don’t worry, Mom. I have a plan, really. I’m going to use my inhalers right now. I just used the breathing machine. I’m going to walk from crack to crack in the sidewalk, then I’ll jog from the next crack to crack, and keep alternating until I can go a little farther. When I get home, have the adrenaline shot ready for me, okay?”
Mom: Speechless.

I followed my plan. I walked/jogged for one mile, came home, got the adrenaline shot, and continued with my plan day after day until three months later I was actually jogging one whole mile without stopping. Within two years I could run two miles without stopping. Then I got a job teaching fitness classes. Of course, I told the gym I was in excellent health. I took my meds, used my breathing machine in a remote room at the gym, and used my inhalers before class. I learned to give myself adrenaline shots, and did so after class.

Things were going well, but obviously, not the ideal. To make a long story short, I eventually married, had six wonderful children, and in the process found myself struggling to breathe all over again, as in my youth. I had kept up on exercising both with weights and cardio, but something was going amiss. My lungs were shutting down, hence COPD/meds gone crazy. I was thirty-three. Up until this time I had only been to medical doctors, my mother was a nurse. A neighbor suggested I see a Naturopath. I was hesitant, but after the death of my oldest son, I felt open to just about anything. I saw this new ‘Medicine Man’, went home, and studied everything he told me. I got everything he told me, and began taking everything he said, as outlined. I took three dixie size cups a day of supplements and herbs. I felt sick for days, then suddenly, each day became easier to breathe, to think, and exercise. Within three months time, I was off ALL medications, inhalers, breathing machines, etc., for the first time since two years old! Drug free at thirty-three for the first time I could ever remember. I was elated.

I wanted to see what my body could do. I began pushing myself to all sorts of limits, as I continue to, to this day. I reluctantly admit I’ve put myself into Rhabo on two occasions, but have learned a tremendous amount in the meantime.

I’m telling you this because I’ve learned a few things about strengthening the lungs over the last several decades. I’ve learned through much trial and error what works, and what doesn’t. Of course, we are all different, but generally the same outline fits just about everyone.

Eat whole foods, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains (if you’re into grains), and lean, clean proteins. Stay away from the manmade garbage. Manmade equals less vitality. Manmade is mucous. Manmade generally equals ‘DEAD’ food. Dead foods, acid forming foods, and items such as dairy, will leave you full of mucous. If you want to breathe easier, eliminate the mucous first. Your body will always have an amount of mucous anyway, eating ‘DEAD’ foods, or manmade garbage, increases it significantly. Too much mucous in the system overwhelms the detoxification process. As the good guys go after the bad guys in your bloodstream, it’s the difference between walking through a room vs. walking through a pool in water up to your neck. The good guys have to work that much harder to get to where they need to be, and depending on the amount of sludge in the blood, they might not ever get there. 

When you exercise you’re either working your lungs capacity and/or strengthening them. For instance, running sprints, makes you breathe hard and fast, not deep. However, you’re strengthening them. When you are through with the sprint, you need to recover, and the deeper breathes begin, use this to your advantage, whether you’re on a treadmill, stair climber, bike, rowing machine, or hiking. Especially when hiking, breath deep, as the air is much cleaner, the environment of trees and flowers, etc., offer an abundance of oxygen.

When you participate in yoga, you’re hardly huffing and puffing, however, you are using breathe control in such a way as to fill the lungs to capacity, which, when done consistently, will increase lung capacity very nicely. Some state capacity cannot be increased. I disagree.

Keep Inflammation to a Low
Any inflammation in the body will cause a decrease in lung capacity. Liken inflammation to putting down a hefty meal. When the digestive system is so full it decreases lung capacity, much the same way inflammation does. The foods you consume will either contribute to inflammation, or reduce it. For instance, foods high in sugars will ALWAYS cause inflammation, even though you do not see it, or feel it, it affects your lungs, and other vital organs, and could eventually lead to such diseases as cancer.

Deep Breathe
I blogged on this recently, if you’re not sure how to properly deep breathe, look it up, or contact me. My contact information is available online at either: or

Perform Cardiovascular Exercise / Play Sports / Recreational Activities
Do anything and everything you can think of. Challenge your lungs in various ways. Run, bike, hike, take aerobic classes (there are many to choose from), or swim. Trained swimmers lungs can use oxygen three times more efficiently than the average person. In fact, exercise alone in water makes your lungs work harder. Submerge yourself up to your neck and go for it, swim front stoke, side, breast, you’ll understand what I mean. Your lungs will have to work up to 75% harder to accommodate the resistance. As your lungs strengthen, so will their efficiency. You must swim on a regular basis to receive these benefits.

Various sports offer a cardiovascular challenge: basketball, football, soccer, tennis, look around you, find out what’s available, it will also help you with your speed and agility.

Skiing, snowboarding, surfing, rock climbing, skateboarding, and other recreational activities are highly beneficial, as well. So whether you’re on vacation, on assignment, or at home, there’s always something you can do to improve your lung strength and capacity.

Blow Up Balloons
Yes, blow them up over and over again. The fresher the balloon, the better it is for you. I use to hate blowing up a balloon because it was so hard to breathe. The resistance forces your lungs to expand as you blow hard to get the balloon going. You could save money and latex, by simply taking in a deep breath through your nose, and slightly parting your lips, to force the air through. Same concept.

Counting was one of my favorite things to do as my lungs became stronger. I would count as fast, and far as I could. It was easier than reading, because you don’t have to look at a book, and register words/speech.

Yoga / Pilates
Various forms of both yoga and Pilates use breathe control. If you’ve never tried either, please do, you might be pleasantly surprised! I’ve seen more and more men coming to yoga over the last couple years.

For the EXTREME folks, there is training and there is EXTREME cardiovascular training. You can exercise at higher altitudes for a challenge, in the heat, cold, and go it EXTREME exercises while you’re at it. Runners use this trick all the time. They train at higher altitudes then the race they are going to run. When race day comes, it’s a breeze for them. Are you an Elite athlete looking to up your game? Push yourself. Box jumps, high jumps, sprints in between, and swim like crazy!!! Mountain runs, uphill, downhill, rough terrain, forest areas. Go off the beaten path and make one of your own. Jump up into the trees, across rivers, work it and work it good. Your lungs will feel like bursting, use caution. Be sure of your physical condition prior to such a choice, as it could result in an untimely death if not carried out properly.

You can generally tell by how hard your effort is to breathe, and recover from cardiovascular exercise. A more accurate method is using a spirometer. Inhale as much as possible through the nose, then forcibly exhale through your mouth into the spirometer. The force of your breath pushes the needle on the spirometer along a set of numbers. Log your numbers on a regular basis, and you will have a nice track record of how well your lungs are responding to the specific drills performed for your lungs. This way you can see what type of training is working the best for you. Whether you’re using a spirometer or not, keep in mind women generally have anywhere from 20-25% less lung capacity than men. Tall people generally have greater lung capacity then short people. So if you’re a short female like me, you’ll have to work extra hard to maintain your lung capacity. Also note, the older you become, the harder you must work, as well.

I filled my dixie cups with antioxidant supplements such as:
- Vitamin A (Taken in the form of Beta Carotene for safety)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E

I ate plenty of these nutrient dense fruits and vegetables, as well. I ALWAYS prefer food over supplements, however, in severe causes such as mine at the time, supplementing can be highly beneficial. Talk to someone knowledgeable on supplements if you’re considering supplementing, and only supplement for the purpose intended, then discontinue its use.

Don’t allow yourself to become comfortable wherever you are at. Sure, stop and enjoy the pace here and there, use it as a refresh day, but don’t ever get stuck where you’re at, keep pressing forward. Sure, I could have accepted what the doctors/specialists told me, and lived the remainder of my days in a box, but I chose not too. I figured if I were to die, I might as well die trying. Yes, it was uncomfortable. Yes, I hated every minute of it, however, when progress was made I could not deny it, and kept pressing forward until perceived obstacles were behind me. Trust me, if I can do it, surely you can, too. One day at a time, my friends.

You must perform cardiovascular exercise on a daily basis if you want to get your lungs opened up. You must learn breath control and deep breathing to keep the lungs clear, and help you learn to pace yourself through breathe control when performing various activities. Push yourself, and push yourself hard. Yes, it gets uncomfortable. Yes, it can seem unbearable at times. Deal with it. Listen to your body. If you’re new, go slow, be consistent, and the progress will come. If you’re Elite, Advanced, or Extreme, work it baby! If you need help drawing up a plan for yourself e-mail me. I can help you, or draw one up for you. Especially the Elite/Advanced/Extremists, you are my specialty! I do not dare make outlines on my blog, as it would spell disaster if a newbie went crazy with it.

Eat well. Drink good water. Exercise. Breathe deep. Sound familiar? Good!


1 comment:

  1. I am not sure of the cause of COPD emphysema in my case. I smoked pack a day for 12 or 13 years, but quit 40 years ago. I have been an outdoor person all my adult life. Coughing started last summer producing thick mucus, greenish tint to clear. I tried prednisone and antibiotics, but no change. X-rays are negative, heart lungs and blood and serum chemistries all are normal. I have lung calcification from childhood bout with histoplasmosis. I am 75 years old and retired.My current doctor directed me to which I purchase the COPD herbal remedies from them ,they are located in Johannesburg, the herbal treatment has effectively reduce all my symptoms totally, am waiting to complete the 15 weeks usage because they guaranteed me total cure.