“Training is a good way to clear my head. Without it I wouldn’t have energy for my work, or my kids”

For two years running Ali Hay, 30, made it to the final of assault course gameshow Ninja Warrior.

"I’ve always been active – playing basketball and gym training, plus skateboarding and snowboarding – but I only put in a video application for Ninja Warrior when someone at my gym mentioned it.

"In 2016 I made it through auditions and qualifying to the semi-finals – an even longer, tougher course, against the clock, and by halfway through my asthma was really playing up. My chest was tight, I couldn’t see, I was just sipping the air and my muscles were seizing because I couldn’t get enough oxygen.

"Although I made it to the end of the course, I was in A&E until half 10 that night, because the adrenaline from the run and the salbutamol in my inhaler had pushed my heart rate up and I had to wait for it to stabilise. That made me realise that my asthma wasn’t as good as I thought it was, and that I needed to change my training to get it under control."

Staying fit helps me keep asthma under control…

"When I was about 16 I was doing basketball training five or six times a week, plus playing football, and although I always had my inhaler handy, I remember feeling like my asthma was non-existent – I was so happy!

"Not long after, I had a hernia, and by the time I’d recovered from surgery, my fitness was absolutely shocking. When I eventually got back to training I couldn’t breathe, and I was dropped from the high-level teams I’d been playing for. It really hit me how much being fit had made a difference to my sport, and my life."

…and it doesn’t have to be boringAli Hay climbing

"There are millions of ways to stay fit. Even if it’s just going for a walk with your pal each night, it’s about using your body and getting your lungs active. More people are doing CrossFit and obstacle courses, and these are great ways to find out where your fitness is at, and push yourself.

"I really enjoy Kelso Ninja classes (a combination of gymnastics, parkour and obstacles) and still play basketball – I don’t really notice that I’m exercising and it’s so much more dynamic and fun than your standard ‘go to the gym, stand on a treadmill, lift some weights’.

"It surprised me how many of my friends didn’t know I had asthma – they couldn’t believe it when I mentioned it on the show. After Ninja Warrior I had loads of messages from random people saying, ‘I was going to try this race but I didn’t think I could. Now I’ve seen you I’m going to put my name down!’"

Training safely

"I always make sure I warm up with 20 or 30 minutes of light weights, or on the bike, before exercise. It’s not massive aerobic exercise but it’s a good way to know if my asthma is going to set in or not – it gives me an idea of how my lungs are doing so I’m not caught off-guard.

"It’s easy to remember to take my preventer and montelukast tablet, because I take a couple of supplements at breakfast time anyway, so it’s part of my daily routine. And before I go anywhere, I check my pockets for my wallet, my phone and my reliever inhaler."

Ways to stay motivated

"There’s any number of reasons not to train, or play sport, and if you’re out of practice, it’s easy to feel ‘I’m not even going to bother, because it’ll take me so long to get back into it’. Some days I get in from work and think ‘I could really do with not going for a run’. But training is a good way to clear my head. Without it I wouldn’t have energy for my work, or my kids. If I didn’t train, I’d mentally be in a way worse state.

"A great way to commit to it is to speak to a couple of friends and explain why you want to start training – maybe to improve your asthma, or you have a big event coming up – and get them to hold you to it."

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