“Never let the disease define you.”

Russell Winwood

Wellness Plan Advocate, COPD Athlete
I started smoking socially in my late teens, despite being diagnosed with asthma when I was young. Even though I knew it was bad for me, I continued the habit until I was in my late 30’s. On Christmas Day 2002, I collapsed from a stroke. After too many years of not looking after myself, I realized it was time to change my habits. I gave up the cigarettes, cut down on alcohol and started exercising and eating better.
For eight years, I competed in triathlons of varying distances. Then, in 2011, I noticed that my training times were getting slower. It was harder to exercise, and I was constantly short of breath. Spirometry and lung function tests confirmed I had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), with a FEV1 of less than 30 percent of normal. They told me I might need a double lung transplant within five years.
Being diagnosed with COPD was hard. I had worked so hard to rebuild my health after my stroke — but I knew how important it was to stay healthy. That’s why I’m so impressed with the Lung Health Institute’s Wellness Treatment Plan and its emphasis on eating the right foods to reduce inflammation. Cutting down on carbs and embracing a diet of healthy fats has really improved the way I feel and breath.
Another thing I’ve learned in life is the benefits of exercise. After my diagnosis, I gradually became more active. Short, slow walks turned into longer, faster walks. The more I exercised, the fitter I became. The fitter I became, the less breathless I felt. Don’t get me wrong — I wasn’t going to trouble Usain Bolt over a 100-meter sprint. But as I became stronger, I went back to swimming and cycling. And before long, I started having thoughts of training for a triathlon.
I know many people will read this and think, “No way!” But it’s true. Completing the Ironman race was a significant point in my journey with COPD, as it taught me a lot about myself and just what is possible when you put your mind to it. The Lung Health Institute’s Wellness Treatment Plan has a lot of wisdom that I’ve found true in my own life with COPD. Fasting, for example, makes a huge difference in my day-to-day life, when I’m in a fasted state, my ketones are high, and I’m less breathless.
I hope that sharing my experiences will help others with a respiratory disease become excited about the journey that you are about to embark and how changing your daily eating habits can impact  your daily breath. It’s not about competing in races, it’s about eating smarter and becoming more active so you can achieve a better quality of life. As you enter into the Lung Health Institute Wellness Plan, I have faith that you, too, can do great things. Whatever your personal Ironman is, I wish you the best of luck.