Finding Strength in Your Asthma: Advice from a World Champion Swimmer

The Next Breath Editorial Team

September 2021

Personal Stories

Tips & Resources

World Champion Swimmer David Meca shares his advice on achieving your goals while living with asthma.

When David Meca won the gold medal at the 2000 FINA Swimming World Championships in Honolulu, and then again in 2005 in Montreal, his asthma was under control due to his dedication to training and his diligent asthma management.

David was first diagnosed with asthma at the age of seven, and with encouragement from both his parents and doctor, he continued swimming as a way to help strengthen his lungs. In addition to official competitions, David competed in endurance events, including swimming from Alcatraz to mainland San Francisco, across the English Channel, and from Spain to Ibiza. Now retired from international competition, he continues to swim regularly out of love for the sport.

Out of the water, David has many interests, one of which is motivational speaking where he helps others succeed. He is particularly passionate about raising awareness about asthma and the importance of not letting the disease hold you back. We asked him to share his top three tips to help others in the community achieve their goals.

Image shows David Meca holding his swimming medals Image shows David Meca holding his swimming medals
David Meca with his World Championship medals.

1. Always be prepared

Training as an athlete has helped David understand the importance of managing his asthma as part of his overall physical health. At times, this included having a supportive team of doctors and coaches who learned about his needs, including knowing what action to take if his symptoms acted up. While everyone may not have access to the same resources, he encourages people with asthma to be prepared and know how to react if necessary. For example, David always carries his medication in his swimming kit, so that it is close by.

    The Next Breath Tip:
  • One way you can help to ‘be prepared’ is to develop a tailored asthma management plan with your doctor to help track your asthma triggers, know what to do if your symptoms get worse and keep on top of your medication.
  • Speak to your doctor about developing a plan together and updating it regularly based on your changing asthma needs.
  • You should also highlight any goals you are aiming for and how your plan can be adapted to support that, and make sure to share it with your family so they can support too.

2. Talk about asthma so that it becomes better understood

David often felt ashamed of his asthma when he was younger. He shied away from team sports, such as football, because he worried about what others would think; instead, he found freedom in the solitude of the pool. While he has no regrets about choosing swimming, he looks back and wishes he had known that becoming a professional athlete could be an option for him.

These experiences motivated David to talk publicly about his asthma. Today, he encourages others to join him in speaking openly to help normalize the disease, which affects so many – an estimated 339 million people around the world.1 He wants every young person with asthma to know that, with the right support, positive mindset and hard work, “nothing is impossible” and that they can overcome the challenges they may face. As David says: "the most dangerous sharks are not in the sea, but they are in our minds".

3. Don’t let challenges defeat you, navigate them

For David, one of the biggest misconceptions around asthma is that people living with the disease cannot take part in sports. He remembers instances early on, when his trainers spoke to other swimmers on his team about reaching for the Olympics, but not him. Fortunately, this only fueled David’s ‘never give up’ attitude. With the right support and asthma management, he was able to navigate the additional challenge of asthma to achieve gold. Not everyone is destined to be a World Champion athlete, but he encourages people with asthma to set goals to work towards. His advice is that they share their hopes with their doctor who may be able to provide support in achieving them.

David Meca is a paid spokesperson for Sanofi and Regeneron’s Next Breath Challenge, a disease awareness initiative launched on World Asthma Day 2021 that highlights the importance of prioritizing better asthma control and demanding access to specialized, long-term care that treats the root causes of the disease.

References:

  1. 1. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 328 diseases and injuries for 195 countries, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet 2017; 390: 1211-59.

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Moving the future of asthma forward, together

Working together, we can bring more awareness to severe asthma,
illuminate the latest science and empower people to take action
to strive for better asthma control.

Start using your next breath today to inspire others to get informed and
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