February 01, 2021

Helping a CrossFit Games champion overcome asthma

The fittest woman on earth talks about how she tackled physical challenges and stayed at the top of her game with the help of metabolic analysis.

Annie Thorisdottir is a two-time CrossFit Games champion (2011—2012) and veteran of over seven total CrossFit Games events. Annie has won the title of Fittest Woman on Earth twice. She owns CrossFit Reykjavik in Iceland and regularly competes in CrossFit events worldwide. Having grown up in gymnastics, Annie spent years in competitive pole vaulting and functional fitness. Each year, she sought to push her body to its limits and surpass them, no matter the specific trials she put it through.

When she first found CrossFit, it was an immediate fit for her training needs and created goals for her to push toward every time she hit the gym. However, as she continued to grow stronger and improve her overall strength and functionality, she found herself plateauing in one area or another. After experiencing several respiratory health issues and going through pregnancy, she sought to monitor how her breathing and metabolism would be affected in both the short- and long-term – that’s when she discovered and fully utilized the PNOĒ device.

How PNOĒ transformed Annie’s training

At an early age, Annie was diagnosed with bronchial asthma. Before first using the PNOĒ device, she had suffered from a problematic cough for over half a year from a medical condition possibly related to her childhood asthma. The more she pushed herself, the more the cough persisted. She began needing an inhaler to help her through her workouts to extend her lung capacity. When tested with the PNOĒ device, she discovered she had low tidal volumes and high breathing frequency, confirming her feelings and physicians’ findings were well-represented.

Later after a pregnancy, Annie wanted to be able to monitor her own metabolic perturbations and eventually test once again at full lung capacity and health. She began using the PNOĒ device to figure out exactly what she needed to work on to improve her overall fitness and health, but also to correct her extant breathing issues. After the PNOĒ team suggested a personalized training plan with some specific exercises to improve her respiration in conjunction with medication prescribed by her physicians, her feelings of limitation began to subside.

She soon learned the correct techniques to return to normal lung capacity without an inhaler. A subsequent test demonstrated a clear improvement in her tidal volumes. Her breathing was calmer and she felt better physically. The PNOĒ device allowed her to look under the hood of her body for her CrossFit training to know what needed to be perfected after each workout.

How important is identifying respiratory problems?

For the average person, minor breathing issues like discomfort or shortness of breath after climbing the stairs might not seem that important. For athletes, those minor breathing issues could be career-ending. In both cases, without proper medical investigation, you could be ignoring a serious problem with your respiratory system and overall health. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, respiratory diseases are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Identifying these diseases early and potentially stopping them in their tracks with proper medications and therapies is more important than ever.

Cardio-metabolic testing for everyone

“To get the clinical-grade accuracy PNOE offers, one would previously have to go to a lab to get tested – but now, PNOE’s at-home services provide the same data and insights from the comfort of your home.”

Annie likes that the PNOĒ device is small, portable, and can be applied to a number of other activities besides biking and running. She has also used the PNOĒ device to test her parents, her athlete husband Frederik Aegidius, and friends to help them determine their specific limiting factors. Plus, they are able to establish baselines for their health, acquire accurate zoning, and receive guidance for appropriate exercise programs. After they make changes to their training, she tests them again later to show them their positive results.

Whether it’s an extremely high-level athlete looking for a 1% improvement in their performance or an average person looking for a complete change in their health and fitness, the PNOĒ device can help tremendously. That 1% improvement for an athlete could mean the difference between finishing somewhere in the top 10 and receiving a gold medal, world-renown, and sponsorships. A major fitness improvement for the average person could mean a decade of healthy years added to their life expectancy.

Just because you are not an elite athlete doesn’t mean cardio-metabolic testing isn’t for you – in fact, you may need it more. While elite athletes can perform a wide variety of exercises and techniques to improve on specific aspects of their physique and performance, the average person may need a personalized plan to dramatically improve their lives. Testing can identify cardiac, respiratory, and metabolic issues to make recommendations for further investigation. Then, you’ll uncover new fitness plans where each workout can benefit your health in the long run, regardless of whether you’re working toward a gold medal or simply enhancing your overall wellbeing.

“Whether you’re an athlete or an average person just wanting to stay healthy, knowledge is power.”

Everyone loves seeing their numbers – their VO2 maxes, fat, and carbohydrate oxidation crossover points, and other critical performance stats. Annie uses the PNOĒ device regularly to keep track of the changes she needs to make in her training and how she uses her body. Plus, the PNOĒ team’s training has helped her make permanent adjustments to her breathing techniques and given her new insight into how she can proceed as an athlete.

Annie’s main focus with the PNOĒ device has been to clearly identify her limiting factors after her pregnancy to once again compete at the highest levels. Now, she’s able to understand the why and how of her training and overcome those factors because of the easy-to-read data related to her body’s performance. By understanding that the plateaus she previously reached could be overcome with data-driven insights, she’s now able to push herself harder than ever before in order to make it back to the podium for next year’s Crossfit Games.

Watch Annie's full video interview on Science Room.

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