Extra Mile?! I Just Want ONE Mile!
May 25, 2010 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Why aren't I making any progress in running a measly mile?

Ok, so I can't run a mile, yet. For the past three weeks I've only been able to run 2 minutes and then walk 2 minutes alternating for about half an hour. When I'm running/jogging it's at 4 mph. When I walk it's at 2.5 mph.

I cannot for the life of me run more than 2 minutes at a time. In fact, the last 15 seconds just about do me in.

Also, I've been very good at watching what I eat and still haven't dropped an ounce.

What am I doing wrong? My ultimate goal here is to be able to run/jog an entire mile without stopping.

Perhaps to complicate matters, I was born with bilateral club feet. I had multiple surgeries on both feet to correct them. I have been told by my podiatrist that I do not have function of many muscles in my feet/ankles. But c'mon, people with prosthetics run marathons. I just want one mile!
posted by Sassyfras to Health & Fitness (51 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
What stops you after two minutes - exhaustion or joint/muscle pain?
posted by Think_Long at 10:10 AM on May 25, 2010

Are you getting enough iron?
posted by lakeroon at 10:12 AM on May 25, 2010

When you say "do me in," how so? Pain? Weakness? Shortness of breath?

I reliably feel like absolute crap for a bit after doing anything more than six miles on my exercise bike. My doc told me to expect it for a while until I get more progress going, but it's always kind of unnerving to suddenly feel disgusting after exercising.

If it's pain and weakness, you'll probably have to check in with your podiatrist about solutions; if it's shortness of breath, I'd wonder about things like exercise-induced asthma.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:12 AM on May 25, 2010

Do you jog with entertainment? I find that having something like a podcast that really engages your attention (not just music) can make running a lot easier.
posted by oddman at 10:13 AM on May 25, 2010

Response by poster: More exhaustion than pain stops me, although it does feel like my legs cannot support me anymore at the 2 minute mark.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:14 AM on May 25, 2010

Need more information--height, weight, other exercise or physical condition(ing) prior to beginning to walk/run, frequency, age etc. And an answer to the previous comment
posted by rmhsinc at 10:15 AM on May 25, 2010

Are you watching your watch while you run? Could this be mental?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2010

Also, I can jog about three miles comfortably and in the past jogged much more than that. However, I often have a hard time starting up. The first quarter mile is just a (mostly metaphorical) pain to get through, but when my body "warms up" it gets much easier. (The scare quotes are there because I do actually have a quarter mile warm-up before I start running.)
posted by oddman at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2010

Response by poster: I am female, 34 years old, 129.6 pounds (I want this to be down to 120.0), 5'4", I've been fit off and on - walking daily, hiking, horseback riding. I do my little jogging bit now 6 days a week for half an hour.

As for watching the clock - not really. I'm jogging on the treadmill, watching some Freaks and Geeks so I'm rather absorbed in what I'm watching, but the treadmill does have a clock and I do glance at it (but only when I feel like dying).
posted by Sassyfras at 10:20 AM on May 25, 2010

How many times have you gone running? If it's once a week (3 times), it takes more than that for your muscles to compensate for those in your feet and ankles that aren't helping you and to get/keep your wind. It takes me about half a mile to kind of get in a groove.

You might need to be really patient. Keep going for two minutes -- do it enough times that it's not death for the last 15 seconds. Then add 15 seconds. Do it enough times that you can do it comfortably, then add another 15 seconds. Build slowly and consistently. I can run 2-3 miles, but the jump from less than a mile to a mile took the longest for sure. Hang in there!

Another thing that might help is strength training your leg muscles and aerobic cross-training with biking or swimming.
posted by *s at 10:21 AM on May 25, 2010

This may sound silly, but are you breathing when you run? Had a similar problem until I realized I was not breathing and now have to not only breathe but breathe with a certain rhythm in order to run for any distance ( 1 mile or 2)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:23 AM on May 25, 2010

Instead of increasing the amount of time you run, have you tried increasing the speed at which you run during those two-minute intervals?
posted by Greg Nog at 10:23 AM on May 25, 2010

Give interval training/Tabata a shot. High intensity anaerobic work has been shown to improve your endurance and stamina. I have found this to be surprisingly true through my experience with CrossFitting.
posted by wrok at 10:26 AM on May 25, 2010

Have you looked into the Couch to 5k program for alternate intervals to work up to?
posted by Nattie at 10:28 AM on May 25, 2010

Given your foot issues, maybe jogging - one of the most stressful activities for your bones and joints - isn't for you. What about eliptical or stationary bicycle or something like that? A low impact aerobic exercise may be more appropriate.
posted by Think_Long at 10:30 AM on May 25, 2010

Response by poster: I did try Couch to 5k but couldn't keep my eyes off the clock.
I have not tried increasing my speed, how would that help?
I am breathing while running.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:30 AM on May 25, 2010

Regarding the not losing an ounce: I was riding my bicycle 13 miles, twice a week, for months, and not losing weight or inches. Then on vacation, I rode 13 miles every day for 9 days. At the end of the 9 days, my pants fit tighter.

Then I cut out almost all carbs. Refined carbs, but also whole wheat, brown rice, corn, potatoes, etc. I still ate lots of vegetables, though. I very rapidly lost about 20 lbs.

Then I got stuck. For about a year, even though at that point I was riding 13 miles a day, fast paced, seven days a week.

Then I started doing 100 crunches a day, while wearing 10 lb. ankle weights. Basically, I was building core muscles. At which point I lost the 17 more lbs. I wanted to, plus another 7 lbs.

And in reference to running out of energy while running - are you staying hydrated?

tl;dr - Say no to carbs, and add weight training. Drink lots of water.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:32 AM on May 25, 2010

The thing that helped me stop watching the clock during the Couch to 5k program was making a music playlist for myself, where each song was approximately the length of the interval I needed to walk/jog. That way, I would just switch when the song ended, but I wasn't watching the clock count down. It's worked well for me.
posted by sparrow89 at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you maybe running too fast? I'm told that you should run slowly enough that you could carry on a conversation.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2010

"Are you maybe running too fast? I'm told that you should run slowly enough that you could carry on a conversation."

That is exactly backwards. If you can carry on a conversation you are not running, you are walk/jogging.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 10:42 AM on May 25, 2010

I can't speak to the problems running specifically, but "Also, I've been very good at watching what I eat and still haven't dropped an ounce." stood out to me.

"You lean out in the kitchen, not at the gym" would be the advice my pal, the guy who runs deepfitness.com (good articles there on health topics that may be helpful) gave me. He has been 100% right for me (I've lost about 100 lbs in the past year, mostly with dietary changes, very minimal changes in terms of exercise).
posted by artlung at 10:43 AM on May 25, 2010

Go outside, maybe on a track, and get a friend to time you. This way you don't have to worry about keeping the same pace, and you won't have any cues about how long you've been running, so you can focus on what your body's doing. You might consider alternating exactly-two-minute intervals with "run as long as you can and I'll time you."
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:44 AM on May 25, 2010

I thought the thread was about jogging (the OP does say run/jog)...now I'm confused.

At any rate it should be possible to do something faster than walking for more than two minutes.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:45 AM on May 25, 2010

Get your thyroid and ferritin levels checked.
posted by availablelight at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2010

Seconding Omnomnom - try slowing down. Hitting the "it's done me in" point early in a run is usually a sign for me that I've been going too fast. Having a running partner really helps me in that regard, because it forces me to be a bit slower so I can chat.

I started running several years ago using a similar program to C25k and it really helped build up my endurance to do more than those 2 minutes of running into continual running for a mile or two or three. But it took TIME. I spent weeks and months doing walk/run patterns. But it builds up; now I run marathons. My officemate is now giving C25k a go using their iPhone app, and he loves the app for tracking the intervals.
posted by soleiluna at 10:50 AM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: Honestly, the best way to run farther is to push yourself. It sounds simple and 'duh' but it's true. When you get to that point where you feel like you *have* to walk, try to keep going, but back your pace off. Go as slow as you need to, even if it's literally just above a walk. Then push that until you *need* to stop.

Running isn't an easy thing or everyone would do it.

My background: I've been a distance runner for 15 years, have completed 4 marathons, am working on #5 and #6 for this fall and have run countless shorter distance races. You can do it. You just have to step outside of your comfort zone, literally.
posted by floweredfish at 10:54 AM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Good question--I am not at all sure why you are "done in" after 2 minutes. I do not see any obvious reasons given your age, weight, height, previous experience. It is hard to tell if it is a training, psychological or a physical reason. Given this I would encourage you to consult a physician and explain the difficulty you are having getting in condition. It would be good to rule out circulatory, pulmonary and any oxygen transport problems. Until you see the physician, or if you choose not to, I would strongly encourage you to exercise at a comfortable pace for 40 minutes 5 -6 days a week. Do not worry about speed just work on the habit and general conditioning. Given your orthopedic problems some other exercise might be more useful--biking, swimming, or other where there is minimal weight bearing. Good Luck and keep me posted
posted by rmhsinc at 10:54 AM on May 25, 2010

It's hard to say what is going on without watching you run. If you just feel exhausted, full stop, but you aren't out of breath or gasping, then the problem might be chemical (as in thyroid or iron level).

If when you say you’re exhausted you also mean that you’re gasping for breath, I’d suggest that you simply aren’t in running shape yet; or, more technically, that you have a very low anaerobic threshold. What this means in practice is that even though you are objectively running slowly, your body thinks that you’re sprinting. I wrote a fairly long comment about this a couple of years ago that you could read.

The basic solution is to either run slower for a while as you gain fitness (the guy who said that was wrong is wrong), or to add shorter bursts of faster running into your training. The former will allow you to run for a longer time, the latter will work directly to raise your anaerobic threshold thereby making your current running pace seem easier.
There may well be other things going on, but you sound overall like a healthy, reasonably fit woman who is just struggling with a new activity.
posted by OmieWise at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2010

I might add--if any physical problems are ruled out take some of the advice from floweredfish--but remember, I hope you are working on a life time habit. You do not need to race or complete a marathon to be fit--but at some point you will need to push yourself, A runner/jogger/shuffler who has missed less than 7 days in the last 35+ years.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:58 AM on May 25, 2010

It could be a core/leg strength issue, but it might also be an issue with the way you're breathing or preparing for these runs.

I run a lot, and I still get exhausted quickly if I:

-Don't warm up a little by moving around and stretching. This makes it hard for me to get my head into running properly
-Don't hydrate enough before starting to run. This tires me out like nothing else. Generally I try to drink at least a cup of water an hour before I run, more if it's a hot day. I think I drink about one cup for three miles run on a cool day.
-Don't breathe correctly. In through your nose, out through your mouth, keeping it all in rhythm with the movement of your feet. If it's not something you already do when you run, try practicing this while you walk before adding speed.
-Run too fast at the beginning--this throws off my breathing and my pace. If you find yourself gasping for air or holding your breath, you're going too fast. You need to settle into your breathing before adding speed.
posted by millions of peaches at 10:58 AM on May 25, 2010

Personally, I have no trouble at all running 5 miles outside, but being on a treadmill _kills_ me. Something about the infernal things just saps my will to live. Definitely try going outside.
posted by pjaust at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Running at a pace that makes it possible to carry on a conversation is a fairly common benchmark for a reasonable long run training pace. See Hal Higdon, Running Planet, Active.com article.

From the Running Planet article:

"You should be breathing hard, but should be able to carry on a conversation. If you are breathing so hard that you cannot talk, you are running too hard. If you can sing, you are running too easily."

There's totally a time and purpose to running fast and pushing oneself beyond what is comfortable! But when I was a beginner/inexperienced runner I found it was easy to just push push push too hard at the start of a run, totally exhausting myself early. There's a difference between the pace at which one does intervals, tempo runs, long runs, and race paces. And it takes a bit of experience to find that difference and settle into it.
posted by soleiluna at 11:05 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't speak as to why you would have trouble hitting one mile, but FWIW, I too have trouble keeping my eyes off the clock. Solution: I got an index card, cut out the corners for the speed and heartrate displays, and plonk it down on the instrument panel. Now I can stare at the stupid little blue blank card until the cows come home, and not be plagued by that stupid clock! Bonus: I can also turn the incline up and not be bothered by "oh, it's soooo haaaaaard, I can't possibly do this!"
posted by sldownard at 11:05 AM on May 25, 2010

That is exactly backwards. If you can carry on a conversation you are not running, you are walk/jogging.

Nope. You should be able to talk while you are running, comfortably. You should not be able to sing.

I agreewith pjaust. I started Couch to 10k in March, and had an awful time on the treadmill. The day I started running outside, everything got better. Also, I used the iPhone app, so I was never watching the clock myself.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:11 AM on May 25, 2010

SLOW DOWN. After years of trying to run and not lasting even a quarter mile, I started jogging 5 km (3 miles) non-stop after I just SLOWED DOWN to a pace that barely technically qualified as running. There is nothing shameful about shuffling.

GO OUTSIDE. It's nice weather and you'll see things. You'll run a certain distance, and then you'll have to turn around and come home, so that's additional motivation.

READ DOCTOR MAMA'S ADVICE FOR MAGGOTS. Check the sidebar at the right of the page for links to additional maggotry.
posted by maudlin at 11:17 AM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you want to make measurable progress without killing yourself or getting frustrated, it's all about your pace.

Set your pace so that you can complete the mile, barely. If that meant walking, fine! But it doesn't, because you can run some. So start off by walking as fast as you can. If you're not totally exhausted by the end, jog a bit next time, one minute out of every five. Keep increasing the speed and/or duration of your running segments until you're exhausted right at the end of the mile -- and spreading the jog/run/sprint total duration into intervals.

Every time, including the first, time yourself and write it down. Now, you have two potential improvement metrics instead of one:

- Overall time -- if it goes down, you're improving and can stabilize on your speed and duration until you're less exhausted at the end.
- Are you exhausted -- if you're less exhausted at the end, you're improving and can pick things up to improve your overall time.
posted by davejay at 11:24 AM on May 25, 2010

Also, I've been very good at watching what I eat and still haven't dropped an ounce.

Don't look at your weight, look at your inches. As you build muscle, the weight increase of the muscle may outpace the weight loss of the fat shrinkage. Which is fine, because it's more dense, so you'll be losing inches (and so getting thinner), even if you don't lose weight. Weight alone is a red herring.
posted by davejay at 11:26 AM on May 25, 2010

To the people saying slow down: the OP says she's "running" at 4 mph.

I suspect this is part of the problem. No one can really run at that slow a pace. Try running at 5 mph and see how you do there. 4 mph is a brisk walk.
posted by dfriedman at 11:36 AM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: At your current level 6 times a week seems a little excessive. Recovery could be an issue here.

I would attempt the runs 3 times a week, mon, wed, fri with weekends off.

I would also drop down to a routine of the following

Week 1 Run one min, walk 90 seconds. Repeat eight times. Do three times a week.
Week 2 Run two mins, walk one min. Repeat seven times. Do three times a week.
Week 3 Run three mins walk one mins. Repeat six times. Do three times a week.
Week 4 Run five mins, walk two mins. Repeat four times. Do three times a week.
Week 5 Run eight mins, walk two mins. Repeat three times. Do three times a week.
Week 6 Run 12 mins, walk one min. Repeat three times. Do three times a week.
Week 7 Run 15 mins, walk one min, Run fifteen mins. Do three times a week
Week 8 Run 30 mins continuously.

At your current pace you would achieve your one mile goal by week 7. You may be able to increase that pace a little though.

overall I would say this is definitely a lack of rest. Make sure you are eating enough cals and getting at least 8 hours sleep.

Once you have achieved the goal of 1 mile. you can look at reducing calories and running with a calorie deficit.

I am more than happy to talk over MeMail or email about dieting and running details are in my profile.
posted by moochoo at 11:43 AM on May 25, 2010

To the people saying slow down: the OP says she's "running" at 4 mph.

I suspect this is part of the problem. No one can really run at that slow a pace. Try running at 5 mph and see how you do there. 4 mph is a brisk walk.

For average or tall people, yes. But the OP is 5'4" which is not tall. If she's long-waisted, that'll mean her legs are even shorter than those of most men who tend to say things like "4.0 is not running."

I am 5'2" (and I've lost 50 pounds in the past year, so I'm doing some things right). 4.0 is running for me. 5.0 is sprinting.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:56 AM on May 25, 2010

I'm 5'4" and definitely ran 4mph at the beginning.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:13 PM on May 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers and suggestions! I've been struggling with running a mile my whole life, so it's nothing new. Even when I was at (what I thought) my fittest - in gymnastics, doing a hundred + sit-ups, 50 push-ups and pull-ups, I still came in dead last for the mile.

I agree about running outside instead of the treadmill. I hate the treadmill. Doing my little 2 minute routine I do about 1.6 miles on the treadmill in half an hour. When I go outside, I can walk (WALK!) 2 miles in the same time. However, I'm in AZ and being inside during the hot season has become a necessity. So the treadmill will have to do for now.

You've all given me a lot to think about - and a lot of things to try out.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:30 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: I'm 5'5". When I started running, I couldn't run for more than two minutes straight, either, probably at around 4 mph. I found that, as a beginning runner, I could not handle the treadmill AT ALL. I don't know quite what it was... maybe the incline of the treadmill, maybe the fact that I had to go the same speed the whole time... Anyway, you can't go outside based on your followup, but you CAN slow down or speed up the treadmill based on what you want to do, or you can change the incline on the 'mill to 0 instead of 1% or whatever it's normally set at.

I would suggest doing moochoo's plan for getting up to 30 minutes of continuous running, and maybe trying to run outside instead of on the treadmill. You don't need to worry about your pace or anything yet, just being able to run a mile. If you focus on increasing your run-to-walk ratio, the mileage will follow automatically.

By the way: since I started running last year, I have lost almost 60 lbs. I can run more than 10 miles now, and I ran a 10k with an average speed of 7.5 mph. I don't have the foot issues you do, but I do have a congenital knee problem that has made things interesting along the way. Running is awesome, and good luck. Memail me if there's anything I can do for you (questions, support, etc.)

Also, don't listen to people who are all "4 mph isn't running." The difference between running and walking is a qualitative difference in the pattern of human gait, NOT a quantitative difference in speed. If there is a point in your stride where neither of your feet are touching the ground, then you are running. If at least one foot is always in contact with the ground, you are walking. People always draw some arbitrary line about "how fast you have to run to be running." My guess is that people draw this line by taking their own average running speed and adding one minute per mile to it.
posted by kataclysm at 12:32 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, you might want to read the message boards at Runner's World. There are lots of knowledgeable people who know how to help new runners, even in the Arizona heat.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2010

I've always stalled out when running, too, even though I'm in reasonably good shape and can walk all day. My doctor figured out a few years ago that I have exercise-induced asthma, which can easily be treated.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:38 PM on May 25, 2010

Oh, and detonatedmaniac: If you can't talk while you're running, and you aren't purposely sprinting or doing speedwork, you are probably running too fast. There's a time and a place for all levels of effort, and if Olympic-caliber runners say that most runs should be fun and comfortable, then I for one am going to try to do what they do.
posted by kataclysm at 12:40 PM on May 25, 2010

Even when I was at (what I thought) my fittest - in gymnastics, doing a hundred + sit-ups, 50 push-ups and pull-ups, I still came in dead last for the mile.

I'm quite sure you can reach your goal of running a mile if that's what you really want to do, but I'd just like to drop a gentle reminder that you don't have to run a mile at all in order to be fit or healthy or a good athlete. There are a great many athletic contexts in which a competitor will never be required to run a long distance at a slow pace. There are plenty of ways to exercise other than running -- even types of aerobic exercise that aren't running. Long slow distance training is not necessarily the best way to lose fat or increase fitness, depending on your goals.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:16 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

You might try getting a heart rate monitor (like $30). I was surprised at how slowly I had to run to keep my heart rate in the target zone, then surprised at how easy it was for me to run when I did run that slowly, and finally pleasantly surprised at how quickly my endurance has improved. :-)
posted by wyzewoman at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2010

Ditto moochoo on rest days. I did Couch to 5K and am now trying Couch to 10K - the times when I have run two days in a row have been the hardest/worst. I just feel exhausted and pretty miserable on the second run. Rest days have made a huge difference for me in being able to progress with the Couch to 5K/10K programs.
posted by Terriniski at 4:56 PM on May 25, 2010

You just need to build up your endurance and strength. And yes, slow down. This might take a long time to build yourself, but don't give up. I hated running when I first started. I felt like I was going to pass out / puke on many occasions. Your body just needs to get used to it. I say keep it up for another month. Run 3-4 times a week. If your not improving then I suggest you go see a doctor to rule out thyroid, iron, etc.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:20 AM on May 26, 2010

Do you have a friend to run with? I find it's so much easier to push yourself when you're not by yourself.
posted by carolr at 7:11 AM on May 26, 2010

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