Forty-something asthmatic seeking greater fitness through jogging
October 25, 2016 1:53 PM   Subscribe

How do I not injure myself, continue to vary and enjoy my workouts, and optimize my chances at success as a budding jogger? Possible complications: I hate group activities and can't always rely on my lungs allowing me to exercise outdoors at a higher impact on a regular basis (indoors is generally always fine, and outdoor *walking* is generally always fine).

I am about 20 pounds overweight, have been most of my adult life, had success losing it about 5 years ago through diet and stationary cycling (sometimes 2 to 4 hours at a time), grew bored with stationary cycling (and outdoor biking in my area is renowned for being very dangerous), prefer a controlled environment (see: lungs don't always cope well), and am now attempting Couch to 5K (on a treadmill at the gym). So far I love it. I am 2 walk-jog workouts in. I would like to improve my general fitness and maximize the efficacy and efficiency of my workouts. What advice can you offer me? Looking for experienced joggers, folks who took up the sport at a later age, folks who share my lung issues (or similar), and folks with cautionary tales and words of wisdom.

Two months ago I started step-logging and average 10,000 steps a day (more on days I've done the C24K). I am looking after my diet. Right now I just want to be sure I'm being safe and smart about this new and shiny thing in my life. I already know to use my inhaler 30 minutes before I jog, and have been smart about warm-up and cool-down. I also am doing strength training before my cardio (arms/chest/belly/back only on jog days).

I am relatively healthy, given my weight and lung issues. I would like to do this in a way that supports my joints and avoids future issues with them (I know long distance running can be tough on knees - I am unlikely to want to get beyond a 10K).
posted by pammeke to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When you start running outside, try jogging slower than you think you should. It's far harder than it feels on the treadmill. How much slower? Start embarrassingly slowly.
posted by advicepig at 2:00 PM on October 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you find somewhere with lots of hills, you can get more intensity out of just walking. If you encounter hills that are really challenging you can even zig-zag up them rather than going straight, until you get accustomed.

(I'm much more overweight than you, so I definitely sympathize with those concerns—don't forget to stretch!)

I probably use an inhaler much less frequently than you do, but I find that wrapping many layers of a loosely-knitted scarf over my mouth and nose will leave it permeable enough to breathe easily, but ensure that the air getting to my lungs is warmer and more humid to avoid coughing or other problems, when the air outside is cold and dry.
posted by XMLicious at 2:58 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

For joint support, make sure you have good shoes (ideally fitted by a pro at a running store where they watch you run in them) and avoid running on concrete (even asphalt is softer than concrete).
posted by bananacabana at 3:32 PM on October 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm 36 - I first started jogging when I was 33 (also via Couch to 5k!), when I was about 25-30lbs heavier than I am now - but already down about 25lbs at that point. I do not have asthma, but I had never been much of active person, besides walking. Didn't grow up playing sports, was never athletic, was always overweight, etc.

3 years later, and I'm still running! I've had some ups and downs, but here's what I'd suggest:
- Don't focus on your pace. Work on endurance and amount of time. If you do want to work on your pace at some point, there will be time for that - but building slow and steady endurance is awesome.
- do not run 2 days in a row. don't do any impact-related activities 2 days in a row. Later you may be able to do more, but give yourself days off to recover and let your body acclimate slowly.
- strength training is awesome, but maybe do it on days in-between your runs?
- cross training is also awesome, but ease into it if you want to do other things. Don't do too many activities. Your body may be ok to handle things fine now, but also sometimes your body starts going "OH HELL NO" one day, out of the blue, all at once.
- rest. definitely rest. at least one day a week.
- on preview, definitely get fitted for proper shoes. A dedicated running store staffed by people who run - not a big box athletic store. The smaller stores may be more expensive, but it's worth it - they really take the time to help you figure out what shoe is best for your body's mechanics - and stay injury free.

I started on the treadmill, but for me the treadmill is super difficult. I have to turn to it sometimes in the summer because it gets hot and humid here, but I have such admiration for people that can run on the treadmill. It's mentally difficult, but also very physically difficult for me - I am WAY slower on the treadmill than I am outdoors. If you want to transtition to outside at some point, there's time for that. But it's perfectly respectable to focus on the treadmill and getting your body comfortable in that controlled environment. The treadmill is also great at helping you jog at a consistent and steady pace. Outside, my splits are sometimes all over the place.

Keep it up! Couch to 5k is a great program, and it definitely works. There were days I did not meet the scheduled goal - and I needed to repeat them again and again and try until I could cross the workout off. Keep at it!
posted by raztaj at 4:33 PM on October 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I started jogging through C25K in 2012. I have asthma and Crohn's disease, which sort of compound one another.

I've gone through C25K twice. The first time I did it as recommended, over nine weeks. I loved it, but I developed two small, minor stress fractures. My doctor applauded my work, and after healing for about two months (of no running) I started again and prolonged the program (i.e. repeating each week's routine, doubling the length of the program). As a complete newbie to running, my doctor suggested that I didn't need to be quite so ambitious with the time spent building my body up to be able to run efficiently and without injury.

I hope that doesn't sound like a bummer, because the second time through was pretty amazing. No pain, very little soreness, and much less respiratory stress. I still run three times per week.

Another anecdotal point to consider has to do with shoes. The first time through, I really wanted to use a minimally padded shoe. The second time through I opted for comfort, with a spongier shoe. I feel much less duress in my knees with the more comfortable shoes, so I've stuck with it.

Good luck!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:35 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm 42, overweight, and started doing walk/runs last February using the Zombies, Run! app/game. There's a ZR5k training (available as a separate app) that I started with, and really enjoyed. The 5k trainer is recommended for new runners, and you can transition to the regular app and story missions after the 5k without any story problems.

I'm a huge fan of the app and the story, and have gotten super attached to the characters. Having a story to listen to and an (imaginary) mission to complete has been a great motivator for me, and I'm not remotely bored. I've gone from barely able to run for 30 seconds to being able to run over a mile without stopping, without any injuries! You can use the app with GPS outside, which is what I do, or using step counting on a treadmill (or switch based on your preferences).

(And yeah, get good shoes that work for you. Good shoes were a factor for avoiding injuries for me, too. )
posted by Kpele at 5:30 PM on October 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding Kpele's recommendation of Zombies, Run 5K. The first two times I tried C25K, it was with the plan I just found through Google, and both times I got about 2/3 of the way through and had to quit because my shin splints were getting excruciatingly bad. Zombies, Run 5K was my third try and it is so much more thoughtfully designed (and fun to progress through!) than any other plan I've seen. I finished it with NO injuries and have since gone on to tackle a 10K and half marathon, both of which would have seemed impossible about a year and a half ago. You can definitely do this.

My own piece of advice: you can always slow down. Don't concern yourself at all with pace, just get out there and move at whatever speed gets you through the intervals. Really taking that to heart is what I think has made running finally "click" for me and it's been super worth it.
posted by augustimagination at 7:49 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all very helpful, thank you! It's especially helpful to hear about not focusing on pace (it is such a temptation to try to do my sprints as fast as I can in C24K) so much as endurance. I hear you loud & clear. And I love the scarf idea - it's 35 degrees today, but clear, so maybe I'll try doing my first outdoor session. I will be prepared to be embarrassingly slow. :)

I did get fitted with shoes designed for walking and jogging (I knew at the time that I wanted to try to get into jogging), and have been pleasantly surprised to find that even on days where I log 20,000 steps I don't have any foot soreness or pain, but if the jogging does take off it sounds like I should go back and get a second pair specifically for jogging.

The suggestion of Zombies, Run! and the training app are very helpful indeed! I would love to know about any other similar apps - that sounds like a great way to stay engaged.
posted by pammeke at 6:12 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a gym regular but running newbie, and I'm doing C25k now too. When I feel embarrassed by how slowly I'm running, I remind myself what it's like to see someone starting out at the gym: I feel happy and proud for them. That's what people think of you--it's great that you're getting out there and making yourself healthier, and it's NOT embarrassing.
posted by mchorn at 6:18 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Asthmatic, started jogging at 39. Not once had to use my inhaler on run thanks to C25K. My peak flow improved so much after I took it up. I just followed the program, and use it if I've been off for a few months to ease back into it. Definitely take rest days and pace yourself. I found it a challenge to slow down for those longer running intervals when I started, but have since learned slow and steady is better.

One thing I would do differently is try to get my running form right from the start, had a number of issues with ankles, shins, hips, from poor form, combined with increasing too soon. I've learned better form now and I'm finding running easier since I started working on strengthening my core, which is better for posture and breathing also.

Psychologically: you will have days when you feel like crap on a run, and that's totally okay. It's not a reflection on your fitness, you just have days like that sometimes. It's the showing up consistently that builds that fitness base.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 1:50 PM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

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