How can I run without running out of breath and feeling incredibly tired afterwards?
May 8, 2007 12:07 AM   Subscribe

How can I run without running out of breath and feeling incredibly tired afterwards?

I've been trying to take up running lately and boy was I in for a surprise. 5 or 10 minutes of a run and I am out of breath. The feeling of being out of breath after I finish running is horrible. My breathing becomes very fast and my heartbeat too. It takes about 10 minutes for my breathing to come back to slow down and be normal again. Even worse: I feel tired for the next 2 hours. I really enjoy running but can you guys give me any tips for doing it without feeling like crap? I don't try that often anymore cause it's been disappointing.
posted by gregb1007 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
If you are vastly out of shape, its going to suck. A lot. Thats the way it goes. You're body has been slacking off, and it got very used to it, and running will be a major shock to it. I'm assuming you are overweight, though not morbidly obese, given the fact that you can run somewhat.

Assuming you've seen a doctor and don't have asthma or any other medical condition, the way to work into running is slowly. Find a route that is about a mile. Jog for thirty seconds. Walk for sixty. Repeat till you've done a mile. If that isn't bad, jog a little more next time and walk less. Repeat as your fitness improves. Then start running longer.

Its practice and persistence. Stick with it but don't over do it, and soon you'll look back and laugh at how out of shape you were.
posted by rsanheim at 12:15 AM on May 8, 2007

Since you've just started running I suggest you do something like the Couch-to-5K Running Plan, which slowly builds up the time you run from initially running very little time with walking in between to running 30 minutes.

I've recently completed that plan, and it's been great. When I started I couldn't even run for a solid five minutes without feeling horrible and now I can run for a good thirty minutes and still feel like I could do more.
posted by jayden at 12:35 AM on May 8, 2007 [6 favorites]

Yea, it sounds like you haven't got any fitness in your recent past. Start slowly, maybe try the ever-popular Couch to 5k program.
posted by jacalata at 12:39 AM on May 8, 2007

I'm quite out of shape myself, and started running a few weeks ago. What I do is basically like a relaxed couch-to-5k plan. I run for some amount of distance, then walk a bit, then run. At my current rate, I go about a mile and a half in 20-30 minutes. I don't push myself really hard, and I've noticed that the running has gotten easier just in these past few weeks. I don't get any tiredness at all, like that, though I do usually sleep better after a run.
posted by !Jim at 12:53 AM on May 8, 2007

Response by poster: In response to what rsanheim said

You are suggesting the use of jogging as a way to build up my fitness level so that running becomes easier.

But does the idea of continuining to do the 5 to 10 minute runs, even if they exhaust me, sound bad?

I mean, I do feel like crap, but then again, it's not the end of the world either. There could be some potential for self-inflicted harm via doing what my body isn't fit enough for. But that may be stretching it...
posted by gregb1007 at 1:31 AM on May 8, 2007

Run slower.

Dude, seriously, you're question is essentially, "When I do physical activity my body finds itself tired out, as if my muscles are starved of oxygen, and, in turn, I'm forced to breathe more quickly than usual to re-supply them with oxygen. What gives?" I mean, come on. It's exercise. It's rewarding, sure, but you can't really expect that it would be fun in the way that, say, watching Brazil or reading Kafka on the Shore would be, you know?
posted by The God Complex at 1:47 AM on May 8, 2007

In my case, the loss of breath after a short time of running (or similar exercise) turned out to be asthma. Exercise is one of my asthma triggers. I thought I was just out of shape, but when I got into shape (and I was competing in a very aerobic sport at the time) it didn't get better, and that was because I was having exercise-induced asthma attacks. So you might consider looking into that.

Once I was diagnosed I just had to use an inhaler shortly before exercising, and I was much better.
posted by litlnemo at 2:25 AM on May 8, 2007

Sounds a bit like Asthma to me too, especally the bit about it taking you 10 minutes for your breathing to come back down. I can't run at any serious pace without my asthma inhaler.
posted by greytape at 2:55 AM on May 8, 2007

In my experience getting your breath under control is key (unless you've got asthma or similar conditions which fall outside of my experience). So try to find a pace that allows you to breathe relatively comfortably, to the extent that you feel you could keep it up forever, and keep that up for increasingly longer periods.
But be careful! Once you've found that pace, don't overdo it. The point is not to run comfortably forever, the point is to keep pushing your body safely, so nthing the info and tips provided in the The Couch-to-5K Running Plan.
posted by l'esprit d'escalier at 4:03 AM on May 8, 2007

One more vote for the Couch-to-5K plan (which I'm doing now to recover from an injury). I also just found these great podcasts that call out the intervals for you.
posted by web-goddess at 4:06 AM on May 8, 2007 [7 favorites]

Seconding a slow transition into running. But once you've got you're running legs, and feel the rumblings of progress, try a few windsprints.

Jog to the starting point of the windsprint, run 50 meters or so, then relax into a jog again. You'll breathe heavily at the end of each windsprint -- but this will up your lung efficiency.

As always, exercise caution at all times -- starting slow and building up. And remember that cruising at 50 meter dash speeds demands more attentiveness to obstructions and potholes (a spill at this speed can be treacherous).
posted by Gordion Knott at 4:28 AM on May 8, 2007

I don't know if you are overweight, but one of the things that I found was that there is a magical weight that if I go under, running becomes easy. If I go over, running is suddenly difficult.
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:40 AM on May 8, 2007

Something that makes running easier for me is to be fully hydrated. Drink a lot of water gradually during the day, but just small sips right before your run. Make sure to drink a lot after as well, even if you don't feel thirsty. If you're exercising, you should be drinking more than the recommended 8 glasses a day.

And stretch. A lot. Take your time doing it. Stretching before running makes it feel easier (not to mention helps prevent injuries) and stretching afterward helps with sore muscles and general fatigue.

Slowing down sounds like your best bet for the breathing issue, but staying hydrated and stretching before and after might help with the overall 'crap' feeling.
posted by summit at 5:36 AM on May 8, 2007

The short form: Run slower and run alot. These two things will help you get to where you want to be.
posted by drezdn at 6:01 AM on May 8, 2007

gregb1007: But does the idea of continuining to do the 5 to 10 minute runs, even if they exhaust me, sound bad?

That kind of running might be setting yourself up for an injury down the line. I read (in Lore of Running) that a beginner is much more likely to get shinsplints about three to four weeks into a running program if they just go out there and run to exhaustion. A 20 to 30 minute mix of walking and jogging over a couple of weeks helps improve your cardiovascular system while giving your bones and joints time to adjust to the new stress that you are adding. Look at the Couch-to-5K program and the dozen others like it for an idea on how to ramp up the workout while giving your body time to adjust to the new stress.

It sounds like you want to run and you want results now; but don't skimp on the walking because it helps you more at this point than you think. Try this recent NY Times article about the greater benefits of mixing high and low intensity exercise together. Think of the walking as your low intensity exercise and the jogging as your high intensity exercise for now. After a couple of weeks, once your fitness base has improved, try jogging for low intensity and running for high intensity.
posted by peeedro at 6:10 AM on May 8, 2007

Work on the way you breath when you run. Take big deep breathes in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to maintain this rhythm for as long as you can.
posted by mand0 at 6:17 AM on May 8, 2007

Does anyone have any tips on keeping track of the walk/jog times for the couch to 5k plan? Counting steps maybe? I would think that looking at a watch would be hard while jogging.

I'm also trying to work up to running, so thanks for posting this question.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:24 AM on May 8, 2007

Don't be afraid to walk. Run slowly and when you approach your limit walk for a little while, then back to slow running. You can be formal about it by using a plan such as mentioned above, but simply putting the effort in, without over doing it, will get you into shape over time. Depending upon your age and how out of shape you are it could take from a month to six months before you can run for 30 minutes at a reasonable pace. Even when you get there, it's OK to walk sometimes.

Interval training can hasten your progress. It involves, after a good warm up, running fast in short bursts (like 30 seconds, although they can be much longer) until you hit the red zone and then going at a very slow pace until you recover. This is repeated many times during a single work out. Frankly, when you are really out of shape the typical run walk routine is essentially interval training.
posted by caddis at 6:29 AM on May 8, 2007

I would suggest going with the run/walk variety. I need to get back into shape now, but when I went from nothing to running a couple of years ago, running to exhaustion did a number on my legs and knees after a couple of weeks. I broke it up and I was amazed at how quickly I improved over just the next month. Good luck, and keep it up, it's way too easy to stop (trust me).
posted by shinynewnick at 6:40 AM on May 8, 2007

How long have you been running? This seems like the norm for anyone who has just started running. You can either (a) run continuously and try to extend your distance each time or (b) run-walk-run-etc and try to cut down your walking interval each time. Option (b) is more likely to have you running more total time during each training session, thus it would be the better workout.

There is certainly nothing wrong with option (a), if you like the pain/challenge. I basically started that way because I was given no other option (I did what the HS cross country coach told me to do). However, do not run too fast (anaerobic) during these 5-10 minute runs. Given your 10 minute recovery time, it sounds like you might be running too fast during your runs.

Realize that some of this is psychological. For example, I can take off from exercising for months and still go out and run 5 miles because, after years of running, 5 miles just doesn't seem far to me. Once you clear some mental hurdles -- say, running 20 minutes or running a mile or two -- it will be much easier to add a couple of minutes or an extra 1/4 mile every few days.

You might also try distracting yourself with music, podcasts or audio books.
posted by probablysteve at 7:05 AM on May 8, 2007

cowbellemoo: Does anyone have any tips on keeping track of the walk/jog times for the couch to 5k plan?

When I did the couch to 5k, I tried counting but I'd lose count quickly. So I bought a cheapo watch with a large, light-up display. I also developed some routes where I knew the distances and could judge my mileage (the google maps pedometer helps). If you go to a health club, the treadmills make this all very easy. And if your high school opens its track to the community in the evenings you can count your laps instead of looking at a watch. But in my experience, counting doesn't work and a watch isn't too difficult to use.
posted by peeedro at 7:09 AM on May 8, 2007

My wife and I started on the couch to 5k thing a couple years ago. We bought one cheap running watch and programmed it to beep for the intervals. I was a complete mess after a run for the first couple months, and I wasn't even overweight, just out of shape. We didn't even need to do the entire program... after a few weeks, we just kept running.

Now, if I'm out of breath, it's for a minute or two, tops. You'll get there too sooner than you think.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:24 AM on May 8, 2007

I also started exercising recently. And I use a pulse monitor. The better ones even help you to create a personal exercise plan. There are even some that are made for runners.

I like it because this way you can't bullshit yourself about how much you did, how hard it was and you can always make sure that you don't overexercise.
posted by mmkhd at 7:27 AM on May 8, 2007

Couch to 5K definitely worked for me. I was like you last August or so. I did Couch to 5K until I was up to about 2 miles, and then I switched into a 10 mile training program from my local running shop. I ran a 10 mile race this last March.
posted by AaRdVarK at 7:31 AM on May 8, 2007

Does anyone have any tips on keeping track of the walk/jog times for the couch to 5k plan?

A runner's watch. I stole a fancy-schmancy one from my husband, but a cheap one will do. You can set it to beep every minute or two minutes, or whatever works best for that week.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:59 AM on May 8, 2007

I can echo much of what has been passed along. Yes, there is a wall you have to go through when you start running after being sedentary. Embrace it a little because when you're through this startup phase and running without major discomfort, the memory of starting from scratch will help you never give it up. As a guy who runs 400 miles or so a year (mostly over lunchtime) I can tell you that you will get to a point where the time/mileage you run will be comfotable and you'll be able to let your mind wander to solve problems and do some self-reflection.

Oh and stretch. Definitely stretch. I do a little before I start but a lot after I finish. Your muscles are like warm taffy and it's a lot easier.

But do stick with it. There's not enough space here to tell you how much running does for me.
posted by lpsguy at 8:11 AM on May 8, 2007

Another vote for the Couch to 5K plan, which I used four years ago after I had quit smoking and gained a lot of weight. Even the run 2 minutes, walk one part was hard. But the results were fast.

I'm now a regular runner logging between 15-30 miles/week and have even become a sprint triathlete. So, it works. It's exactly what you need in your condition, and the way it's structured, you see and feel progress very quickly. Good luck.
posted by Miko at 8:13 AM on May 8, 2007

Get a heart rate monitor. I have one from Polar, but there are plenty of others, and you don't need to go too fancy.

Set the HRM so that it beeps when your pulse goes too low (below, say, 60% of your max) or too high (say, 80%). Run until the watch beeps that you're too high. Walk until the watch beeps until you're too low. Repeat.

Your actual heart rate max can vary, but you can calculate a rough guess based on age and sex here.
posted by IvyMike at 8:22 AM on May 8, 2007

Stretching before running makes it feel easier (not to mention helps prevent injuries)

This is outside the modern wisdom; it's been pretty well established in recent years that stretching before warmup is harmless at best and can possibly contribute to injury at worst (if done badly).

Unless you meant before running but after a brisk walk to warm your muscles. In which case, yeah, stretch before running.
posted by phearlez at 8:30 AM on May 8, 2007

I'm doing something like the couch to 5K, but more like couch to 10K. I hit a wall where my stamina stopped increasing. I talked to my MD about that and he said that after a certain point in time, you plateau and you're not really developing more muscle to increase stamina. He suggested adding in some high speed work to build up to a good solid muscular burn. That will make you sore, which will build more muscle and in turn more stamina.

You're not there. Not yet. I bring this up because at the start you shouldn't be getting to this point. Slow down.

Save the burn and pain for much later when you're ready to manage it without injury.

And do talk to your doctor.
posted by plinth at 8:43 AM on May 8, 2007

That's what hard running feels like. You're just not used to it. What's hard for you now will be a cake walk in a month or two.

Start a little slower, and run on grass (in a park, etc) to reduce the possibility of knee/shin stress injuries while you're getting up to speed. But the feeling you're describing is just how your body builds strength - muscles get tired and break down, and your body rebuilds them stronger than before, resulting in better endurance and strength.

Even experienced runners feel what you're describing - they just feel it after running twice as fast and five or ten times as long. Get enough good nutrition (protein and zinc especially help with rebuilding muscle after hard exercise) and don't give up. You'll get there.
posted by chundo at 10:17 AM on May 8, 2007

Another fan of Couch-to-5k here! Unfortunately, I didn't graduate because I got pregnant and had to stop running.
I used a countdown alarm on a sport watch, but when I take it back up again, maybe I'll use those podcasts!

As for the OP, gregb1007, I think you should talk to a doctor about how winded you get. Sure, it might be asthma, but it also could be that you have a clogged artery somewhere that you never knew about before you exercised but is getting strained from your new exertions. That's a life-or-death matter. Check with your doctor and maybe even see about getting a stress test before you do one of these DIY get-in-shape plans.

IANAD, but your fatigue sounds excessive, and I think you need to enter the jogging world with some medical supervision.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:46 PM on May 8, 2007

cowbellemoo: I linked to some Couch-to-5K podcasts upthread. It's generic dance music but the guy announces each interval as it comes up. I don't have to think about timing myself, which is nice.
posted by web-goddess at 2:08 PM on May 8, 2007

A runner's watch. I stole a fancy-schmancy one from my husband, but a cheap one will do. You can set it to beep every minute or two minutes, or whatever works best for that week.
posted by The corpse in the library

Oh, awesome. Thanks for all the responses to my subquestion! I think a watch that calls out the intervals would work best for me. I've tried the treadmill but just hate the hassle and crowds of my gym. And I love music (and my iPod), but I find myself more motivated by the stillness and beauty of a local park that I can hike/walk/jog around. (it's the grounds of a victorian era mansion and I fancy myself as Heathcliff stalking Catherine out on the moors)
posted by cowbellemoo at 5:29 PM on May 8, 2007

I know you've said you want to run outside, but speaking from experience I found it a lot easier to start on a treadmill and then move outdoors. It was very helpful at first to see what kind of pace I was hitting, what my heart rate was doing, how far I had gone and how far I had left to go, etc. (The pace was the biggie. I was trying to go way too fast for a new runner.) After about a month at the most, I was able to gauge my pace outdoors fairly accurately.
posted by Jaie at 4:11 PM on May 9, 2007

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