My body hates jogging...
April 22, 2008 9:08 AM   Subscribe

My body has an irrational prejudice against jogging, though not most other exercise - can anyone explain why? More inside...

I'm a 40 year old in middling physical condition. And, my body hates to jog. I can't come to any other conclusion. I've been swimming 1-1.5 km 2-3 times a week for 2 years. No heavy breathing when I finish, heart rate below 130 after a mile in the water. I ride 50 - 100 km a week during warm weather months, walk the course when I golf and do the Royal Marines calisthenic program a few times a week (and breath very hard during that, no question, but without asthmatic shortness of breath).
So, yesterday, 7 at night, temp about 60F, I tried to run with my 8 year old, as he's going to be doing a short "mini-marathon" (1.5 k) for early elementary kids in June. 200 meters in, I can feel my bronchiae going into full on "crimped hose" mode, and I'm sucking wind even while falling behind my son. We got through 800 meters, and I needed to walk off the asthma spasm. After that, I was able to do wind sprints with him, no problem. But, when I tried that regular old jogging pace again - bang! - everything closed up, and I was sucking wind again. This has been a consistent pattern with me since my teens. Haven't gotten a satisfactory answer from a doctor yet. So I come, in supplication, to MeFi...
Can anyone out there tell me why I can swim, bike, sprint and do fairly challenging calisthenics without asthma, but 200 meters into a light jog, I feel like I'm breathing mustard gas? Help! Can anyone recommend a diagnosis/approach/course of action/solution that will let me go running with my son?
posted by TheOtherWay to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I would get a heart rate monitor and see a doctor at the same time. Something seriously isn't working.
posted by ewkpates at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2008

For what it's worth, I can jog, use an elliptical, row, swim, do yoga, martial arts, etc, without a problem, but the moment I start sprinting or climbing stairs quickly, here comes the asthma. I've been to doctors about it before who haven't found a single thing wrong with me and they just gave me an inhaler to use when it becomes a problem.
posted by olinerd at 9:22 AM on April 22, 2008

I am no doctor, not by a long shot. But will give you my thoughts on the matter. I could be wrong but it sounds like you need to pace your breathing.

When you swim you have a regular breathing pattern, inhale, turn your head, exhale, stroke, turn your head....or however it works. When you run, it helps to have something similiar.

When I was jogging pretty regularly I used a breathing pattern that was in time with my strides. I remember I would inhale through two strides and exhale through two strides. When I first started doing it I would actually chop up my breathes with each stride to really add a bit of rhythm to it. So two quick inhales/two quick exhales. I dropped that once I got the breathing down better so that I was then getting full deep breaths rather than quick ones.
posted by WickedPissah at 9:22 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

A lot of people get asthma when doing exercise in cold weather. I suffered from asthma whenever I tried any kind of winter sport up until my mid-twenties (when someone told me this was fairly common, and somehow eventually I outgrew it) - there was something about the combination of heavy clothing and cold air that would give me asthma. Although you said it was 60F, it's possible you were having a similar reaction - it sounds like the other forms of aerobic exercise you get are in warmer ambient air. Or maybe it's just all in your head - some kind of stress reaction that is triggering the asthma.
posted by thomas144 at 9:31 AM on April 22, 2008

Maybe, possibly, you just don't have the right kind of muscular endurance to jog for a while and that's why it's overtaxing you. Endurance is specific and from swimming and biking you get endurance in different muscle groups than from jogging. Maybe if you tried jogging just 500 meters several times in a row, regularly, eventually you would get more jogging endurance. But I am not a doctor or a fitness professional.

I have a similar problem with swimming crawl. I do lots of strength training and I used to run long-distance so I should be able to swim well, but when I swim crawl I kick my legs like a motherfucker and after 1.5 laps I'm gasping for air and my quads are out of commission. I can rule 4-5 miles pretty easily and I can squat about 250 pounds, so in theory this shouldn't be a problem, but...I just can't swim crawl.

Are you a woman with wide hips? Some women are built very poorly for running because their legs stick out at the wrong angle. (I have no prejudices against wide-hipped women -- it's just a question of mechanics.)
posted by creasy boy at 9:53 AM on April 22, 2008

Btw, my girlfriend also can't jog more than 2-3 minutes, although she's perfectly capable of walking long distances and is a good swimmer. She has wide hips and also has never consistently tried to jog at all, so I suspect it's due to body mechanics + lack of specific muscular endurance. But I am a translator, not a running coach, so you might want to hang out for a while and listen to more answers.
posted by creasy boy at 9:58 AM on April 22, 2008

It might be your posture: jogging, unlike running and the other activities you mentioned, tends to induce slumped shoulders and hunched over spines compressing the breathing cavity. Make a point to keep your back straight and your shoulders back. A metric I found that helped me a lot is to pull my back and shoulders back enough such that my hands are naturally at about the level of my breast (I'm a guy) when jogging. Also your gaze should naturally focus on the horizon (not the ground) if you are in a proper position.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 10:02 AM on April 22, 2008

You really do need to train your body into jogging. I considered myself a fairly fit person, and a good cyclist, did about 32 miles daily (back and forth from work) and generally more on the weekends, got adept at swimming after I broke some bones to the point where I could do a hundred or so laps but even so, I was an absolutely lousy runner-- couldn't jog for more then a few minutes before having to stop because my lungs were screaming or I had a stitch. Incredibly frustrating.

Turned out I was just pushing myself too hard too soon. My only advise is to start off really slow, boringly so, and slowly build up your speed over the weeks and months. It's not something you should expect to be good at, just because your otherwise fit, it's a skill that needs to be learned. I'd agree with WickedPissah that it's likely your breathing pace, it's really difficult to get that right.

The couch to 5k plan might be a good starting point for you.
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:08 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to commiserate. I am exactly the same way. I am a regular exerciser, lots of cardio, etc., but I CANNOT "go for a run." This was true even when I was in my early 20s and was a total exercise nut (step aerobics and spinning classes 7 days/week and 5 days of weight training/week) My heart rate during these classes is definitely up there (high enough to get some endurance training), but jogging seems to be a whole different thing. I honestly cannot run for more than about 5 minutes and never could. I always chalked it up to "my body is not supposed to do that" (a convenient answer because I hate running so) but I too am listening for other explanations.
posted by picklebird at 10:25 AM on April 22, 2008

Running is not swimming or biking or walking or the elliptical machine. Having good cardiovascular fitness doesn't translate to being to run. Running is much harder on your body and takes a while of gradual acclimation before it doesn't suck in every imaginable way.

Couch to 5k is so popular because it works and can get almost anyone through the "OMG this is horrible torture" stage that makes up the first few weeks of taking up running. Give that a go!
posted by hollisimo at 10:36 AM on April 22, 2008

I'm right there with you; I work out regularly for 1.5-3 hours per day, EVERY DAY, and have for 8 years. Every time I tried to jog, within 6 minutes I would have an asthma attack. This was on a treadmill at 5 mph.

Determined that this was the one thing that wouldn't kick my ass before I turned 40, I tried the couch to 5k as recommended above. I can now run for almost 10 minutes without switching to walking. I can also alternate running for 5 minutes and walking for two for 45 minutes with no asthma attack.

Realize that your body develops muscle memory and you are used to repetitive, cyclical types of exercise. When you run, you are putting stress on your joints, using your entire body weight and if you're outside you're navigating uneven terrain and breathing in god-knows-what in the air. All of these things will affect your performance. As an asthmatic, I figured I would die having never been able to jog. Just like most things in life, start slow and eventually you will conquer it.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:46 AM on April 22, 2008

I think the real key is jogging is way more effort than you think.

I used to feel the same way, but after lots of jogging at speeds previously unknown to be called jogging, I was able to keep it up for a while. After slowly getting into it, I find myself a perfectly happy middle of the pack distance runner.

So if you really want to learn to run, try a couch to 5k plan and really go slowly at the beginning. It really is harder than you think, but perfectly doable once you put in the time.
posted by advicepig at 11:21 AM on April 22, 2008

Did you know there are professional cyclists who can barely run a mile? You may be fit to do other things but you have to GET fit to run. I myself have taken spinning classes for years, even took the certification class, and am in good shape in the spin room-I can even do classes back to back- but I can barely run one eight of a mile on an indoor track. It's apples and oranges.
posted by konolia at 12:39 PM on April 22, 2008

Running is hard. It takes a while to get good at it. Do the couch to 5k, or just start at 4.0 on the treadmill and slowly (week by week) increase your pace. You won't be jogging comfortably for the first two weeks, but after 10-12 sessions, your body will start to fall in line. After a few months, it will start to feel good.
posted by zpousman at 2:12 PM on April 22, 2008

Running is HARD. I've run, biked, elliptical-machined, swam, stairmastered, and running is just harder. If you work at it you'll improve.
posted by iguanapolitico at 2:42 PM on April 22, 2008

Ill reiterate what the posters above had said and say JOGGING/RUNNING IS HARD.

I know from personal experience. I swim several kilometers at a time, lift weights for hours on end, bike for 6 hours at a time.

But I can only run for about 20 minutes before it feels like I am dieing.
posted by Takeyourtime at 2:47 PM on April 22, 2008

Jogging is really fucking monotonous. That's my problem with it.

Also, your muscles may just not be so good. I have chronic compartment syndrome in one leg and can't exert my other one because I've already had surgery for it and there is a chance I could develop compartment syndrome again.
posted by kldickson at 3:33 PM on April 22, 2008

The biggest training hurdle I had when I started jogging was learning to, as WickedPissah says, is pacing your breathing. I had much the same issues as you with running: I could swim for miles, sprint for several hundred yards in the water, but jogging would bring back childhood memories of asthma attacks.

First I took my pace down, got comfortable with jogging rather than running, focusing on keeping my breathing regular, and trying to breathe through my nose for as long as I could before giving in to mouth breathing (and reverting whenever possible). And the breath training must continue after your jog until your breathing returns to normal. Force yourself to take deep, slow breaths in, but exhale as your body wants to.

This technique has worked for me in both jogging and Tae Kwon Do.
posted by Xoder at 3:33 PM on April 22, 2008

Another thing to look at is your stride. You want to be rolling from your heel to your toes with a long stride, not bouncing up and down on the balls of your feet like I see so many people, especially women, do. It's easier to use a good stride when you're sprinting than when you're jogging, because you're going faster and the momentum automatically lengthens your stride and keeps you from the up and down bouncing action.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 4:55 PM on April 22, 2008

Another thing to look at is your stride. You want to be rolling from your heel to your toes with a long stride, not bouncing up and down on the balls of your feet like I see so many people, especially women, do.

Actually, a lot of people would disagree with you on this one. Well, probably not about the bouncing up and down part, but hitting the ground at your heel and lengthening your stride are certainly not universally agreed good form. Anyway, it is really doubtful that a bad stride is causing the poster to be unable to run more than half a mile without dying, definitely sounds like breathing technique problems.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:25 PM on April 22, 2008

This isn't what you want to hear, but like what others have said you just have to do it- pacing your breathing, etc- and keep on pushing yourself to go harder. During the winter when it's all snowbanks and ice I end up staying indoors and doing the elliptical for 4 months (can't do treadmill at all I'd fall off from boredom). The elliptical for five to six days a week, at least one hour. I believe this is the machine they say simulates running the most, short of a treadmill. Anyway, Day One when the snow is all gone I go out all happy dandy thrilled to be able to run again? I feel like I'm going to die.... I have to push myself for at least a week before I get the hang of pacing my breath and all that jazz again. It's like this EVERY single post-winter season.
posted by Jimmie at 8:08 PM on April 22, 2008

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