Reader to Reader: Giving Up Smoking

Has giving up smoking improved your running? Here's what you thought


Posted: 4 June 2007
by Catherine Lee


This week’s questioner has finally decided to kick the weed in order to improve her running times. Trouble is, she’s worried the cravings will get the better of her and she’ll lapse back into old habits. What’s your advice to help keep her motivated and nicotine-free for good?

"I've just put out my last ciggie and am now a non-smoker. I know it's the best thing I'll ever do, but it will also be the hardest, so any words of wisdom much appreciated. I've tried patches in the past, but they're not for me as it just seems as if I'm replacing one dependency with another. What would really help is postive experiences from ex-smokers - how soon did you notice and improvement in your running and how much of an improvement? "spookygiraffe


Your best answers

  • You’ll see a change immediately
    Good news is, you can see the differences physically as well as feeling them, almost from the moment you give up. I took up running as soon as I stopped smoking (seven months ago) and I am noticing remarkable improvements every week. I can honestly say that I get such a buzz from running, a buzz that endures throughout the day, and there is no comparison between that and the few moments of pleasure you get from a cigarette. – Chris Tassell
  • Knock minutes off your miles with simple mind-tricks
    I gave up on January 23 this year. In this time I have gone from 10-minute miling to 9-minute miles so you should be able to see huge improvements almost immediately. I used to chew two pieces of Airwave gum at the same time because the burn in my throat tricked my mind into thinking I'd just nipped into the garden for a quick fag. – orbital sander
  • Pursue a PB for an added incentive
    I went for six months without then had a couple the night before a 5K race. I added a minute and a half to my time and felt shite. Races really help because you want to go faster and will do anything to get a better time. Packing up the weed is simply a means to race faster. – Dustboy

  • Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t
    I smoked up to 40 a day for 25 years until January 14 this year when I just stopped. My sister was being administered the very worst prognosis as cancer has returned to riddle her and she had always loved running but is now simply unable to. I felt a duty to myself to enjoy my relatively good health and a duty to her to not waste the opportunity she's had cruelly taken from her. – smoke free green
  • Patches can make it easier...
    There are two elements of addiction to smoking, the physical element of addiction to nicotine and the psychological dependence on smoking. Many people, myself included, find that dealing with both of these at once is too much. The nicotine patch and other forms of NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy), when used as directed, significantly ameliorate the effects of nicotine withdrawal, allowing you to deal with one thing at a time. – Skinny Old Geezer
  • ... as can inhalators...
    Try Nicorette inhalators - they certainly satisfied my cravings for nicotine and gave me something to do with my hands. I have to say it's one of the best things I've ever done. Also, most people put on a little weight when they give up smoking, but this isn't happening because of the running! – Jackie Stefani
  • ... but you’ll have to retrain your brain too
    I have always been able to run better, the less I smoked. I have been a smoker for 37 years and been trying to stop for the past 12 - I had bronchitis, a collapsed lung, pneumonia and was still unable to stop. Why? Because I saw ciggies as a crutch and when you are scared, you turn to your crutch, don't you? Since stopping my running has improved but because I left it rather late, it will not be as good as it could have been. Try remembering NOPE - Not One Puff Ever) – The Hoose-Goer
  • Learn to recognise your behaviour patterns
    I had my last ciggie during the Notting Hill carnival last year. I'd already decided I was doing the FLM, and so had good reason to try and kick the habit. Literally, ten minutes after crossing the finish line, I had the biggest craving for one of those menthol (oh, yes) ciggies that I'd been so addicted to. A couple of weeks before, we'd been trying out a new health and wellbeing course at work. They talked about 'recycling' - where you give up something, or start to do something, and then have re-start, or re-give it up again. As long as you're aware of this recycling phase, you can go cold turkey (as I did). On the finish line, I realised I was 'recycling' and so dismissed it, and just had a big bar of choccie instead! Getting past the recycling stage is the best thing you can do - once you're past that, you'll be off them forever. Good luck - you're life (and bank balance) will better with out it! – La Futon!
  • Give a self-help book or CD a go
    I put a Paul McKenna CD on my iPod and drifted off to sleep to it. I did find them slightly irritating and patronising but I think the repetition of it not being *that* hard did help. After five days, I stopped looking grey, and within a month I stopped wheezing as much when exercising. Everything starts to feel better within weeks. – Ellie101
  • Find a support group online
    I gave up on March 9, because I wanted to start running again after a two-year lay-off. The biggest favour you could do yourself is to sign up with Nicorette's Active Stop programme. They send you a cheery e-mail message every day, detailing the benefits of not smoking. This really helped to keep me on the straight and narrow. They also let you know exactly how much money you've saved since you gave up. So far, I've bought some new clothes, had my hair coloured and bought a lovely new pair of running shoes on the proceeds! – Sue W
  • Try some deep-breathing exercises
    I'm finding that taking a slow deep breath to the stomach area seems to help. I have read that this clears the stale air from the bottom of your lungs. This simulates the deep breaths that smokers take whilst inhaling and seems to take away the craving. – Moobaloo
  • Remind yourself you’re a non-smoker now
    If you really want to quit smoking, you will. It requires the same amount of mental effort as keeping your legs moving when they tell you they are tired. Keep thinking of yourself as a non-smoker, not as someone trying to give it up. When someone offers you a ciggie, say 'No thanks, I don't smoke.' – pc.able
  • Channel your energy into a top-to-toe makeover
    Try taking a holistic approach and look at your hair, skin, nails, diet, exercise and relaxation and you will be too busy to think about anything else! I now take multivitamins and minerals, and a vitamin C and evening primrose oil supplement every day. I eat a more varied diet and regularly make fruit smoothies. I treated myself to leave my NHS dentist and sign up with a private dental practice and my teeth and gums are in great condition. My skin has improved and I feel good. One day you will find it odd to suddenly remember that you used to be a smoker. Keep going and give yourself a pat on the back. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself. – Karen Bradford
  • Why not detox completely?
    Changing the way I thought about myself helped a lot as I didn't feel like I was going through a process, I felt I'd just made a decision and stuck with it. I decided to stop eating and drinking the things that made me agitated - caffeinated drinks, chocolate, fatty/sugary foods. This had the added benefits of allowing me to notice how well my newly-acquired senses of smell and taste were working and helped me stave off any weight gain. It also helped me break away from the things I associated with smoking - coffee, chocolate, beer. I also gave up booze for a while because that was definitely when I felt the weakest. Of course I’m back on it all now bar the cigs! – Stu00
  • Think the grass used to be greener? Then think again
    Smell someone who's just had a ciggie, because that’s how you used to smell and it ain’t pleasant! Watch those who smoke and see if you can work out why people smoke. There's no reason behind it - light up, inhale, blow out. You stink and it also ruins your lungs and heart. I know I sound like a typical ex-smoker - well, I am and I'm staying that way. I've got a new drug that I'm addicted to... running! – Wicked D

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Discuss this article

Ok, so i've just put out my last ciggy and am now a non-smoker. I know it's the best thing i'll ever do, but it will also be the hardest and so any words of wisdom much appreciated.

Have tried patches etc in the past, but they're not for me as it just seems as if i'm replacing one dependency with another. Plus it's the mental addiction that's more of a problem for me rather than the physical - so going cold turkey.

What would really help is postive experiences from ex-smokers - how soon did you notice and improvement in your running and how much of an improvement?

And if you're not an ex-smoker then post a joke - i've found from previous attempts that if i can divert myself for 2-3 mins the craving passes - so all diversions welcome.

Cheers!
Posted: 25/05/2007 at 23:36

Won't lecture, still miss them sometimes, still slip v occasionally.

I wanted to run more than I wanted to smoke. 2 didn't go together.

You have won already, 3 mins craving is the worst it gets, don't hurt no more than that. At first it's 3 mins every 3 mins, 3 years l8er its 3 mins every 6 months.

Swim at 3 months is like having scuba tanks.

Still have smokers cough on cold mornings but not as bad.

Foul cold for first 3 months.

Went 6 months without then had a couple round a mates night before a 5K race. Added a minute and a half to my time and felt shite.

U wanted facts, that is as it has been for me. Good luck.

Races REALLY help coz you want to go faster and will do anything to gat a better time, even pop spots and wipe them away to save weight. Packing up the weed is simply a means to race faster.

Good luck.

DB
Posted: 25/05/2007 at 23:56

3 mins getting further apart is a good way to look at it - that helps. Knowing that others give up and live to tell the tale helps alot. Foul cold seems to be pretty standard. A minute and a half *off* my 5k pb in 6 months would be worth a lot of feeling sh*te.

Much appreciated
Posted: 26/05/2007 at 00:11

try reading this free E book spooky -will help on the psychological front:O)

all the best.

http://www.aebersold.com/quiteasy_form.htm
Posted: 26/05/2007 at 07:10

I gave up 8 years ago (before I started running) and like you, I went 'cold turkey' as I felt this would be the best way to deal with the addiction. I, too, diverted my attention when I got a craving and its true, the cravings get fewer and further between.

I can't imagine how I would be able to run and smoke too - I have enough trouble being a non-smoker!

Well done on kicking the weed!!!!!
Posted: 26/05/2007 at 10:47

Thanks for that HG - just downloaded it. My sort of stuff. Read allen carr sometime ago when life was just too hectic to make time to go through with it - new attempt to quit + new literature far preferable to re-reading.

So far so good :-)
Posted: 26/05/2007 at 10:55

well done spooky. This fella puts it in a way that really sinks in, I found.
:O)

Posted: 26/05/2007 at 10:57

Cheers Roobarb. Am giving up because i can't run and smoke - got stuck at 10min miles. All the bad for health stuff makes me *want* to quit, but it's the not being able to run that's turned the wanting into doing. Idea of cravings getting further apart unimaginable right now, so helps to know that it is fact not fiction.

Am in awe of all who have got through this and quit.


Posted: 26/05/2007 at 11:03

I'd love to do 10min miles! lol!

You obviously have thought about this and got your head in the right place. That'll help as it has to come from yourself.

Another little piece of advice which may or may not be needed - eat plenty of fruit and veg and suchlike. I found that when I first gave up I got terrible constipation!!!!!!! lol! Really I did!!!!

Hoose - have passed that link on!
Posted: 26/05/2007 at 11:22

I'd forgotten about the constipation! Scuttles off to fruitbowl ...
Posted: 26/05/2007 at 11:29

just getta pencil and work it out:O)
Posted: 26/05/2007 at 11:33

lol HG! Just had an apple, a carrot and a senakot. Will stick to this tactic for the time being ;-)
Posted: 26/05/2007 at 11:45

Congratulations! I quit in January 2005 and didn't use anything but will power and that worked for me. I sing in a band and I noticed the difference at our first practice which was about two weeks after I stubbed the last one out. My vocal range has imroved, my lung capacity for sustaining notes is waaaaaaaay better and I did race for life last year and I'm doing it again in a couple of weeks. Self talk is a good one. "I don't need it." Say that to yourself and repeat it, if ever you feel a bit twitchy. I now take multi vitamins and minerals, a vitamin c and an evening primrose oil supplement every day. My skin has improved and I feel good. My diet has improved nd I eat a more varied diet and regularly make fruit smoothies. I treated myself to leave my NHS dentist and sign up with a private dental practice and my teeth and gums are in great condition. Because it's a lifestyle habit, it takes a while to adjust, but you will. Try taking a holistic approach and look at your hair, skin, nails, diet,exercise and relaxation and you will be too busy to think about anything else :) One day you will find it odd to suddenly remember that you used to be a smoker.

Keep going and give yourself a pat on the back. It is one of the best things you can do for yourslef.
Posted: 27/05/2007 at 17:17

Thanks Karen. Good to read another success story. I'm hanging on by the skin of my teeth at the moment - but at least i'm hanging on. Been spending an awful lot of time in the bath/ in bed - both places that i don't associate with smoking!

Thanks again
Posted: 27/05/2007 at 19:17

I gave up 7 months ago and I also went cold turkey as the patches made me feel positively unwell.

There is nothing anyone can say that that will make the transition from smoker to non smoker pass more easily, it's tough. All those years of inhaling smoke coupled with the abandonment of rictuals that all smokers adhere to, are hard to break, but it is enormously enpowering when you do overcome them.

Willpower is a truly wonderful thing and a much underrated strength that we often don't know we possess.

Change your routine. I like you went to bed earlier, got up a little later, it's amazing how much more time you have when you don't have to build smoking time into your day.

Good news is, as Karen has already mentioned, you can see the differences physically as well as feeling them, almost from the moment you give up.

I took up running as soon as I stopped smoking and I am noticing remarkable improvements every week. Apart from any of that, I can honestly say that I get such a buzz from running, a buzz that endures throughout the day, that there is no comparison between that and the few moments of pleasure you get from a cigarette. You can't have both as the cigs will eventually make your running more and more difficult as they take a toll on lung capacity and heart rate.

Don't just hang in there, attack the weed and stick with it. I used to keep reminding myself that the first cigarette of the day was the one that I enjoyed most and that everyone I had after that was never quite as good and that I was lighting up throughout the day just trying to recapture the moment.

Keep at it.

























Posted: 27/05/2007 at 21:27

Chris, thanks for the words of support. Massive change for you, giving up smoking & starting running at the same time - healthwise, you must be a completely different person 7 months in! You're right about the difficulty being overcoming the rituals - and also about the sense of achievement.

Today, for the first time in 14yrs, I feel like non-smoker - albeit one who wants a cigarette very badly at times - but still a non-smoker - and that feels like a victory.

Plus, just been for my first post-quit run and knocked 57secs off my PB for my 5k training route. Happy days.
Posted: 27/05/2007 at 22:03

well done on your victories spooky - it is only te nicotine monsters work trying to convince you that you need one -don't ever fall for it and you'll be fine. keep reading that ebook:O)

well done you!!!
Posted: 28/05/2007 at 08:20

hello,

well done spookygiraffe. i gave up on 23rd january this year. i have found it hard and i sometimes miss being a smoker but the cravings have all but disappeared now.

i used to chew 2 airwaves chewing gum at the same time because the burn in my throat tricked my mind into thinking i'd just nipped into the garden for a quick fag.

in this time i have gone from 10min miling to 9 min miles so you should be able to see huge improvements almost immediately.

good luck with everything.
Posted: 28/05/2007 at 15:39

Thanks hoose - got pg26 stuck to the front & back door - and clearly working as just made it safely back from the shop having bought nothing more toxic than milk & digestive biscuits :-) Part of me feels like i'm over the worst now - but that sets off big alarm bells as complacency is so very dangerous when the nicotine monster is merely snoozing!

Cheers orbital & well done. Think i'll give the double airwaves a miss and stick to single dose! 10 min miling down to 9 in 4 months would definitely make all this trauma worthwhile - that is more or less what i wanted out of it and if it comes that quickly i'll be really pleased.
Posted: 28/05/2007 at 16:58

I'm on my third day now of being a non-smoker after 15 years on the snouts. I'm using just willpower alone.

I don't see how taking nicotene (patches or whatever) is going to get rid of an addiction to nicotene - doesn't make sense to me.

Anyway, so far so good. Not been out running yet as I have a back injury but I can't wait to get out there and try out my 'new' lungs!
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 11:32

Colonel, nicotine patches make perfect sense, and I'll explain why.

There are two elements of addiction to smoking, the physical element of addicition to nicotine and the psychological dependance on smoking. Many people, myself included, find that dealing with both of these at once is too much. The nicotine patch and other forms of NRT, when used as directed, significantly ameliorate the effects of nicotine withdrawal, allowing you to deal with one thing at a time.

One argument used by those who oppose NRT is that, since all the nicotine has left your body after 48 hours, the addiction is over. Frankly this is total tripe. The point at which all the nicotine is gone is the point at which the symptoms of physical withdrawal approach their maximum.

All I can add is that I used the patch, for about three weeks, and it made it easy for me.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 11:40

Got carried away Colonel. Forgot to add, congrats on the 3 days. Keep it up.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 11:42

Hi guys

Thought this question would make a great Reader to Reader so please keep the advice coming...

Thank you! :o)
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 12:01

Well done, its been 8 months for me know and my running has def improved. I can now afford those massages and trips to Chiropracters etc. The one thing that kept me going is that I don't ever want to go through giving up again. U can do it, in fact you have done it. xxxx
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 12:37

Without getting into any futile debate regarding patches,IMHO and after many tries to stop with them -they do not help unless the psychological work is done.Anyway if that is done well patches are not needed at all. To find out why take a look at the free ebook link.

Anyway -I have always been able to run better, the less I smoked. I have been a smoker for 37 years and trying to stop for the past 12 -using evry mehtod possible. In recent months I discoverred I had COPD as a result of my addiction. This time I stopped easily, not because of the COPD but because I used the right method(hilighted in the ebook)and very little willpower.

. I have had bronchitis, collapsed lung, pneumonia and was still unable to stop-why?- because I saw ciggies a sa crutch and when you are scared, you turn to your crutch don't you? Since stopping my running as expected has improved but because I left it rather late , it will not be as good as it could have been.

I get annoyed over a few things, the illogic of nicotine patches is one but the biggest one is seeing healthy beautiful runners continue to put that filth down their necks. You may think you are getting away with it but it is like a time bomb and you don't know how long the fuse is. Don't leave it as late as me eh?
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:00

Skinny Old Geezer; I'm certainly not proclaiming to be an expert on giving up smoking - Certainly not after three days of being 'clean'! If someone thinks that patches would be right for them then they should go for it.

However, my method of giving up was entirely spontaneous. I just woke up on Sunday and decided that I wasn't going to smoke anymore and so far I haven't. It has been tough and I have been aching for a ciggie at times but it is manageable and I just think about the good its doing me and how I didn't really enjoy it anyway! I suppose my point is that if you are determined I believe that you can give up nicotene without spending more money on the stuff!!!

Thanks for the encouragement by the way!
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:12

I mailed you colonel:O)

well done so far.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:17

I suppose my point is that if you are determined I believe that you can give up nicotene without spending more money on the stuff!!!

Quite so. Or, indeed, on "counsellors" who spout carp.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:25

lol SOG -how long now my skinny old adversary?
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:26

Dunno. Over 8 months.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:29

well done!! I am not counting but just over a month I think -not obsessing anymore which does help.

We both would like to see other get off the damn stuff, that's what really matters eh?
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:31

Certainly. This is why it is vitally important not to be dogmatic about what works and what doesn't, and why I am strongly opposed to commercial peddlers who do just that. Whether or not you understand the logic in NRT I personally know lots of people who've had great and lasting success with it.

Keep it up.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:38

I had my last ciggie during the notting hill carnival last year. I'd already decided i was doing the FLM (and had a charity place), and so had good reason to try and kick the habit...

Literally, 10 minutes after crossing the finish line, mission accomplished, i had the BIGGEST craving for one of those menthol (oh, yes) mayfair ciggies that i'd been sooo addicted to.

A couple of weeks before, for work, we'd been trying out a new health and wellbeing course to offer clients. They talked about 'recycling' - where you give up something, or start to do something, and then have re-start, or re-give it up again.

As long as you're aware of this recycling phase, you can go cold turkey (as i did).

On the finish line, knowing that i realised I was 'recycling' and so dismissed it, and just had a big bar of choccie instead!

Getting past the recyling stage is the best thing you can do - once you're past that, you'll be off them forever!

Good luck - you're life (and bank balance) will better with out it. ANYTHING is possible!

:-)
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:41

cheers SOG and you. Though we come from opposing camps, we both hate the damn things. Both way involve peddling really-and I am always uncomfortable with that.

I have known people who have with them and many without them too. Perhaps it is horses for courses and the best way is for people to weigh up the evidence and make their own mind up.

take care
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 14:42

I quit cold turkey by telling myself I was a non-smoker. Whenever anyone offered me a cig I'd tell them I was a non-smoker, as opposed to someone who'd just quit.

Changing the way I thought about myself helped a lot as I didn't feel like I was going through a process, I felt I'd just made a decision and stuck with it. Having an 8 year old son helped a lot as well.

I also decided to stop eating and drinking the things that made me agitated, caffeinated drinks, chocolate, fatty/Sugary foods etc. This had the added benefits of allowing me to notice how well my newly acquired senses of smell and taste were working and helped me stave off the weight gain.

It also helped me break away from the things I associated with smoking, coffee, chocolate, beer etc. And I gave up booze for a while ‘cause that was DEFINITELY when I felt the weakest. Of course I’m back on it all now bar the cigs! I hope that you do well and wish you all the best.

Posted: 29/05/2007 at 15:25

I smoked from a very young age and for about 25 years... and really wanted to stop but just "couldn't do it", I kept stopping and starting..but these are the things that have finally helped me..

I've used paul mckenna's guide to stopping smoking... and looked at allen's carr guide. Both helped me, now stopped for 4 months. I put paul mckenna cd that went with the book on my ipod and drifted off to sleep to it and it was useful, but I had reached the point where everything about smoking got on my nerves so badly, self-help books etc just made it a bit easier, they helped to break the psychological bind, as I was so used to growing up with cigarettes couldn't imagine life without them.I tried nicotine patches before, but I just used to smoke anyway, but it's a personal thing.

After 3 days you do start to crave cigarettes far less, so you are doing well. I'd really avoid having the odd one at around the 3 week mark or a later date. Once at 3 weeks I thought I'd broken it and had one with a beer, and it drew me back in.

After 5 days, I stopped looking grey, and within a month I stopped wheezing as much when exercising. Everything starts to feel better within weeks really, food, running...and I felt less depressed.

And keep thinking, smoking is being banned later in the year throughout England, you've done it now and you won't even notice when others are trying to give up as they can't smoke.

Good luck to everyone who has just stopped.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 15:31

I forgot to mention in my plug for paul mckenna and allen carr's anti-smoking bibles... I also found them slightly irritating and patronising.
But I think the repetition of stopping smoking not being *that* hard did help.
Made me realise not impossible, that you can do it.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 15:38

I have been given many testimonials for a woman called Dawn Salter who apparently works wonders: www.stopsmokingworcester.co.uk

She uses hypnotherapy & EFT for all sorts of applications, including improving sporting performance.

Helpful if you live close to Worcester, if you don't then not much help!
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 15:40

If you're really craving a cigarette down the pub say, then have one, but, and this is really crucial to giving up, for the first puff, don't take it in, just hold it in your mouth for 5 secs then blow it straight out without taking it in. relish the 'taste' in your mouth, I guarantee you won't want to carry on.

I've stopped now for about 10 years and have just gotten over my first cold in about 3 years. Everything after giving up smoking is so much better. Good luck.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 15:46

remember N.O.P.E. -Not One Puff Ever

I found Carr and McKenna patronising too.
Posted: 29/05/2007 at 15:56

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