Reader to Reader: Giving Up Smoking


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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