Thursday, August 13, 2009

Running Out of Breath

update: running out of breath followup post on my new blog

The reason I started this blog was because I wanted to get into shape to do demanding outdoor exercises -- snowboarding in particular. Running was, to me, a way to get there. I like being outdoors; I like going out for walks on trails. I've walked a lot outdoors, often on miles-long excursions. I figured, I can work up to running a 10k or a marathon, run to keep in shape, and enjoy running more.

Most of the dietary information I found on running exclaimed the importance of carbs, but I was already committed to eating low-carb -- hence the blog. I wanted to explore eating low carbs but also running (and doing other aerobic sports) at the same time.

But I'm not yet a runner.

I try to run every day and am happy to get out on the road five times a week. I'll do sprints one day, jog the next, go for a long walk the next, jog again, then repeat.

I do Tabata sprints: twenty seconds of giving it my all, then ten seconds of rest, then go again. I can do five sets of sprints and usually that last sprint is barely a jog. At the end of it, I want to find someone with a sprinkler on their lawn and go pass out under it. It's tough -- but that's the point. Tabata sprints are part of a high-intensity workout; not something to do every day, but a way to maximize results while minimizing time spent. It doesn't minimize effort: Tabata intervals are notoriously hard.

But most days I don't sprint; I just run. My "runs" are really jogs. When I first started last December, it wasn't even that -- I was only walking. After a week or so I started jogging briefly, about 20 seconds or so, and it was tough, but I was glad for the improvement. Eventually I gave up because of ankle pain, but back in May I started working out in earnest again. I'm now up to jogging continuously for a quarter mile, walk a bit, then jog again. I can do four such quarter-mile sections and I'm pretty beat at the end of it.

Running Out of Breath

But I'm not really out of energy. After I take a shower, I feel like going for another run. In fact, after I finish the walk back to my apartment, I go through the gate and feel like running again... It actually feels great. I love running! It's exhilarating. Having the energy that I didn't have for years is incredible, and slightly intoxicating.

I stop running because I run out of breath! I've thought about it while running, and that's really why I stop at the end of a quarter mile: I'm breathing heavy and continuing to run seems impossible. But I can walk just fine, and after I catch my breath, I'm ready to give it another go.

I did some surfing on the topic and the consensus seems to be: I'm out of shape. Well, duh. It's nice to have the confirmation though. This is what's supposed to happen. As I get into better shape, my ability to use and consume oxygen should improve. I found some suggestions on breathing (including a useful post on side stitches at and, putting it all together, my breathing will get better as I get into shape. That it is exactly what getting into shape means.

Generally I don't trust much of what I see at It's great for getting a consensus view -- what the mainstream thinks about a topic -- but it sucks for research, for alternate viewpoints, or even for seeing both sides to a debate. I don't just eat low carb (and Atkins itself has enough detractors), I eat paleo; such a website won't be a good source for information about that. But who else talks about breathing? And so I'm fine with their answers.


It's simple enough. If you're out of breath, it's because you're not fit. (It could be asthma; an important consideration but one that I can't speak to myself, so I'm leaving that possibility aside.) The way to not be out of breath is to get fitter. The way to do that is to continue to run.

My results match what I'd expect: eating low-carb means I'm always burning fat, and my fat-burning capability is fairly healthy. That's why I have plenty of energy to keep running. However, my cardiovascular fitness level is low, and that's why I run out of breath.

I will continue running, of course. A few more months til it starts snowing in the mountains, and I look forward to being up there on the slopes!