Jogging for Normal People: Help! My chest is on fire!

We are a decidedly interesting breed, joggers. Fat, thin, quick, cumbersome or quasi-Olympian we’re heading out into our neighborhoods, parks and city streets hoping to mold a better version of ourselves through regular exercise.

I started jogging because I needed a fitness-inducing activity I could do whenever I had time (read: late at night), and by myself (read: away from potentially embarrassing public failure). I’m a busy guy with a family, a job, a job, and another job, who, nevertheless, doesn’t want to be fat. So, even though the thought of becoming a jogger, was, for me, akin to George W. Bush joining a Michael Moore fan club, I bought some shoes, got a pair shorts with the undies sewn in (that “breathe,” apparently), and hit the pavement.

What I’ve quickly discovered, is that while most of my body is still in pretty good shape (I’m in my early 20s, and was at one time very athletic), I’m perpetually held back by the part of me whose fitness I’d all but forgotten: my lungs. OK, so maybe I was smoker, and maybe it’s been about three years since I last raised my heart-rate on purpose, but this searing pain that rips the breath straight from my chest is completely out of left field.

While my legs would gladly push on to infinity, my lungs scream like a neglected animal being mercilessly burned alive. For hours after I’ve quit, I feel like I can’t quite beat that last little bit of tightness out of my chest, and I’ve generally worked up enough phlegm to be coughing and hacking for the better part of the following morning. (Apologies for that image.)

So what do I do? I increase my lung capacity.

As you can imagine, there’s no quick and easy fix for expanding your lungs, but here’s some resources that might be helpful to those of you who find yourself in a similar situation. Not surprisingly, the most straightforward way to increase your lung capacity is to jog more. However, you also might have some luck with breathing exercises. This website (1) offers a Qigong (martial arts) breathing exercise that looks interesting. You also might have some luck with basic Yoga breathing techniques. For the more advanced athlete, this cycling website (2) has exercises geared specifically toward breathing deeply, into the diaphragm.

And with that, good luck to you, joggers. We’ll re-convene next week.