Calling all runners: I need advice/help

As many of you know, I started running awhile back. My goal this summer was to do a 5K each month. So far, so good. Actually, I am exceeding my goal by doing two 5K runs in July and two 5k runs in August. Plus, as most of you know, my husband and I are planning on doing our first 10K in October. 

But here’s the deal. Instead of getting better at running, I am getting worse. Really, truly, I am. My guess is that the humidity is really wreaking havoc with me, but I really don’t know what is going on. And it’s getting frustrating. Really, really frustrating. I’ve starting having to walk throughout my running because I just can’t breathe. I can’t catch my breath.

And besides not being able to breathe, I have had problems with this pain I keep getting in my left side, mid-back, side, rib area. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it almost feels like my rib either shifts or breaks and then stabs me in the side/back area. The first time it happened was when we did our 5K in Fargo and I had bronchitis. Since then, I have had it once or twice, but lately it seems to be happening on almost every single run.

In addition to not being able to breathe, dealing with a back/side/rib pain, I also have started feeling sickly when I run. It usually comes on around mile 2 and lasts until I am done. It’s almost like a heartburn/nausea feeling. This may be gross, but I can usually burp my way through it. Gross, I know, but it does help.

Because of my breathing issues, I have had to slow way down, and like I said, even having to walk sometimes, and that is the frustrating part. Because I am so new to running and I haven’t really ran through the summer months before, I am just wondering…is it the humidity that’s doing it? Do other runners experience this kind of stuff? Am I the only one? 

Seriously, can someone tell me what’s going on? I am getting so frustrated with it all. I have tried running in the morning, when it’s not so hot, but most of the time, it is still humid. I have tried running later at night, when it’s cooled off, but again, the air is so thick. 

I know I am going to juts push through this. I am not going to give up. I have really started enjoying this sport. I feel so good when I am done. Well, that is after I get done having my little hissy fit, ranting and raving about how slow I ran and how I couldn’t breathe and all. After that is all done, then I feel good.

So, really, anybody got any advice? I need some tips or some reassurance that this, too, shall pass and it will get better come fall. You can either post a comment at the end of the blog or feel free to send me an email to You can also check me out on Facebook; look up Confessions of a Fat Girl and hit the "like" button. You can send me a message on there or post a comment. 

I really look forward to hearing from all you seasoned, and maybe not-so-seasoned, runners out there. Help, please!

8 thoughts on “Calling all runners: I need advice/help

  1. I started running a few years ago and just finished the marathon in Fargo this spring. I had a lot of similar experiences (breathing, burping, etc) and will share what my outcomes were but I’m definately not implying that you are experiencing the same.

    Have you ever been tested or treated for asthma? I have not ever had asthma, or any family history of it, until I started running (actually, I waddle). It started off with only cold weather or dry weather runs but now it even acts up during humid runs. My doctor gave me a preventil inhaler, I use it before i run and it works wonders. However, it may be something as simple for you as you are trying to go too fast, too soon in your training. From reading your blog I know you are very excited about running, but if you can’t breathe when you run, you may be going too fast. You need to build up to speed; and as all the running books/mags say, if you can’t have a conversation while you are running, then you are going too fast.

    You also were very concerned about your decrease in speed in your last post, but seriously, you won’t find huge incremental increases in speed with the short time you’ve been running. Patience, keep moving, and it will come.

    Do you wear a heart rate monitor? Does your heart rate spike too high? That’s also a sign that you need to slow down maybe.

    The burping I experienced was for two reasons. Either I didn’t eat properly (meaning, I ate nothing) to fuel my run/workout; or I was pushing my body too hard.

    A good way to know if you are overtraining is to take your resting heart rate when you first wake up in the morning but haven’t gotten physically “up” yet. Over time, it should stay the same or even decrease. If you find your RHR to be increasing then that is a sign that you are overtraining and to back it off a bit.

    For gradually increasing your speed over time; try interval runs or even fartleks. Meaning, run at a minute or so fast pace than your 5K pace, but only for one minute; than drop to a minute slower than your 5k pace, and do these as repeats for 5-8 times. This will gradually help you increase your speed and indurance.


  2. Wow! Great information. I really appreciate it. I did talk to my doctor about asthma (right before Fargo 5K when I went in for bronchitis) and he said that I probably have exercise-induced asthma. My son has asthma and the doctor told me to try my son’s inhaler. I should probably do that.
    Again, thanks for the information. It is greatly appreciated.


  3. UGH! I am in the same boat as you lately (though you must be running further distances than me.) What concerns me a little is if you possibly strained a lung muscle back when you had bronchitis. As an asthma sufferer I know that pain can be horrendous! Being afraid to breathe because of pain is not fun. If I were you I’d do a few things to see if this is a muscle thing or a humidity thing (humidity really messes it all up for us.) First, as goofy as it sounds, try blowing up a regular balloon a 2-3 times/3 times a day and see what that does. If the balloon thing hurts after a few “sessions” I’d call the dr. Second, when I get the lung/rib/ache pain what has helped A LOT is to remember to breathe from the bottom of the lungs when that pain comes (if you’ve done any yoga do the same thing they taught you-imagine breathing through the bottom of your lungs/stomach while a hand is on that area of the body. Make your hand move from your breathing.) I have been told the side aches which come from running are your lungs not getting enough oxegyn. Plus, deep lung breaths are better for your body’s blood flow. The last bit of advice is possibly to try run in the early morning hours when there is less humidity-maybe you’ll notice less pain and slugishness. Good luck and I’m sorry but it’s nice to see I’m not the only weirdo with the breathing crap at the 5K… 😉


  4. Along with the pain you describe on the left side of your chest, ribs and back, you also mention nausea and heartburn. I don’t mean to scare you or anyone, but that all might be worth checking out with your doctor. Women experience atypical chest pain and atypical symptoms with cardiac events. They don’t always have the mid-sternal chest pain that is “crushing” or that radiates up the neck and down the arm. They may experience pain in the chest, but will also have back pain, nausea, heart burn complaints, and SOB. It may be the exercise-induced asthma as you mentioned…try your son’s inhaler and see if that helps. Asking your physician is also a good idea.


  5. I think it’s exercise-induced asthma. I had many of the same symptoms before I started using an inhaler just for running. You might also have some seasonal allergies that affect your breathing. My worst time for running is late July/mid August because of the pollen.


  6. The other reason for the pain may be interstitial muscle cramping from your newly developed lung capacity. I’m not a doctor but I had this develop when I started running and…surprise!…pushing myself too much.

    Other people that run may run a lot faster than you. It’s hard to watch that and think, “darn I’m a slow poke”. But, we all have different physical makeups and we all run different. There are slow runners and fast runners. You can’t turn yourself into a gazelle overnight. Give yourself time…a LOT of time…to develop the inter-capacity to run faster. It doesn’t happen over night, it usually happens over years. 🙂

    And, I do agree with one of the posters, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see your doctor, but I know you just had blood work and it was great…but still, especially if it’s exercise induced asthma, you could get some relief.


  7. All of this advice sounds worthy of your consideration, and I’m sure you will figure it out.

    I think the idea of trying to run too fast when you’ve not been running very long makes sense. Also, the humidity makes it harder for most people to breathe, so that very well could be effecting you.

    I would also add that maybe you aren’t waiting long enough after eating to start a run. I have to wait between one and four hours after eating (depending on the meal) before I start running. The pain in your side and ribs as well as the burping, sounds like what happens to me when I run right after a meal.


  8. Asthma education plays a key role in helping you cope with both the condition of asthma and its effects. There is much you can do for yourself, both in terms of avoiding possible trigger factors and in keeping the body in a relaxed and calm state.


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