Today is Global Running Day. As an asthmatic, I have always had a difficult time with any kind of steady-state cardio or high intensity exercise. Most people either love or hate running (or jogging or sprinting), and I used to hate it. Now I view it differently. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about how you can incorporate running into your week, even if just the thought of it makes your lungs hurt. Today I’ll just discuss the physical aspects of running for non-runners, specifically people like me who can’t run for very long due to asthma.

On any given day, I only have about 2-3 minutes of running in me, regardless of intensity. Yes, you read that right. 2-3 minutes. Maybe 5 if I’m shuffling. I have to make the most of this brief time, since a marathon or even a 5K isn’t going to work for my particular needs right now. Maybe you’re asthmatic, or maybe you’re just getting started with running and that’s all you’ve got, too. Yes, you can you make a good workout out of short little bursts of activity, even if it’s not a full-on aerobic event. Here’s what I do: a combo of several small run/walks paired with bodyweight exercises. It’s a great way to boost heart rate, increase muscle strength, and get my lungs past their comfort zone (but not too far).

I’ll start off with a walking warm-up. Next I’ll do a “little run” at my medium pace for as long as I can before my lungs start to send me warnings. That’s my goal for the day. Once I hit that threshold, I take it back down to a walk for as long as I need to bring my heart rate and breathing back down to a slightly-elevated normal. Then I stop and do two sets of a bodyweight exercise to failure. I like to mix it up, but some great ideas include: squats and jumps, walking lunges, push-ups, core moves like planks or V-holds, arm/core combos like side plank rotations, shoulder taps, and arm pulls. After the exercise is complete, I’ll add another little run….walk…exercise…repeat…until I’m ready to call it quits.

Because each run is only of short duration, I pay special attention to the intensity level. Higher intensity is going to challenge the lungs and heart a bit more in that shorter amount of time. Each little run can be different. Ways you can vary your own little runs: match the time from the very first run, and increase it by a small increment like ten seconds; increase intensity for the same or less time; decrease intensity for more time; change stride length for the same time. Remember, even if it’s just 10 seconds, that’s still 10 seconds more activity.

I run to keep my heart healthy, to build strength in my lungs, to get outside, and to potentially lessen the severity of an asthma attack in the future. If you have asthma, or if you’re brand new to moving in this way, it doesn’t have to be torture. Celebrate the tiny progressions, only run for small amounts of time as your lungs will allow, and intersperse the runs with plenty of walking and bodyweight exercises. This does not constitute medical advice – please make sure you have an inhaler handy and medical clearance for running. Now go hit those trails.