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Getting back in shape after quitting smoking...help?(24 posts)

Getting back in shape after quitting smoking...help?ex-smoker?
Jun 7, 2001 4:30 PM
So here's my brief story: used to be quite the little cyclist, fell out of that lifestyle and back into the ugly chainsmoking one (don't ask me how I managed). I've been really sick of it, trying to quit for a while, finally bought a new bike as incentive (the old one started to feel evil, since it sort of started representing my guilty conscience, and sat threateningly in a corner of my room for quite a while), and I suppose this brings me to my question.

Can anyone think of any heart/cardiovascular related reasons why I should not just dive into a serious training regimen (other than the fact that it feels like i'm going to friggin die getting up hills)? Any good 'clearing out the lungs' advice? After riding around, I've been getting some sort of weird heart arrythmia, which keeps me awake at night (boom...boom...BOOMBOOMBOOM...boom). Are there any ex-smokers who experienced this as well? Will it go away? Should I gradually ease into exercise? Oh, by the way, I'm 22, and a woman.

I know that most of you are probably not doctors, but just wondered if you had any advice/(encouragement? It feels like i'll never get there right now) on quitting smoking and getting back in shape. It's not that I want to race or anything, I just want to be in awesome shape again, and I love riding. (uh, plus the chainring tattoo on my ahem, butt, feels pretty ridiculous when I have a cigarette in hand!! Aaah!)

Thanks a lot
re: Getting back in shape after quitting smoking...help?Cliff Oates
Jun 7, 2001 4:41 PM
Hell, I smoked longer than you've been around on this globe. You'll be fine. You might want to visit the
re: Getting back in shape after quitting smoking...help?sidley
Jun 7, 2001 5:30 PM
I have a similar background (sans tattoo) and also used biking as a springboard back into the healthy lifestyle. My doctor said that lungs need about 4 months to recover from cigarette smoke. I too felt like I was having a major corronary every time I crested a hill but it passed.

Ride hard enough that you get nautious - wasn't that hard for me in the beginning. The last thing you will want to do when your at home is smoke.

I also had to stop going out to bars since I could not disassociate smoking from drinking.

How does the saying go? Idle hands are the devil's tool?? I would create chores for myself so that I would not have idle time that would otherwise be used for smoking.

Good luck
re: Getting back in shape after quitting smoking...help?Jon Billheimer
Jun 7, 2001 5:42 PM
I'm a world class ex-addict. Nearly killed myself (literally) with my habit and went through an absolutely unreal withdrawal period. So here's my two cents worth. First, to be on the safe side consult with your doctor re the arrhythmia. Probably just an adjustment thing. I went through arrhythmia, night sweats, tremors, etc. for months! But they all passed.

Second, drink lots of water and if you have the availablility, saunas. Then drink more water. In time you'll detoxify, as the above post noted. Third, ride consistently but don't jump into an aggressive, structured race-oriented program for a few months. Fourth, you're young and this will pass quickly. Good luck.
Thanks guysex-smoker?
Jun 7, 2001 6:13 PM
First off, it's nice to know that there are other ex-smokers. Since cigarettes and bikes are on the opposite ends of the lifestyle spectrum, I wasn't sure if I'd get some "dirty looks" through this messageboard (i.e. 'you can't join our hardcore roadie club' b.s.).

Thanks for the advice...sometimes it's hard to see beyond your present state of health...It just makes me sick to think that a fairly hilly 50 mile ride used to be fun (challenging, but not life-sapping), and I had to go and ruin it all! Knowing that it indeed can and will get better, and that yes, I will be able to climb climb climb someday is very encouraging. (Living in San Francisco, you have two choices as far as the starting point for your ride over the Golden Gate bridge: climb a hill, or descend a long hill, which you will eventually have to climb to get home...)

Thanks for the encouragement
Thanks guyssidley
Jun 7, 2001 6:19 PM
Don't be too quick to conclude that smoking and biking are mutually exclusive. Check out old photos of pre-WWII pro riders, in a book on the history of cycling; often they are smoking. The sport is basically European, after all.
Thanks guysCliff Oates
Jun 7, 2001 6:39 PM
Don't be too quick to conclude that smoking and biking are mutually exclusive.

Please don't be saying things that might encourage someone to abandon an effort to quit. A quitter has enough to deal with, they don't need confusing messages. Not smoking is the best thing she could possibly be doing for herself and her future, and I will not say anything to dilute the purity of that message. Yes, it is possible to smoke and ride a bike. It is possible to walk out to the middle of a busy highway too. That doesn't make it a good idea.

Cliff (sorry, but I'm a bit of a zealot on the topic)
My Badsidley
Jun 8, 2001 7:42 AM
You are quite right, Cliff. I meant nothing by it. But based on the poster's eloquence and obvious repentant tone, I am fairly certain that she is too smart to let my stupid tid bit sway her from kicking the habit.
Thanks guysCliff Oates
Jun 7, 2001 6:23 PM
You couldn't be living in a finer place for road cycling. If you ever get over to the East bay, here are some ride ideas: Ride page
You'll be okgirl
Jun 7, 2001 6:49 PM
I used to smoke too, on and off, rode seriously on and off. One of the times I started smoking again was during my short summer stint as an S.F. messenger...it totally affected my riding, but I rode through it. Of course, I wasn't riding the Marin hills or anything; messengering is different riding. It's more like short sprints around the city (or long ones, if you're going out to the Sunset district) for 10 hours a day. I still don't understand, though, how messengers that smoke hand rolled cigs ride the hills of S.F. on track bikes with tall gears on them, and have legs like iron..(I've seen legs worthy of T.D.F....now, lungs worthy of le Tour..that's a different story.)
And true that about the pre WWII cyclists! I love those old cigarette ads with pro-cyclists endorsments. How hilarious.
keep at it, you'll get there. If you slip up and have a few cigarettes one night, be sure to punish yourself with a painful ride the next day. That's how I did it. In fact, when I'd be out at a bar with friends and was seriously tempted to have a cigarette (alcohol has that tendency to break down all willpower for me; I tend to get that "I don't give a f--- attitude" when drinking); I'd force myself to excuse myself for a couple minutes, sprint around the block a couple times, and it would remind me of the reason I wanted to quit. (I ride everywhere in the city, my bike is usually with me. I highly reccommend it; it really is the manifestation of your guilty conscience!)

Good luck
You've got more that two choicesseth1
Jun 8, 2001 6:41 AM
If riding on the road is too strenuous, think about getting yourself a set of rollers. You can dial in exactly how much resistance you want to work against. They improve your bike-handling skills too.
...about that tattooQUADzilla
Jun 7, 2001 6:21 PM
Before I can be of help, I think that you should post a picture of that tattoo !!!

But, in all seriousness, Like one other person said, drink lots of water. I also smoked through my college years, so I know what you're going through. I also stopped the cravings & night sweats after I disassociated myself from any instance of being around other smokers. Now I can't even stand the smell of second hand smoke. Just keep riding short distances. It won't take long to get back into shape, especially since you had ridden before. I found that that was a great advantage.

If you post a pic of your tattoo, I'll show you mine !!
re: Getting back in shape after quitting smoking...help?Skip
Jun 7, 2001 6:55 PM
If you indeed have an arrhythmia, you need to seek out a cardiologist ASAP.
Smokin' n' Dancin'Breck
Jun 7, 2001 8:47 PM
Getting back in shape is always tough whether one had smoked or not. Would check with the good Dr. though on the BoomBoom unless you got that dancin' :)

Came close to getting the Syncros "Hammer n' Cycle" tattooed on my left calf. May still do it, mebee my 60th b-day comin' up.

Cheers, you cn' do it
re: Can you post progress updates?MichaelC
Jun 7, 2001 9:23 PM
I've been trying without a whole lot of success to quit smoking. But it's time--I like riding a lot more than smoking, and I'm starting to find cigarettes pretty disgusting. Besides, I'm sick of the hills here in Seattle beating me up.

Anyway, if I get to read how you can now slam up hills and bolt along flats a lot faster than when you were smoking, it'll help me kick this damn habit too. And if I remember correctly, there's another board regular quitting--it may help her out too.

For what it's worth, a few things that have helped me drown out cravings in my unsuccessful previous attempts have been caffeine, chocolate, fruit (especially oranges--they give me something to do with my hands), and lots and lots of water.

Maybe this time it'll stick--I'm going to make a really serious attack at quitting starting Monday. E-mail me if you figure out any tricks or want to offer moral support. Maybe an online support group for cyclists who quit smoking is in order :)

And GOOD LUCK!
I must come clean...Lou M
Jun 8, 2001 7:04 AM
Perhaps this is a step in the right direction, I must admit that I still smoke, even through my training. I got back into riding two months ago after a 5 year hiatus. Coincidentally, I have also been smoking close to five years. Although I have cut back signficantly, down to 5/day from a pack, I still yearn to get back home after my morning ride and make some coffe and light one up. Although this is counter-productive, the desire to light one up makes me ride faster on my way back. In all seriousness, I know that I have to quit, I just enjoy that morning cig with a cup of coffee too much. I have made strides in two months, lost 20lbs (actually feel comfortable wearing a jersey) and have increased my avg mph to 18. My first week I was happy to average 14, that's how bad it was. I do look forward to the day when I am nicotine free and pounding those pedals without smoke coming out of my ears.

Good Luck to you. Keep us posted.
re: Can you post progress updates?Ted Vosburgh
Jun 8, 2001 11:56 AM
I can give you one bit of advice about quiting smoking.

When you quit, you should cut back on your caffine intake several weeks before you actually stop smoking. Nicotine helps your system process caffine. If you quit smoking cold turkey and keep drinking the same amount of coffee, it's like doubling your caffine intake. This is one of those hidden things that wreck an attempt to quit.
25 years now since I quit ...bianchi boy
Jun 8, 2001 6:58 AM
It's one of the best things I've done. I was never a heavy smoker, but smoked from when I was about 16 to your age, early 20s. It takes a while to get over the psychological craving for cigarettes, but stick with it and you'll be glad. Here's a few things I learned from my own experience and a number of brothers and sisters who smoked and quit:
-- Quit entirely, cold turkey -- not gradually. You can't just quit now and then and smoke when your drink, or cut back to half a pack, or whatever. Until you totally stop smoking, you'll never break the habit.
-- Activities like cycling or running are great motivators for stopping smoking. My younger brother had a terrible smoking habit and started running when he quit. He decided after a few months that he wanted to run a marathon, and did it within a year after quitting smoking. It really helped him stay focused.
-- Try to avoid situations (like smoky bars) or people who encourage you to smoke. I hate the idea of dropping friends, but certain people are very hard to be around when you're trying to drop bad habits. You know the type -- "just one cigarette won't hurt"
-- Start keeping a training log or journal for your biking. Keep track of your mileage, average speed, etc. It's a great motivator for riding and you'll see the progress you're making.
-- Reward yourself for the money you are saving by not smoking. Take that $3 a day spent on cigarettes and use it to start saving for a new bike, frame, Campy group, bike tour in France, or whatever.
25 years!! And just where do you get off calling yourself "boy?"9WorCP
Jun 8, 2001 1:03 PM
Hmmmmm?
The hill...Velocipedio
Jun 8, 2001 11:57 AM
There was this hill that I used to dread when I smoked. It would just about kill me, and I'd pray that the light would be red at the intersection halfway up, so I could stop and catch my breath. The problem was that I couldn't avoid it on most of my rides...

I quit smoking one March, and it took a while for my wind to come back. One year after quitting, and at the start of a new cycling season [I'm in Montreal], I came to the hill and charged up. before I knew it, I had blown right by the red light where I used to stop. My heart rate and respiration barely changed.

That made the cravings, the sleepless nights, the irritability and the fact that I can't drink a beer without DESPERATELY wanting a smoke all worthwhile. Now I LOOK for climbs rather than avoid them. I wouldn't trade this for anything.
3 weeks now that I haven't had a cigarette.Delia
Jun 8, 2001 3:11 PM
Hey guys,

Well it's my third week and I'm hanging on. I've noticed my lung capacity increase and I'm feeling less tired during my rides. It's great and I encourage everyone who rides and smokes to try to quit. I think the change they see in their ride will be one motivation to keep on the wagon.
I put them down 5/15/01 after ~11 years.Joe B.
Jun 10, 2001 5:58 PM
I've quit so many times, and by so many methods that it's become a joke to my friends and family members. I've tried cold-turkey (two or 3 times) the patch (3 times), the gum (twice), gradual (countless), and Zyban (once) However, because I've tried and failed so many times, I think I've come to see alot of the pitfalls. I'm also fairly certain that I have beaten it this time, because of the lack of "early warning" signs of failure, but who's to say... I'll tell you what I did different this time at some point in this post, but it may not matter, as I think each person's enjoyment of and addiction to smoking is different.

Everyone here has given good advice. The biggest one, which I didn't
figure out until this time, is quit ALL AT ONCE (I'll explain more in a minute). I've "gradually" quit more times than I can count, and I rarely get to less than half a pack/day before it starts to taper back up. Your mileage may vary. Alcohol will almost definitely be a big factor if you are a drinker. You may have to avoid drinking where cigarettes are available to you, or have friends who hate it enough to "control" you in your drinking induced willpower lapses.

If you think you can have "just one" every couple of days, or every day, and maintain, you are almost definitely fooling yourself. I've also tried that, "rewarding" myself with a smoke after work for getting through the day w/o one. You may be an exception (or maybe I was), but I'll almost guarantee that you will ramp right back up to a pack a day (or whatever your norm is)inside 3 weeks if you try this. You will convince yourself that 1 a day is succeeding. Then, on a given occasion (stress, drinking, whatever), you'll tell yourself that 2 on THAT day is ok. You'll go a few days with only 1 again, then figure that since you are still maintaining, it's OK to have 2 again, because (again) of stress, drinking, whatever. This will happen more often, progress to 3, 4, whatever. Next thing you know, you are a smoker again. Once you quit, you quit, and you must look at each cigarette (if any) from that moment forward as failure. If you cut yourself NO slack regarding looking at cheating as failure, I think it helps alot.

I'm taking Zyban (somewhat expensive, and uncovered by alot of insurance -- including mine) right now. It seems that everyone does Zyban a little differently, but here's what I did. You don't have to quit right away, so I didn't. I had heard that it would practically make you "forget" to smoke after it got into your system for awhile, by acting on your nervous system in a way similar to the nicotine, hence causing the nicotine to be less of a "treat", making the smokes less enjoyable to your body. I'm not a doctor, and this is a very loose layman's interpretation of what I was told. It didn't quite do that, but I gave it a good month+ before saying "this is my quit date". In that time, my smoking naturally tapered (with no effort) from about 1.5 packs/day to slightly less than 1 pack/day. I picked the 15th as my quit, cheated a few times the next 3 or 4 days, and (unless I've forgotten one) have been good since. I can't remember the last time I've gotten this far, and I have NO urge to smoke again. (Still taking the zyban, though, and will for about another month.) After the first week+ of not smoking, I really had almost as little desire to smoke as I do now.

I'd get the heart thing checked, only because I've never been told to expect that, and I think you should worry about anything involving your heart.

MOOD SWINGS. I don't mean grumpiness... I mean MOOD SWINGS. For about the first week, my mood was like a pendulum, from one end of the spectrum to the other, and I didn't need outside influences to get it swinging. I SUSPECT that this was the nicotine getting out of my system, as I've always heard it's 3 days to a week to clean out. That's another reason not to cheat. At one point, I wondered about the swin
Grr... just saw that post is cut off for no apparent reason...Joe B.
Jun 10, 2001 7:21 PM
Well, it was overly wrong anyway. I think all that got cut off was that since the mood swings quit within 4 days after I stopped the "cheating" smokes, I think that the cheating was "resetting" the withdrawal symptoms.

Also, as your lungs begin to clean out, you will get a very bad "smoker's" (or ex-smoker's) cough at first. Be heartened by this, and let the foul taste of what comes up in this time be motivating in itself -- knowing that it is only coming from your lungs because smoking put it there.

And there was a general apology about the post being so darn long!

Good luck! I loved every cigarette I ever had, but I am very happy to be rid of them now!

Joe-- Experiencing a vague frustration at the technical peculiarities that sometimes crop up posting on this board.
re: Getting back in shape after quitting smoking...help?MeDotOrg
Jun 11, 2001 9:33 AM
First of all, congatulations! I*'m not a doctor, but as someone who got into cycling after smoking for 35 years....

You don't say whether you are using a nicoderm patch or nicorette gum, but those will still raise your blood pressure. If the heart arrythymia continues, I would definitely see a doctor. I would error a little on the side of caution (i.e., not train at 100%) for a month or so while your blood pressure comes down and your lungs clear out.

I've heard that you all the cells in you lungs replace themselves every 6 months. My personal experience is that you will see a dramatic increase in your lung capacity in the first 3 weeks.

Be patient. Give your body time. Nicotine can function as an anti-depressant. Some doctors prescribe Zyban for smokers while they are quitting. Exercise is also great for combating the effects of nicotine withdrawal. You'll be amazed at how quickly things get better.

Keep at it! And if YOU wanted to inspire the riders on this board, you could post a picture of your chainring ;-)