A little background on me: I have terrible lungs, and I do mean terrible. My mom and dad smoked while my mom was pregnant and for the first nine years of my life. At the time smoking wasn't considered too dangerous and so people did it every freaking where. I remember going to the movies and seeing the haze of cigarette smoke cover the bottom of the screen, or eating in a restaurant in the non smoking section and still being able to smell it. I remember being able to smoke in malls but not the individual stores and seeing it on just about every tv show. So I don't blame my parents for my lung quality, I just accept that the smoke did some damage. It didn't help that I started smoking at 17 either. I quit after only five years though. I was short of breath standing still and waiting for a pay phone which is when I realized I was damaging my lungs even further.
Anyway, because of the cigarettes (I assume) my lungs have never had anything that resembles endurance. In school I could sprint for short distances because I inherited strong, shapely legs from my dad. But anything that involved a run of longer than fifteen seconds (seriously) I just couldn't manage. The best way to describe it is to say that every time I inhaled it felt like I wasn't absorbing any oxygen from the air at all. No matter how much I panted I just couldn't feel like I was actually breathing. Couple that with the fact that my heart felt like it would literally explode in my chest from trying to pump so fast and you have my experience running and jogging. The last time I jogged was to get a newspaper from the box down the block. I was in a rush so I jogged to the box. Or, more accurately, I jogged about forty feet before I was desperately gasping for air, sweating, and trying to calm my heart down. It took the remainder of the walk to the box and the walk back to my front door to get my breathing under control.
Enter the treadmill. My mom gave me her treadmill when she moved because she had no room for it in her new place. I've been using it for a little over a month now but not every day as I'm just not that energetic. I'd just read in a book how the main character had tried jogging but was able to only go for five minutes (which felt like twenty to the character) and had a similar breathing experience to mine. Every day the character would add a minute to the run until she was able to run with her friend for the full half hour. So. I was getting used to walking on the treadmill and walking at the maximum incline of 15. I was doing a fast walk, but a walk nonetheless. Then one day I wondered if I could jog for the last three minutes of the program on a low incline - like 2 - so I tried it...and I did it. That was my first jog in something like seven years.
The next time I was on the treadmill I jogged for the last four minutes, then five, and so on until I jogged for nine minutes. Each time I made sure to pay attention to my lungs and heart to make sure I wasn't in distress. I thought I'll only continue as long as I'm still getting oxygen and my heart doesn't hurt. After all, I'm still using them so there's no point in damaging them beyond repair. Each day I noticed that I would recover my breathing by the time I got up the stairs and went to my water glass (the treadmill is in the basement). I found I was miraculously able to breathe easily after a very short recovery period.
When I got on the treadmill yesterday morning I thought "hey, I wonder if I can walk for five minutes, jog for ten, walk for five, etc. until my whole 45 minute routine is up..." So instead of moving the incline up every minute or so I just kept it on 4 and only changed the speed. I did the walk for five minutes and then moved up to a speed of 4.6. Ok, not fast but that's a jog for me.
Once my ten minutes were up and the time on the treadmill read '30' (it counts down, not up) I wondered if I could make it to 25 while still jogging. So I did. I got to 25 and wondered if I could make it to 24, and 23, and 22 and so on. And I did. When I got to the last two minutes I told myself that quitting now would just be stupid and disappointing so I kept going. In the last minute I increased the speed every ten seconds so that I ended at a full-out run. All told I jogged for 40 minutes without stopping or decreasing the speed. And my lungs felt good, clear, spongy, and absorbent. My heart felt strong and capable. My legs felt kinda noodle-y so the trip up the stairs required some concentration. But I still recovered my breathing shortly after getting up the stairs.
So here I am, about to turn 40 and I have better lungs than I ever have in my life. And it's because I trained them to do better without hurting myself. I am so proud of me :)