Couch to 5K

Help, I can't breathe!

Hi All, this is my first post to the forum but I know you're a friendly bunch so I'm sure that you'll be able to help...I graduated about a month ago, since then I've struggled with my breathing during each 30 minute run. Today I managed a good 20 minutes running then had to stop for a 5 minute walk before getting my breath back and finishing with a 5 minute run. How can I improve my breathing so I can run the full distance without having to stop to catch my breath? I'm puzzled as to why this is happening now when I managed a 30 minute run on 4 occasions before I graduated. Thanks for any advice.

7 Replies

I think there may be a couple of things going on here.

One could be that you are simply setting off too fast and running out of steam In which case the only answer is to deliberately go slowly.

The other is that you have developed a bit of a mental block about it, in which case you could try running a different route so that there are no visual triggers about 'this is where I normally get puffed', or run to different music and without a watch.

Whatever the reason, I'm sure it's just a temporary blip and you will soon be over it.

Good luck!


Does running 30 minutes every time matter? I think the period just after graduation is the toughest, because you no longer have the programme to follow. Try deliberately mixing it up with a shorter interval run, or a longer session that you run / walk.


Breathing is really important to get right. I suggest starting ur deep slow breathing on the warm up walk to get oxygen moving. Make sure your pace is nice and steady and that you are not running too fast. As u run, keep breathing slowly and deeply - I was told that if your shoulders are relaxed, more air can get into ur lungs.

Make sure you don't have any medical conditions, it would be worth going for a check up with ur GP just in case. Let us know how it goes. Julie 😀


Hi Rachel, I graduated in November and have been running for 30 mins with my own music (no Laura now) a couple of times a


I find the first few mins tough then im ok but also hit a hard patch at 20 mins or so. I manage to push through this then for the last 10 mins my breathing comes easily and my legs just seem to carry me along. When I feel puffed

I blow out a few long breaths which seems to help me.

I think Ullyrunner may be right and you are setting off too fast and running out of steam.

Its not the best weather to be running in but there will be plenty of better runs this year. Keep going and good luck.


I have a similar problem although the cause is probably different. When i started running i always managed to finish without ever stopping even when totally fatigued i just struggled but never stopped. Over the course of time the distances i ran increased and my pace also increased significantly, i had no problems at all in the first 2 years of running. Then on one particular run with just 200 metres to go my windpipe closed without warning so i was unable to breath in or out.

This condition started occurring on a regular basis.

The only cure was to stop for a significant amount of time, even then it kept returning when i started running again..

I analysed the reason why it was happening, concentrated on my breathing, slowed my pace when nearing the end of a run but could not totally overcome it. It sometimes occurred on park runs even with the finish line in sight i would have to stop.

I sought medical advice and have been diagnosed with vocal chord dysfunction which is apparently fairly common especially amongst singers and elite athletes. The vocal chord opens and closes the airways; when running it should open more to enable you take in more air but with VCD it closes so you are unable to breath. I have no idea how elite athletes can compete with the condition but it is all about breathing 'correctly'. Like most people i breath what i consider to be naturally. The cure is either an operation or controlling your breathing. I'm told it can be caused by stress which is very likely in my case.

I have no idea if the condition is the same but i thought i would respond as i struggled to find any condition on the net which mirrored the condition i had.


The others have provided sound advice and I don't have an answer but I thought I would just chip in with my personal experience.

I only started the programme in October and found that I was wheezing and finding it difficult to get to the end of each of the runs. At the end of each run I would sit and cough for what seemed like eternity trying to get my breathing under control. Eventually I went to the local medical centre and got an appointment with the asthma nurse who suggested I may have a condition which has a medical term that I've forgotten, but is known as exercise induced asthma. She gave me an inhaler to try and I am maintaining a record for a further visit to the nurse but the inhaler has made a vast improvement. I take a couple of puffs of the inhaler before I go out and am able to run for 30 minutes. I haven't really pushed myself to go longer than 30-35 minutes or so because I am wanting to consolidate this range before progressing.

Of course there may be many reasons for your particular shortness of breath, I also fall short of the 30 minutes if I start too quickly, but it is well worth a visit to the local GP or nurse to determine if there is an underlying medical condition.

Hope this helps.

1 like

I think Ullyrunner is spot on. The three things she mentions are classic reasons and I have suffered for all three! It is easy to feel complacent when you are not following Laura but you still need to keep yourself in check. Of course there will still be those days when you run or breath badly for no apparent reason but there is no solution to that. Keep at t and good luck.


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