Smoking and high endurance sports don’t mix. Not only does smoking impact your ability to exercise and especially your stamina over the short-term, the long term health effects of smoking are devastating for your lungs. If you’re a high-endurance sportsperson and you smoke, quitting is absolutely essential.
If you’re involved with high endurance sport, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that you shouldn’t smoke. Although smoking carries risks for everyone, if you’re trying to perform to the best of your physical ability, smoking is completely out of the question. As well as having many long-term impacts on your lung health, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke also displaces oxygen in your red blood cells and impacts on your endurance. The lesson is simple but important: high endurance sports athletes should stop smoking as soon as possible.
Smoking and Endurance: Why Athletes Shouldn’t Smoke
Most athletes – whether you’re involved with high-endurance sports like cycling, swimming, track sports and soccer or even lower-endurance ones – will have been advised to avoid smoking. But why? What does smoking do to your body that makes it especially harmful for athletes?
Although there are other factors too, the impact of smoking on the supply of oxygen to your muscles is the most relevant issue. Your muscles use oxygen as a source of energy, and require a constant supply to keep everything working as it should. For a non-smoker, this isn’t an issue. Their blood has a ready supply of oxygen, and it can be delivered to their muscles as fast as their heart can work.
When you smoke, carbon monoxide changes all of this. The chemical has the ability to displace the oxygen being carried by your red blood cells, which means smokers have less oxygen available to deliver to their muscles. To make things even worse, smoking causes your blood vessels to constrict, reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to your muscles even further, and making your heart have to work even harder to get the same results.
This is why smokers get tired and feel out of breath much quicker than non-smokers. The fact that smoking causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath makes this effect even worse. The simple conclusion is that if you want to perform at your best, you should quit smoking as soon as possible.
More Serious Health Effects of Smoking: Why High Endurance Sports and Smoking Don’t Mix
The shorter-term effects of smoking on your ability to exercise are only one group of the reasons high endurance sports and smoking don’t mix. The effects of smoking on your lungs are wide-ranging and severe. Lung cancer is one of the most well-known examples, with smokers being between 25 and 26 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is another serious impact of smoking on your lungs. This includes conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, both of which cause suffers a lot of problems with breathing. This can make simple tasks like climbing the stairs feel like feats of endurance, so high-endurance sport is absolutely out of the question if you’re suffering from COPD. If you suffer from asthma, smoking can also make this worse, so it’s yet another reason to avoid cigarettes.
Are There Any Runners Who Smoke Cigarettes?
As you may expect, people who run or engage in high-endurance sports are less likely to smoke than other people. The demands of the sport on your body make smoking an even worse idea than it usually is. However, there are still some runners who smoke cigarettes, and people involved in other high-endurance sports sometimes smoke too.
According to a survey conducted by Runner’s World magazine, about 6 percent of the 2,500 respondents said they smoked cigarettes. This is much lower than the rate in the general population, but it still represents over one in twenty runners, who should know the impacts of smoking better than anybody. Similar results have been obtained by peer-reviewed research, which consistently shows that people engaging in sports sometimes smoke, but are much less likely to than non-participators.
Quitting Smoking for High Endurance Sportspeople
If you are involved in high endurance sports and you smoke, you’ll have undoubtedly noticed the impact it has on your performance. You’ll feel out of breath before your non-smoking buddies do. You’ll probably struggle to win races, and you’ll probably be one of the most tired people after training sessions.
The most important thing is to quit smoking as soon as you can. The good news is that you can use the same approaches to quitting smoking as anybody else. Whether you choose an alternative nicotine product like patches, gums or smokeless tobacco, to attend counseling, or to use a medication such as Chantix, you can increase your chances of quitting and staying smoke-free. If you have the willpower and the motivation, and are willing to stick at it, fight through cravings and keep trying even in the face of set-backs, you’ll be smoke-free in no time.