Thursday, February 4, 2010

I'm proving that running beats pneumonia

I couldn't believe what I was hearing from my doctor. I had just gone through 30 minutes of tests with the respiratory therapist and my results were in my doctor's hand. "Your lung capacity is back in the normal range. When you came in on January 4 you were only at 50%. You're getting close to a full recovery. The running and exercise are helping. Keep doing that and steadily increase your distances as you see fit." I didn't tell him that I'd signed up for a grueling trail race that's less than a month away. I know enough to keep my mouth shut once I've made the sale.

Despite the encouraging words from my pulmonologist it wasn't all good news. Almost all traces of pneumonia are gone from my lungs but there's still some residual infection. My breathing capacity is far improved but I'm slightly below normal in terms of breathing efficiency, another metric they they use to gauge progress. I was assured that if I maintain the current recovery path the efficiency number will soon rise.

I took on the elliptical this morning thinking it would be an easier alternative to a treadmill run. From the start it felt hard. The effort required to maintain my usual pace, even at a lower level of resistance, was surprisingly high. Despite my recent respiratory problems my breathing has been rock solid since I started running again. However, this morning it took over five minutes to fall into a comfortable aerobic rhythm. I did a total of 25 minutes and stepped off the machine feeling like I'd run the equivalent time at a fast pace. My wife suggested that all the testing I did last night took more out of me than I'd realized. I'll buy that explanation. Back to the treadmill tomorrow and back to the headlamp and the road at 4AM (next week) if it feels right.


  1. Hi there!! I am currently recovering from pneumonia and am a runner as well. I had hoped to run my 1st half marathon on June 5th but am now back to square one in my training. I WAS up to 6 miles at a good pace for me but now can't even run 2 miles. I am very frustrated but after reading your post am hopeful! Thank you!

  2. Good morning!

    Pneumonia can be a scary thing and, yes, recovering from it will set you back on your training. You will come back, and it will happen faster than you might think. I'd table that half marathon plan for a while but you may want to aim for an early/mid summer 5K or 4 miler as a goal.

    I ran a rigorous 6K trail race less than two months after coming home from the hospital. Ideally I would have waited another couple of weeks but the race date was set!

    I recommend a steady but reasonably moderate return to mileage. If you are at 2 miles now, aim to be comfortable running 3 by June. Once you can run three miles without great effort or discomfort you can consider yurself back in true training mode. Best of luck on your recovery. If you can run 2 miles now you're doing fine.

  3. I am just getting over pneumonia. My Dr. knew I was a runner. Levofloxacin was the antibiotic that was prescribed which I took for 10 days. During the last week of antibiotics, I was able to walk up to 3 miles @ 4 MPH on the treadmill, taking occasional breaks. After I was off my antibiotic, I went for a 1 mile run. Before the end, both my Achilles and my calves developed pain. After researching the drug, I found numerous blogs regarding the drug Levofloxacin, showing it can cause tendonitis, and in most cases of runners, in the Achilles tendon. The lungs were alright, but the pain came out of nowhere. I have not found a definitive answer as to how long the drug stays in your muscles and tendons, however the damage is done. Anyway, if you are taking the drug Levofloxacin, don't run, or better yet, make sure your Dr. prescribes a different antibiotic. It is going to be a long recovery.

    1. Wow, your doctor should have known to warn you about the side effects of that drug regardless of whether you were a runner. Since I have zero medical training I can't speculate when the drug will fully metabolize. Hopefully you can manage in the meantime by treating the symptoms of tendinitis and concentrating on cross training around different muscles. I wish you a speedy recovery!

  4. Hi,
    I am really interested in your blog as you have the first positive pneumonia recovery story I have seen. I am wondering how you are feeling now and if you have beat it?
    I came down with pneumonia 25 days ago and have returned to running with less intensity this week. Every one tells me I am crazy and that I will just make the pneumonia come back but I am feeling good. My lungs are not what they were pre pneumonia but breathing while running is ok. I am not feeling too fatigued either. Very keen to hear how you are going.

    1. Hi - It's great that you've resumed running while staying cautious about your level of intensity. My recommendation is to error on the side of caution and resist temptation to turn up the burner too quickly in response to feeling stronger.

      My timeline for getting through pneumonia was approximately 45 days. I carefully worked up to my prior speed and distances (for the most part) and I think that was the key to gaining a full recovery. At the 25 day point you likely have some healing going on and while running will help that, too much intensity could lead to a setback. I overdid it on a run about three weeks after leaving the hospital and regretted it.

      I believe it took me eight weeks to get to 100% parity with my fitness level prior to the illness. Once I got there I had no aerobic issues and seven years later I remain symptom free. I wish you a speedy and full recovery. I really do think running is the best medicine. Just watch the dosage!

  5. I don't know if the guy above can see this but I had pneumonia with sepsis and on a ventilator for 7 days. This almost exactly a year ago and two weeks after a BQ. I started running months before they anticipated. Started at a whopping 12 min miles for two miles. Increased mileage over weeks and months and pace came along with it. Now a year later going after a BQ again. I still have damage in my lungs but have done breathing exercises all year with "expand a lung". It gets better but it's hard work.

    1. That's a great comeback story! I thought my experience was awful but that must have been devastating. I don't know if pneumonia damaged my lungs but I occasionally struggle anaerobically. I hope your BQ happens soon. I PB'd in almost every distance a year after my recovery. The best is yet to come for you.


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