Running is addictive. Once you start seriously, you’re in a constant battle to run further, to improve on a personal best (PB), and to generally become better at your new hobby. However, it is a physically demanding sport that requires peak physical fitness.

Runners are constantly seeking ways to improve their performance, whether it is through training, new gear such as sneakers, or peer support. It’s addictive and habit-forming, but it may also require you to break another habit; smoking. There’s no doubt runners should abstain from smoking, as it has numerous adverse effects on their health and overall performance.

Here are some reasons runners should give up smoking and tips on doing so.

The Negative Effects of Smoking on Running

There are many negative effects of smoking that affect the body outside of running, as this article explains, but there are some specific to runners to be aware of.

Respiratory Health

One of the most obvious consequences of smoking for runners is the damage it inflicts on their respiratory system. Smoking introduces harmful chemicals into the lungs, causing inflammation and narrowing of the airways, which restricts the capability to draw breath. Lung capacity is a critical factor in endurance sports like running, as runners rely on their ability to breathe efficiently to supply their muscles with oxygen.

Reduced Oxygen Transport

Speaking of oxygen, not only does smoking diminish lung function, but also interferes with the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen in the bloodstream, struggles to bind with oxygen in the presence of carbon monoxide, a component of cigarette smoke. As a result, smokers experience a drop in their oxygen-carrying capacity, which directly impacts their energy levels during runs.

Impaired Recovery

Recovery is an integral part of a runner's training regime, as it allows the body to heal and come back stronger. If you find your PB creeping up or that you can run further day by day, it’s because your body recovers, repairs, and prepares for you to go again. Smoking hinders this process in several ways; firstly, it reduces blood flow, limiting the delivery of essential nutrients to muscles. Secondly, smoking increases inflammation, prolonging recovery times and increasing the risk of injuries. As we explored in our article on injuries by Harold Tinsley, they can be challenging to get over, even for non-smokers.

How to Give Up

Giving up smoking is not as straightforward as simply not lighting up – it’s physically addictive, and therefore you may need to try a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help satisfy the cravings.

Nicotine Pouches

One of the most efficient ways to absorb nicotine without combustion is using a nicotine pouch. These are small pouches that fit between the lip and the gum, which allow nicotine to be absorbed into the bloodstream. They’re discreet, they come in a range of flavors and strengths, and could certainly be used on a run. Popular brands include ZYN, On!, and Velo, all with distinct flavors such as cinnamon or wintergreen. Be aware – they usually last for between 30 minutes to an hour, so whilst they’d suit someone on a 5k or 10k run, they wouldn’t be suitable for half marathon distances, as they need disposing of. Also, if you click here, you'll discover there are some side effects of ZYN pouches that runners might need to be aware of, such as upset stomachs and hiccups, which could hinder a run. These are issues some users have across the brands, but they’re not particularly common.

Nicotine Patches

Nicotine patches are another option for runners. Like pouches, they deliver a nicotine dose without combustion, but they fix to the body like a band-aid. They’re discreet and have been on the market for many years. They’re also more suitable for longer-distance runners wanting to fight off cravings, as they can last for up to 24 hours. Popular brands include Nicoderm CQ and Nicorette patches. There are some side effects to Nicoderm CQ patches, as following this link reveals, which include sore skin where they fix to the body, and you could suffer from headaches. Both could hinder your efforts to hit that PB, but as with pouches, they have minor side effects when balanced against the effects of smoking.


Running and smoking do not go together at all. If you want to do the former, you absolutely need to address the latter, and hopefully, we’ve demonstrated not only why you have to but also how you can set about becoming smoke-free to get that elusive PB.

Article written by Ressie Jane