Quitting smoking is difficult. If you don’t think it is, ask literally anyone who has smoked, or currently does. Many will tell you, in no uncertain terms, that it’s a habit worth kicking, but it feels impossible to do so. You may even be a smoker yourself, in which case you know exactly what we’re talking about.
You might think that you’re doomed to be a smoker forever, but you’re not. And two ex-smokers are hoping to help you out: Director for Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention at the Canadian Cancer Society, John Atkinson; and Running Room founder John Stanton.
The duo conducted a pilot study in 2013, hoping to see if pairing a running regimen with cessation techniques would amount to participants going smoke-free. And, frankly, on a small scale, it worked. Now, at first, Stanton balked at the retention rate numbers. He saw 28 per cent success rate (as in, they quit smoking and didn’t pick it up again), and like many people would, he viewed it as quite low. But he soon realized that it was far greater than the 4 per cent success rate that the Canadian Cancer Society sees from its annual campaigns.
So, they had something. But what would they do with it? Well, they’re starting Run To Quit, a 10-week program that teaches you to run 5 km , all the while giving you assistance with quitting. But don’t worry, you are not required to be a runner now, and if you haven’t ever run in your life, that’s okay, too. We’re sure you have a lot of questions, so let us help answer them:
How much is this going to cost me?
The beauty of Run to Quit is the options. The in-store option is $70 (that’s $7 per week), and what you do is quite simple. Every week, you go to the Running Room store closest to you, and for 20 minutes you talk to people about learning how to quit, you share stories, and you find people you can lean on. Next comes the running – Atkinson says, “This program is for any fitness level. Start with walking if you need to.” You won’t be shamed for going too slow, because this isn’t about becoming Usain Bolt, it’s about making a change in your habits. You gotta walk before you run, right?
If you’re not into group exercise, that’s totally fine. Run to Quit also has an online option, and it’s $50 ($5 per week). Basically, you get all of the same support, but through forums, extensive, easy-t0-read tutorials, video, audio and e-mails from a coach. This way, you can do your runs and still get the advice you need. But y’know, privately.
On a tight budget? The last option is Commit to Quit, which is completely solo but also 100 per cent free. At the end of the 10 weeks, you’d run or walk the 5 km with everyone else, but you do it without the bells and whistles.
The best part, we think, is the fact that everyone gets a follow-up call from their provincial quit line, which is super-helpful because people may feel left behind. Also? Participants get a substantial coupon for nicotine replacement therapy (think gums and sprays).
Why the hell would I do this?
Well, beyond quitting, there are prizes. And who the hell doesn’t love prizes? Having an incentive is actually really helpful to the whole quitting process, because you’re keeping your eyes on something tangible. While, yeah, of course a healthier life is the ultimate gift, maybe winning cold hard cash or a car can sweeten the pot. Hey, it’s difficult to quit, but that doesn’t mean getting there can’t be fun!
Why should I listen to these guys?
Well, because you might see parts of yourself in them. Atkinson tells us, “I was 250+ pounds, and a 2 pack-a-day smoker. I had quit about nine times, and didn’t succeed. I tried everything. I was just really, really addicted.” Stanton’s story is similar, too. “I was 238 pounds, overweight and a smoker. My father had died early from heart disease, my brother had heart disease – I thought, ‘I’m an ideal candidate for having a heart problem, if I don’t do something about my smoking and weight.'”
These are their beginnings. Atkinson walked before he ran, and slowly got to a place where he was running comfortably, substituting a negative addiction with a positive one. For Stanton, he says it all started with a “fun run,” two words he’d never thought he’d live to see together. He did it with his kids, and quickly realized he was out of shape. So then he tried to quit, but it wasn’t instantaneous. He’d still run – one block, then huff and puff, then repeat – and peaked at 5 km. He couldn’t do anymore.
He asked a colleague who ran why he couldn’t get past 5 km, and his co-worker said, “maybe you should quit smoking.”
So, yeah, they may have amazing jobs, but they’re real people. They were where you are now, and they want to help.
Okay, fine, I want to do this. Where do I go?
It’s quite simple. Check out the Run to Quit website and join. See you at the finish line.