Plague of the Joggers

Did you go outside on Friday?  I hope you did, because it was gorgeous out.  The temperature went up to 70 on Long Island, and I took full advantage of the nice weather by going outside for a run.  I’ve been sprinting on the past few Fridays, and I decided to opt out of my normal windsprints on Adelphi’s indoor track to go on a casual jog around my neighborhood.  After an hour of playing drums I was pretty sweaty, so I strapped on my Vibrams and headed out.  As I traveled through the tiny parks down the block from my house, I passed a number of people riding their bikes and walking their dogs, and I saw more people jogging than I thought I would.  We exchanged waves and nods, and as I slowly began to think about why so mean people jog.

Jogging is easy, free, and recommended by every ‘expert’ in the world.  We’ve been running since we were a few years old, learning to move faster and faster.  Aerobic fitness is promoted in physical education, in by major health organizations, and by every magazine published diet in the world.  Open up your latest issue of Cosmo and you’ll find that that low-fat cookies, avoiding protein, and going for jogs is the answer to life.

There are plenty of people that run on a consistent basis, and it provides them with physical and mental benefits; going for a run is certainly better than sitting on the couch watching American Idol.  Outside of competitive runners however, it seems that people only run, and prioritize their fitness, on occasion.  If we’re not getting ready for a wedding or vacation, it flows with the seasons:  We make resolutions for the New Year, prepare for spring break, and tone up the beach body.  Not surprisingly, this rarely works.

This intermittent strategy usually causes your weight to yo-yo with your activity patterns, and sets you up for overuse injuries.  I’ll be the last person to tell you to go for a jog, or run to get in shape; the efficiency of it sucks, and there are much better things you can do to get in shape.  The phrase “Don’t run to get fit, get fit to run” can be attributed to Mike Boyle, and he’s totally right. Often, running will lead to pain and injury before it makes you look and feel better.  Plus, you probably wouldn’t want to look like a distance runner anyway.

Despite this, conventional wisdom and mental/physical laziness will cause people to use running as their primary (hopefully not only) source of exercise to get in shape.  This will change one day, when children everywhere are inspired to squat and sprint for their fitness.  (I can dream, can’t I?)  While the benefits of a proper strength and conditioning program are far greater than those of a jogging program, people will run.

If you’re going to run, do it the right way.  Regardless of the miles you cover or the speed you run at, you’ll do better running with proper technique.  If you’re wondering what this means, then you should watch the video below, and then throw out your Shox.  (Try NOT to replace them with a pair of $150 New Balance!)

I’m not recommending to go out and run barefoot; you’re destined to get glass in your foot, even if you use Chris’s high-tech ‘eyeball’ solution.  If you develop proper technique, which enables you to run in minimalist footwear, you’ll put far less stress, wear and tear on your body.  The fact presented about shoe thickness and impact forces is important, because nothing works better than your body.  If you insist on running, make sure you do it the way your body intended; take short steps that allow you to lightly land on the middle of your foot.  You’ll run safer, which means you can run longer and faster.

Hopefully, all of this running brings you into the gym where you lift through full ranges of motion, get stronger, and feel better, and then you can do all of the sprinting you want to increase your fitness.  Unfortunately, as the weather continues to become nicer, there will be plenty of people soaking in the sun and running on the roads.  While many of them will also strength train, interval train, and recover properly, many more will begin and end with aerobic activity.  If done the right way, it’s something great that can make you healthier and contribute to a healthy life; just don’t become over-injured, underweight, and chronically injured high-mileage zealots.

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