To Jog or Not to Jog?
Quite a while ago I wrote an article discussing jogging and the impact it can have on your training, health and overall performance and outcomes. The article was good (I am probably a bit biased though) but I wanted to revisit it and update as my thoughts on jogging have changed, ever so slightly.
Check it out…
Sometimes knowing what not to do is more important than knowing what to do. Taking away a negative is many times more valuable than trying to add a positive. A few years ago one simple statement was made that again punched me square in the teeth with this concept.
That weekend I was fortunate enough to make my way to Cressey Performance (my place of internship and a great facility with some really smart dudes and killer athletes).
There I attended a workshop that was presented by Chad Waterbury.
Chad specializes in the nervous system and its impact on performance. We covered everything from assessment to programming, and focused on correcting, priming and building explosive athletes.
When it was all said and done I took a few key things away, but one statement really stayed with me when I left. It is a statement I have heard time and again, and a statement that has been getting a lot of “coverage” in the strength and conditioning world, but it was good to hear again…and the way in which it was expressed was pretty comical.
On the notes for the presentation it read “Jogging attenuates explosiveness,” but when Chad got to this point he said something to the effect, “If you want your athletes to jump lower and sprint slower, add jogging into their program.”
He gave numerous examples ranging from himself to professional volleyball, tennis, MMA athletes and more, stating that when jogging was added into their program, performance, especially explosive ability, was negatively impacted.
I thought about it and had to agree. I also couldn’t help but think of all of the athletes that I work with who experience overuse injuries as a result of pounding the pavement day after day.
But, it is not as easy to say “just stop jogging/running” in order to mitigate the negative effects on explosiveness and overuse injuries (as well as body composition, hormone levels and more).
Rather, I am suggesting that it is how you are jogging that really matters.
This includes running mechanics, the intensity and the distance of the jog, as well as what you are trying to accomplish by jogging.
To actually cover all of the concepts related to running mechanics would take much more than this article, in fact there are books written about it. So I am not even going to attempt to delve into great detail here.
What I will mention is that sometimes changing the mechanics is enough to allow an athlete to continue jogging/running without accruing enough stress to push them past threshold…a good thing.
Some simple changes could be making sure you are striking the ground softly and quietly, keeping your feet in line with your hips (don’t allow your feet to cross over the midline of the body), pitch forward ever so slightly to prevent running in an excessively extended posture, and try to keep your abs engaged slightly to help prevent unwanted rotation.
I will also mention that changing the mechanics will have only little impact on mitigating the negative effects jogging has on explosive ability, body composition or hormone levels.
Whether your jogging closely resembles a drunk baby giraffe trying to make its way across the savanna, or your jogging form is poetry in motion, the energy systems you are utilizing will still negatively impact explosive ability, if you are jogging like most do…read on for this part.
When most of us go out for a jog we are going out to burn some calorie, increase aerobic fitness and simply “get tired.”
Much of the time this leaves us jogging with a heart rate somewhere in the range of 150-170 which for most is the “zone” where the body is in an optimal state to promote and build aerobic characteristics, but is “in-between” zones of recovery and anaerobic (explosive) training.
Aerobic characteristics are not bad as every athlete needs a solid aerobic base, but by placing moderate aerobic stress (neither low or high) on the body it will respond by getting better aerobically, thus “shifting” your explosive characteristics (fiber type and composition) more towards endurance characteristics…not a good thing if you are trying to throw a baseball as hard as possible, shoot a lacrosse ball at a high rate of speed or simply look more like a sprinter than a marathoner.
So instead of trying to go out for a “hard jog” that will help you build a less explosive, weaker and more injury prone body, if you are going to jog, make sure that you are jogging at an “easy” pace, or if you are up for it, sprint.
Easy pace jogging (think of a 4-5 on a 10 scale) can help to enhance recovery and achieve the benefits of aerobic training without compromising your explosive capacity.
And sprinting, well that is explosiveness at its best.
Also, staying away from a hard jog will help limit repetitious impact force, decreasing injury potential. And with jogging at an easy pace, you can actually enjoy your surroundings, which is half the reason we get out and jog…and there is nothing wrong with that!
Along with jogging at an easier pace, you must consider the distance and volume of jogging.
Distance and Volume
This is pretty straight forward…don’t jog for too long of a distance or too often!
Going out for long jogs promotes the body to shift more towards endurance qualities (slow twitch, aerobic qualities, etc.).
Also, long jogs place a lot of repetitive stress on the system which just begs for overuse injuries…think plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, knee pain, back pain, etc.
But this does not mean that you can go out for 10 one mile runs throughout the day and be in the clear. Jogging too often will have similar effects of jogging too long of a distance as it comes down to total volume.
Keep your jogs on shorter side and don’t jog day after day.
Why are you jogging?
If you are going for a jog to get in shape, STOP!!! To run or jog effectively, you will want to be in decent conditioning already, and have accrued some strengthening of the tendons and ligaments before placing excessive force on them.
There are many more effective ways to do this, and enhance aerobic capacity besides going out for a jog such.
These include low intensity circuits (blood flow, corrective, etc.), strongman movements at a lower intensity (sleds, carries, etc.) as well as swimming and other lower impact activities.
If you are going out for a jog to help enhance recovery of a strenuous training session or competition, or if you just want to get out and enjoy nature, I understand. Just remember to take it easy and stay away from trying to set a PR (personal record!).
What To Do
If your goal is to be as explosive as possible, as strong as possible, as lean and injury free as possible, consider scratching jogging from your program, or at the very least, approach it differently than most of us do.
If you do go out for a jog, make sure the intensity stays low, the distance stays relatively short and you are out to enjoy the run and promote recovery, not add more stress to the system.
And don’t get me wrong, an athlete/individual who is physically fit should be able to jog/run, and if it is your sport you obviously need to do so, but if your goal is to be a more explosive, stronger, leaner and more injury free athlete, jogging, especially “hard jogging” is not something you want to be doing on the reg.
And remember, you can perform low intensity circuits, strongman circuits or even better if you are physically prepared to do so, some short duration sprint work to help enhance your conditioning levels and “get in shape.” If you’d like more help with how to do this, simply reach out.
If this opened your eyes, ruffled your feathers or got you thinking “Ooohh, that is why…” make sure you leave a comment or question below and share the info!