Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Never-Ending Story (Not the Movie): Running vs. Jogging

The word "jogging" strikes fear in the hearts of runners everywhere. My mother says on occasion, "I saw you out jogging yesterday," at which point I give her a look (see image below) and she responds by quickly correcting herself, "Oh, I mean running." Non-runners may think the two disparate terms are synonyms. So why is it such a big deal? It just is. According to Merriam-Webster, as an intransitive verb, to "jog" is to "run or ride at a slow trot; to go at a slow, leisurely, or monotonous pace; to trudge." That "trudge" really causes me to cringe. One trudges through snow, sand, and mud, but not on the sidewalk, track, or dirt surfaces most runners use. As a competitive runner, I shun this word, as it infers slow, laborious, tedious movement. On the other hand, in the context in which we use the word, Merriam-Webster defines the intransitive verb to "run" as "to go steadily by springing steps so that both feet leave the ground for an instant in each step; to go rapidly or hurriedly; to make a quick, easy, or casual trip or visit." Running obviously has a more positive connotation and describes a more fluid motion - one we would all like to believe describes our own.

This literal comparison of running and jogging brings about an argument of the more subjective variety: Is "running" defined by how fast an individual is moving, or by the effort level at which they are moving? Clearly, what might be a running pace to me might be a jogging pace to world-class elites such as Deena Kastor. While Ryan Hall's PR London marathon pace was 4:49/mile, the mortal runner might struggle to sustain this for a mere half a mile. According to my Garmin 205's Training Center software, 4:49/mile is in pace zone 9 and therefore dubbed a sprint. Yet, I highly doubt Hall, or for that matter, anyone, could sustain a sprint-level effort for the duration of 26.2 miles. *sigh* And the plot thickens.

Let's dissect our perceptions of the following statements.
  • Individual #1: "I jogged 7 miles yesterday. I felt like I was going so fast!"
  • Individual #2: "I ran 7 miles easy yesterday."

Individual #1, despite the comment, "I felt like I was going so fast," comes across as the recreational or novice runner (or jogger?). The second individual, although claiming to have gone at an easy pace, is perceived as the more competitive and advanced of the two. The word "jog" truly can evoke a sense of slow, aimless running, even though the person who "ran 7 miles easy yesterday" could just as easily have been moving at the same speed as his/her jogging counterpart.

After presenting all the evidence, it becomes apparent that there is both a technical and psychological difference separating the acts of running and jogging. Nobody wants to claim themselves as joggers, but are quick to log slow, easy miles of "running." There is a recovery and training purpose in taking it slow (AKA jogging), but for some reason we simply can't bring ourselves to use the correct term in all its seemingly lack of glory.

I, as well as many others, will likely continue to ostracize the word "jogging" while glorifying "running," but hopefully you have become more enlightened on the matter and will not judge any brave souls who raise their hand and embrace the seven-mile jog they embarked on this morning.

As of June 10, 2009, 10:22 AM, the English language officially added its one-millionth word (specifically, "Web 2.0," a technical term meaning the next generation of World Wide Web products and services) to its already vast supply. Chances are, I don't know and/or have not used 75% of them. Thus, we needn't boycott the verb "to jog" or expel it from the English language altogether. But at the same time, I see no pressing reason to utilize it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dressin' With Compression

What defines a serious runner? It's safe to say the man pictured above is not, but they come in all shapes and sizes. A runner can be serious about their sport whether they're pulling 6-minute or 10-minute miles; it's defined by one's mindset. You've likely seen the countless racks of Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, and other brands' top running apparel lines. If you're even remotely serious about running, I encourage you jump on the bandwagon and try some compression gear. You'll likely be surprised what a piece of clothing can do for your mindset, performance, and goals.

Firstly, if you live in an area that receives frigid winter weather, running leggings or tights can greatly increase your ability to run through the brunt of the season. They keep you warmer and conserve heat better than would loose-fitting pants in the midst of strong, bone-chilling winds.

Compression gear exists in a large number of forms, including (but not limited to) leggings, long- or short-sleeved tops, arm sleeves, and calf sleeves. Although in a less obvious way, marathons not only serve as competitions, but also as running "fashion shows." It's likely you've seen many of these new items being sported at marathons by the elites running down the 26.2-mile runway of the course. If you saw Kara Goucher's 3rd place performance for the women at the most recent 2009 Boston Marathon, for example, you might remember her self-described "awesomely obnoxious" compression outfit complete with rather beastly arm sleeves (see picture at upper-right).

Because compression gear has become a widespread trend of the world-class, upper echelon of runners, mere mortals sometimes shy away from wearing such clothing for fear of appearing like a "wannabe." However, there are proven benefits to compression gear, like better muscle stability, less muscle fatigue and soreness, increased endurance, improved circulation and temperature regulation, reduced wind drag, and sun protection. Wanting to reap these benefits does not make someone a "wannabe" by any stretch of the imagination, so don't rob yourself because of self-consciousness.

Before you go out on a compression gear shopping spree, I suggest you evaluate your needs. For instance, if you live in a tropical climate that doesn't know the true meaning of winter or chilly temperatures, you likely won't be in need of tights and other compression gear designed for cold weather. "Compression" gear is also a wide term used to label a vast range of fabric qualities, variety of weaves, elasticity, durability, detailing, anti-microbial material, wicking performance, moisture management, and anti-allergens.

Prices also range greatly, depending on all of said factors. Such garments are almost always more expensive than their non-compression counterparts, so do a little research and read the tag before purchasing, as you want to spend money on practical things that are applicable to you personally.

If you're skeptical and determined to stand by your tried-and-true cotton or loose-fitting clothing, you will be no less of a runner because of it. But if you're looking to give yourself a little psychological and performance boost, or even just try something new, that compression gear at your local fitness store is just waiting for you to try it on.