Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Running Jogging on empty

So, I have been going around Green Lake just about every morning this summer. It's a nice four-mile loop: a half-mile to the lake path, a three-mile circuit, and a half-mile back. I usually go right after I get up; I'm generally heading out sometime between 6:16 and 6:45. It's been great, physically and spiritually. But it has brought up a semantic issue of how to name what I am doing.

On alternate days, it is easy: I walk. Walking is something that most of do, and we can easily recognize it. Specialized variations of it are usually very distinctive and have specific names : racewalking and silly-walks, for example.

But on alternate days I go around the lake at a faster clip, raising the question: am I jogging or running? The question came up at a recent breakfast with Johnbai, and we explored various distinctions; I later did a bit of Internet research. I eventually wound up with little in the way of a satisfactory answer.

The first consideration was that is had something to do with the stride. Running, we reckoned, had a longer stride, an open stride, and jogging meant using a small stride, with perhaps more knee than hip action; we thought that jogging might be harder on the knees than running. As usual, we didn't even know what we were talking about.

Stride came up first partly because my buddy D.D. had clued me into some research into running form from an anthropological standpoint. To grossly oversimplify, it seems we've been training ourselves to do it all wrong for the past thirty years. The human foot, with the arch acting like a natural leaf spring, is designed to land almost flat-footed, to absorb the shock of impact and then spring back up, transferring the energy to the next step-off. The long-stride, heel-and-roll form (encouraged and abetted by over-designed running shoes) is actually less efficient and is likely increasing the incidence of running injuries, despite all the cushioning and padding. So, "real" running probably involves a stride that looks more like what we have been calling "jogging" - the foot hitting the ground directly beneath the hip, instead of in front of it.

(There is a secondary hypothesis that ancient humans, natural endurance runners and one of the few animals who could run in the heat of the day, would use this skill to run down game, not by catching it, but by exhausting it.)

So, with stride apparently out of the mix to distinguish jogging and running, we turned to speed. A few websites and discussion forums used this as a measure: some arbitrary number - a ten-minute pace, a nine-minute pace, an eight-minute pace, whatever - was selected. Slower than that speed was jogging, faster than that was running.

(As a baseline, the typical walk, exclusive of window-shopping or flower-smelling, ranges from about a 15 to 20-minute pace - 3 or 4 mph. NatDog ran her first marathon at about a nine-and-a-half minute pace - a little better than 6 mph. World class runners can do a marathon and maintain a five-minute pace - 12 mph.)

This result-based method doesn't seem to take into account the observed differences between individual ability levels - we have all seen people whom we would characterize as running all out even if their speeds were under one of these arbitrary levels.

Another theme arose in the research that did address individual differences, that of effort: running was what you did when you were working hard and getting out of your comfort zone, while jogging was moving comfortably and working, but not too hard. This approach seemed way too idiosyncratic to ever become useful in a general application and didn't get much traction in the discussions.

From a completely different angle came the cultural construct method. In this scheme, running is what people do when they are training competitively for timed events; jogging is what people do for general health reasons. In some of the more developed models of this type, this kind of social construction seemed to make the most sense; underlying most of the definitions, however, was some sentiment like "Running is what I do because I am a Serious Athlete; jogging is what the rest of you amateurish rabble do." The unspoken judgmental nature of this model makes its use less appealing than it might otherwise be.

You can see where all this rumination took me: nowhere. I still didn't know what to label my morning locomotion. I was thinking about it, and, in fact, thinking about this blog post, as I made my way around the lake this morning (walking today), when I suddenly realized that I was spending so much time looking for a label for what I was doing that I wasn't paying attention to feeling what it was I was doing. And I thought back to a mediation I wrote last summer, in which I talked about how good it felt to do and not to think about running.

So, we're done with this. Jogging, running, walking, sprinting, racing, tearing, trotting, galloping - whatever we want to call it, I'm just going to keep going around the lake.


Juliet said...

hee hee. good job W! Pretense is for the pretentious.

John said...

I hate Aristotle.

Walaka said...

Thanks, Juliet!

You've lost me, John.

Yojimbo_5 said...

I think he means Yoda.

Chrissy said...

Awesome job!
My husband and I love to venture out and jog around town. We picked up a good book called Fun on Foot in New York by authors Warwick Ford and Nola Ford and loved it. We get all our motivation from these authors. For fun sometimes I call him Warwick and he calls me Nola haha but only when we find a new trail or path in a park we come across.
Check it out, it's a really great book.