Jogging (any other kind of long,slow, distance training) is not an optimal training method. It may be downright bad for you. There I said it. Here is why.
1. It doesn’t help you look good (this is a big one isn’t it?)
Time for more honesty… the main reason people want to start an exercise program is to look good. Nothing wrong with that.
Sure most people don’t want to look like a professional bodybuilder and most simply want to look toned. I would guess that an ideal “toned” physique for most people would be something like the bodies of those models on a health magazine like “Men’s Health” or “Shape.”
Now for the reality check… how many people who jog (see the treadmills in gyms, or the jogger on the street) look like those cover models? That’s right, not many (if any at all!). In fact most joggers look tired, bored and unhappy (oops that’s just their faces). Their bodies look soft, jiggly and not particularly impressive.
“Oh but maybe they are just starting out”. Well look at the people who have a jogging routine. Same people, same distance, same place, same gym etc. Check them out 3 months or even 12 months later. Yup. Same look or even fatter! I would suspect that all of us want RESULTS for our hard work. That’s fair! But that’s not what jogging provides.
What do most people need to look better than they do now? 2 simple things. More muscles (yes even women – in the right places), and less fat. Scientific studies, and real world evidence shows us that jogging provides neither. Without getting too science-nerd-geeky (which I actually enjoy) here are some results from those studies. These results can be seen empirically by you in your friends who jog, as well as by me in my clients who used to jog before they found out the truth.
Result A: Jogging does nothing more for fat loss than a good diet. Eating healthy is great for fat loss. Jogging adds NOTHING to it. Shocker!! This isn’t some 10 min a week either. Its 30-50 min 3 times a week! More than most joggers do.
Result B: Jogging does nothing for muscle gain. Jogging puts your entire body into “starvation mode”. The body thinks “I’m lost in the jungle that’s why I’m jogging so much to find my way out”. Whats the best way to survive in the jungle? It’s to use as few calories as possible so we can live off less food. How do we achieve that? You body commands it’s calorie using parts to be jettisoned. Only muscles use calories! Oops there go your fat burning, calorie using, nice looking muscles.
So far, jogging is zero out of two in the looking good score. And it gets worse! As you jog, you get more and more efficient at jogging. Efficiency in car petrol consumption is good. Efficiency in jogging to look good is bad! It means that you use LESS calories as you get “better” at jogging. Oh no! The reality of this is that you need to run further and longer just to use the same amount of calories as you used to. This doesn’t just mean that jogging doesn’t work, it works in reverse!
2. Jogging doesn’t help you in the “game” of life
OK more real life. I just got back from my stint in the army reserve. All the males in Singapore have to do this service to our nation. I am an army engineer. We build stuff and we blow up stuff. In our training we NEVER had to jog to succeed in our missions. All our critical tasks were strength related. At no time would jogging have helped my men or I perform those tasks successfully.
When was the last time you had to wake up and run 10km. Never? Yup, me neither. However just like my army story, real life stuff is strength related! Carrying a growing child is a strength task. So is changing a car tire, shifting furniture, carrying groceries, sprinting after the bus when you are late, climbing stairs when the elevator is crowded this list can get very long.
Another real life consideration is posture. Most people have poor posture. We slouch way too much due to a lot of time spent at a computer at work and school. This can cause head-aches, neck-aches, and back-aches (in addition to not looking as good as we could). Unfortunately, this head forward posture is efficient for taking in oxygen while jogging and many joggers do this. So jogging makes a bad situation worse!
This next point is a sobering one. I spent some time helping out at a place where elderly people gather for social support and to play simple games. It was very clear that the happy and healthy elderly were those who were strong, mobile and able to take care of themselves without assistance. I could tell by their handshakes who were still in good shape and who were having poor health. I want to be strong till my last breath and I assume that you do as well.
The game of life is a long one. And many elderly are left bed ridden or immobile due to crippling health conditions. Guess what, aerobic capacity is not a big determinant in our quality of life as we age. 2 major determinants of quality of life for an elderly person are leg power and grip strength. These are indicators of lower and upper body strength and power (strength and especially power are lost rapidly if we do not training specifically for them as we age). These are maintained by resistance training, not more slow jogging. Many elderly are made immobile because of falls and accidents that are due to a lack of strength, not because they ran out of breath as they climbed a flight of stairs.
3. Jogging isn’t that great for your health
There is a saying that I like “you don’t run to get fit, you get fit to run”. Its true, more than half of all people who start a jogging program get an injury within 6 weeks. That’s higher than most contact or high risk sports like rugby, American football, or car racing!
Firstly there is the issue of foot strength. Most people wear shoes all day and thus have weak feet. Ankle, heel, and sole injuries like plantar faciatis are common because most people’s feet are not ready to take the pounding.
Lets move up to the knees. Each foot strike has a impact 3-6 times body weight. All this depends on the running mechanics, the shoe, and the running surface. 3 times is a low estimate. Many times we have poor mechanics, poorly chosen shoes, and overly hard surfaces. Combine this with poor technique and muscle firing (again caused by poor posture and an inactive lifestyle) and the knees take more than their fair share of impact. For ladies, their naturally wider hips and less ideal bio-mechanics mean knee issues are even more prevalent among lady joggers.
Poor pelvic alignment means even the lower back is taking to much of the ground impact. With correct training, rehab and changes in their exercise routine, not only do these issues go away, but they get great results (i.e. they look great and are pain free).
So what can we do? Well i always suggest sprints (fast striding or faster) for my more experienced clients. Or sprints on a stationary bike for the ladies and less experienced clients. These are done in interval fashion e.g. 30 sec run/sprint. 90 sec walk. These save our joints (running fast is tough on our muscles not our joints, and there is total less number of impacts) and give great results (there we go, results again! they are important!).
Jogging is certainly better than watching TV or surfing the Internet all day. But its really quite a low benefit activity compared to the potential risks. There are far better alternatives like sprint cycling, fast running (if you are a well conditioned athlete), and total body resistance training with low rest intervals. All these alternatives give far greater benefits than jogging, take less time (VERY important for long term success), and are more fun to do (also important for long term success).
I hope joggers don’t take this article an a personal attack. I certainly don’t mean it that way. It’s just that in a fast paced culture (with so little time to exercise) and with the current levels of inactivity, obesity, and other lifestyle related health conditions, we cannot afford to do anything less than optimal training. Even if we are blessed with loads of time, why would we do anything less than what is ideal! Get off that treadmill and into a well designed resistance and interval training program.