Posted by: thehungryrunner | June 9, 2011

“Downshifting” into jogging….and becoming more fit?

I’m going to start this entry by saying, I never know how to define “jogging.”  I know for some people, running is running is running.  If you’re not walking, you’re “running,” even if your pace is extremely slow (what I would call “jogging”).  Yet when I hear others talking about running paces, they seem to delineate rather firmly between that light, breezy, somewhat bouncy stride (for me it’s only slightly faster than when I’m running in place at a traffic light) and something more ambitious, bold, aggressive, even if the actual pace isn’t much faster.

I suppose it comes down to, I know I’m not a fast runner, and I yet know there are those who still run slower than me, so I don’t really worry too much about the semantics of what I’m doing.  If you want to call me a runner, great, if you want to call me a jogger, great.  All I know is, I’m leaping forward from one foot to the next, and I like the rhythm it produces in my body. 

That said, there was a point in time in which I was much more mission-oriented with my runs, definitely more ambitious, and unquestionably faster.  I haven’t yet tested myself in a race this year, so it would be interesting to see if my “potential” pace remains more or less the same, but for sure, my running log of the recent years looked decidedly different than my log of the moment.  And the result is somewhat surprising!

We recently moved across the country, to southern California.  Maybe it’s the omnipresence of the fitness and active lifestyle here, but immediately I’m aware of wanting to keep my running going for the long haul.  I’ve always wanted this, but suddenly it’s become a more conscious priority.  Or maybe it’s the fact that the area we’re living is very pedestrian-friendly, in that the traffic lights all have walk buttons, and a traffic law that favors a pedestrian in the crosswalk over a car that wishes to enter said crosswalk.  Suddenly my world of running courses has opened ten-fold; I can run any direction, anywhere I want, and explore my new community on foot, which has proven to be a wonderful adventure.  But in so doing, it also means constant starts-and-stops along my course.  Now it’s true, I am one of those “jog in place” runners at stoplights (it’s easier for me to keep going than to stop and restart), so my rhythm can be kept unbroken, but of course, my actual forward movement grinds to a halt regularly, keeping my average pace down.  So…perhaps I’m just surrendering to the reality of never having that unbroken forward momentum again, and letting go of pushing my pace as a result.

Whatever the reason, I have found it a suprisingly pleasant relief to just downshift into more a “jog” mode for most of my runs, just bouncing along happily, and enjoying the view as I go along.  Consequences be damned, I like just coasting along, going with the flow.  Not suprisingly, it’s made for easier stretching before and afterward, and less need for muscle recovery.  I feel energized after my runs, no matter what the distance (though I must fully disclose, this has almost always been the case anyway).

But here’s what’s truly surprising me!  My body seems to have “fallen” into better fitness in spite of (or is it because of?) this downshifted pacing!  I realize this is far from scientific, there are many other factors to consider, but I’m leaner and stronger than I normally am for this particular running and workout schedule.  So much for the assumption that backing off of intensity would equal a backing off of fitness!

At the very least, it’s a reminder to truly work at the pace your body is comfortable with right now.  You’ll enjoy more running longevity and just might be delighted at the more immediate gifts as well!

Evamarie Pilipuf is a stretching consultant based in southern California, and the owner/operator of www.TheFlexibilityCoach.com, a membership site where athletes stretch and do yoga online via Evamarie’s audio and video guidance.

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