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Does joggling make you run slower?

Posted Nov 14 2011 4:44am

People assume that joggling naturally makes you run slower. When someone hears my time for a race they will often ask something like, “How fast would you have gone if you weren’t juggling?”

In all honestly, I don’t think I would run much faster at all. My fastest 5K is 19:48 joggling and I doubt that I could go faster than that non-joggling. For me, joggling doesn’t seem to have much effect on my speed. Of course, that assumes I can make it through a race or workout without dropping. Drops definitely slow you down!

Speedy joggler Bob Evans, seems to agree having recently said that he thinks joggling effects his 5K time by only 10 or 20 seconds. Michal Kapral has reported he is about 10% slower while joggling.

While it doesn’t seem like joggling slows me down, I know it must. Here are three reasons.

1. Drops. No matter how good you are at joggling, you will occasionally have a drop. My most significant drop happened in the 2009 Sun Burst Marathon. It was right around mile 22. The drop itself cost me about 5-10 seconds but it broke me out of my rhythm. I ended up missing the qualification time for the Boston Marathon by 39 seconds. ugh.

2. Arm pumping. When you joggle, you swing your arms much less forcefully and in a more controlled manner. According to experts driving your elbows back and forth activates a brain connection with your glutes which helps you generate more force when you run. Joggling will naturally interfere with this system. I try to pump my arms harder but it’s very difficult to do while joggling.

3. Distraction. While it’s true that I don’t have to look at the bean bags while I joggle, I can’t completely ignore them either. There is always a part of my mind that focuses on them. This causes me to spend less time reminding myself to push my legs harder, breath better or fight the feelings of pain. The distraction can certainly help when the pain gets really bad but overall it is a detriment to speedy running.

So some might wonder why I don’t just stop joggling and see how fast I can go. Well, here’s the way I look at it. As a runner, I’m a bit faster than average but not much. There is nothing remarkable about my running. Even if I stopped joggling my times may improve by 10% at best. That wouldn’t make any dent in my remarkableness as a runner.

But joggling turns a mundane effort into an epic one. It also makes running much more fun. In truth, I enjoy running more when I juggle than when I don’t. So, it looks like it might cause me to be a slightly slower runner but I’m a joggler for life.

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