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The Psychology of Joggling

Posted Dec 07 2010 9:31am

By: Joe Salter

“Important News Flash: Jogglers are not Crazy!”  Controversial therapist/joggler revises his view on joggler’s sanity.  He concedes that we’re not crazy, at least not in the general sense of the word.”

What makes a joggler tick?  One joggler, with a background in psychology, will attempt to highlight some of the salient features that are present in the mind of a joggler.

Why joggle? What makes a joggler tick? In psychology, we learn that humans are complex creatures. We’ll do some pretty weird and varied stuff, for a host of reasons. In simple terms, the joggler’s payoff is as follows: it’s fun, it’s good exercise, it goes well together, and it gets some pretty cool reactions.

Yeah, but aren’t jogglers just trying to “show off” and draw “attention” to their special talent? Yes and no. It depends on the person. We are social creatures, so yes, jogglers like to be recognized and admired for their behavior. It’s a social activity, yet it’s also a personal activity that can be enjoyed alone. So, it begs the philosophical question: if a tree falls in the woods, and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If a joggler is joggling in the woods, and nobody sees it, will he still do tricks? Would he throw one up over a tree limb, or do high throw to impress a squirrel? If his name was Henry David Thoreau he probably would. Well, it depends on the person and the situation. Yes, I do think that joggling in front of others is a motivating factor that brings enjoyment to jogglers. But, I also think that joggling is rewarding by itself, without the social connection and attention. It goes well together, it’s fun, it’s good exercise, it gives you something to do while running.

Why not joggle? I can think of twice as many reasons for joggling than for not joggling, at least. Why did we go so long, without putting something in our hands while running, is my question? I can sense our ancient human ancestors rolling in their graves about that question, “what do you mean without something in our hands, I had stones and tools in hand while I was running all the time!”

A joggler is comfortable with combining two seemingly separate activities, and is able to withstand possibly looking foolish while doing so. Joggling at first can heighten one’s self-consciousness of looking foolish. It challenges one to let go of preconceived ideas of what’s a “normal” and acceptable form of exercise. Jogglers get many reactions from people; stares, laughs, admiration, indifference, and occasional jeers. A joggler must be comfortable in his or her own skin. Able to tolerate ambiguity in his or her environment, his or her mind.

Joggling looks strange, different, and for some people, silly. It’s not supposed to be happening. A person is not supposed to be running by while juggling balls, when I look up while working in the yard. It’s unexpected, it’s a novel stimulus. Jogglers have to be okay with that.

Joggling demands relaxation. You have to let your body take over and perform two things as one. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Jogglers experience joggling as a full body movement. A key approach to learning joggling is to run naturally and let the juggling portion join seamlessly with the running motion. Once mastered, it’s a holistic exercise, not two separate activities forced together in some awkward union.

Relaxing during joggling is key. It allows two synchronized movements to become harmonious and single movement. You don’t force yourself to juggle while running. You only use the least amount energy required to toss each ball to the other hand to the natural rhythm of running (which parallels the rhythm of 3 ball juggling). Breathe. Go with the flow, let go, trust and respect gravity. Hold the juggling balls lightly and with grace. Be open to dropping while joggling. Tension and fear don’t help joggling, or any other sport. Experience and confidence in joggling aids in relaxation. To be a good joggler, relaxation is key.

Joggling is complex. It’s also simple too. It can be challenging also. It engages the senses, challenges the mind and body connection. It sets in motion a rhythmic tapestry of neuromuscular coordination. The opportunities for “flow” experiences while 3 ball joggling are plentiful. We’ve all experienced “flow” at one time or another. It involves being totally absorbed and focused on an activity, to the point where it seems effortless and automatic.

Running is a repetitive movement that allows runners to experience that “runner’s high” or feeling of “flow.” Joggling is ripe with moments of absorption, holistic focus, and intense sensory enjoyment. It has been described as a moving meditation or poetry in motion. When first starting out joggling, the level of absorption needed is elevated, yet the body and brain adapt to this complexity and become used to the activity, thus freeing the mind up for something else to focus on. It becomes second nature, and somewhat less exhilarating compared to the first “hit” of the joggling drug; therefore, you have to re-introduce some more variation or complexity to your joggling repertoire.

Challenge yourself: try 5 balls, try sprinting, try a marathon or another race, vary your patterns, try night glow-ball joggling, joggle backwards, joggle in the woods, joggle in weird urban areas. Show off to people, don’t show off, teach people how to joggle, act like you’re a clown, act like you’re totally normal. And, then go back to your roots, and enjoy the simplicity of a 3 ball joggle. Take in the total experience of joggling. Joggle like it was your first time, feel the sensation, be alive in every moment. Enjoy and relax in the joggling rhythm- let it awaken your senses and ground your connection to the ever-changing moments that are in the air.

Joggling requires sharpness of mind. You have to be resilient to added complexity. It take patience, determination, and coping skills to be able to joggle skillfully, especially at long distances. Concentration is tested, endurance is challenged. Your peripheral vision starts to get taxed from looking at the peak of the 3 ball pattern in your soft vision for so long. Joggling will test your tolerance for pain and discomfort. It will keep you in the moment, whether you like it or not. You might as well learn to go with it, relax, and enjoy the ride. In essence, joggling for long distances requires the “juggling” of multiple demands. Equanimity is in the air with joggling; it’s a precious gift worth striving for, while in motion.

Jogglers have flexibility in their definition of self. They are open to appearing silly or strange in the eyes of others. They take pride in being different. They enjoy the loss of “self” that joggling offers. They commune with movement, air, gravity, and the human desire to move about with freedom. Jogglers can be okay with both a serious approach to life, and a lighter approach to life. They are in touch with their “inner clown.” They add some small variation to the shared movements of life-and are able to smile and appreciate how they impact others. Jogglers value exercise, social ties, unique experiences, humor, and opportunities for wonder.

Jogglers are great at advertising and spreading the practice of juggling. More people see juggling through jogglers. We take it to the people. In fact, we run to them and give them glimpses of that still rare activity called juggling. We offer people novel moments to say, “Hey, you don’t see that everyday.” Jogglers bring fun and excitement to the sport of running. We’re mindful of our presence, but our in your face approach is still ‘up in the air.’ We make people smile, and wonder “what the heck is that person doing?” We enrich people’s environments, sprinkling them with little moments of levity. In a world full of stress, juggling while running can be a nice antidote.

We carry along our balls and play with them when we run. Who in their right mind would do that? Jogglers are brave, and should have a sense of humor to take them selves less seriously. I did this, and it helped me get through joggling a marathon relatively unscathed. Relax and have a ball…or two or three.

Optimism is associated with improved health and overall mental functioning. Jogglers are optimists. They trust that they can go out in public and juggle objects while running and not get rocks thrown at them, death threats, warning shots, or verbal harassment. They are hopeful that they can exist peacefully with their environment without mental and physical abuse. They have faith in their fellow citizens. They see the road before them as opportunities to coexist; joggling with, not against humanity.

Jogglers are crazy. A crazy bunch, for sure. They’re crazy about beautiful movement. Crazy about the unmatched synchronicity and harmony that joggling provides. Crazy about poetic physical expression that leaves people with smiles and novel experiences. Jogglers are crazy about all things joggling. The insanity of this wonderful movement provides too many benefits to pass up. And for that, jogglers will keep running and tossing, over and over, while catching each moment’s rhythmic bliss.

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