Friday, July 06, 2007

Differentiating Between Walking And Jogging

Anaerobic thanks to French left-wing media and intellectuals for now providing us with a more esoteric comparison between walking and jogging.

The Belmont Club links to a news item which essentially criticizes newly-elected French President Sarkozy for electing to publicly take up jogging, rather than the more stately and revered art of walking. And the left-wing critics are irked even more because Sarkozy on several occasions opted to wear his favorite NYPD T-shirt during his public jogs.

Anyway, according to these same intellectuals, “Western civilisation, in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation."

Now I may not be an impartial observer since I jog regularly, but I also participate in long walks on occasion when I get more time to burn with my extra calories. I find both practices exhilarating and invigorating. And thus, many of us similarly inclined may find the entire issue at the very least, quite silly.

But walking is meditation, and jogging is not? Now, that is quite a wimpy stretch. Any uncorrupted mind can meditate in most any situation or form of activity the person may be engaged in.

For this I am reminded of a sermon from long ago given by an old grizzled Jesuit father to a group of antsy teens forced to hear Mass in the middle of a torrid summer noon. He intoned, a pastor was giving a sermon on prayer and praying to his diverse parishioners in some rural town of the south. He proceeded to ask his parishioners in attendance what would be the proper way or position to pray. Each parishioner gave his or her own version on how to pray - kneeling down with hands clasped close to the chest, sitting down with eyes closed and lifted up, etc. In short, all pious motions in obvious respect for the Almighty.

Until, one timid black man in the back started his turn and said he was confused why they should have special set positions in order to pray properly. And he proceeded to unravel his case. One day, he said, while fetching water from narrow and dark well, he fell and landed head first at the shallow bottom of the well. He thanked God that the water was shallow and did not drown him. But for God's sake who was going to save him from his predicament, since he could not move an inch, or lift himself out of that well, and worse, pretty soon the water level will rise and drown him? So in that most unusual position, he prayed to God like he had never done before.

And later on, some kindly soul got him out of the well, feet first. Now that was one effective prayer!

One commenter (RWE) at the Belmont Club had a thoughtful comment:

To the contrary, I have enjoyed many reflective moments during my runs, and once I even wrote a whole paper in my head during a run; the topic was options for launching the X-33 from Cape Canaveral. I probably have gotten even more useful thought out of my runs than my daily walks with my dog.

But I have found that I can run quite a bit faster if I don’t think about anything but running. Concentrating on speed really helps - but it is not nearly as much fun, and the effort required has nothing to do with physical exertion.

I agree that one could productively do a lot of mental gymnastics during runs or jogs, and personally, many knotty problems have been resolved during regular jogs.

But unfortunately and I surmise I speak for many of us, we do a lot of thinking, daydreaming, and more typically listening through the ear buds of our MP3s, because we do not want to be reminded that we are indeed jogging and not sitting down and enjoying a thirst-quenching Gatorade. Jogging is still a very irksome and wearisome rote and the less we are reminded that we are actually doing it the better. And thus for us, singularly focusing on the run, may not make us run further. We are just glad to be done with it without really being ever-alert that we are actually doing it.

And RWE ends with this tail-end snipe at the French. I suppose that he just couldn’t end without the obligatory sharp retort.

Maybe the president of France could take up bicycling – but, come to think of it, since Lance Armstrong came along perhaps that is not very French any more, either

And if I may add, isn’t American Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis, about to be exonerated of charges against his most recent tour win?


  1. Your point is excellent. And I might add that in some of the running I loved to do, namely cross-country and orienteering, to try to do anything other than to concentrate on the next footfall, direction and possible dangers would put the runner in extreme danger of injury or worse. Even a simple roadrun could result in disaster with the wearing of headsets and the same sort of catastrophe could happen if said jogger attempted to meditate or think out problems "on the run" instead of keeping aware and "ahead of the curve." In many settings its the running itself that should be concentrated on, otherwise, well..., you get it...

    You want to run and ruminate, take it to the track. Know what I mean Gene?

  2. Points well taken, Phil.

    The stately San Bruno mountains were so close to our old house in Daly City that we could see the trails leading to the summit. And we used to hike and jog to the summit and back down. Now, you'd be cartwheeling all the way down if you did not focus singularly on where you were going or stepping on. But on surface roads and on an oval, yeah, you can daydream while doing your thing.

    BTW, in Cebu there is a public arena where for a fee of ten pesos the public is allowed to run around its tartan tracks. Very nice.

  3. Headsets on a runner other than on a track will kill or injure that runner eventually. In fact, try to jog the streets and roads on any Air Force Base wearing them and you WILL be flagged over by base security. Defy them and go to jail. It might seem like a ping on your personal liberty, but in reality it is no more so than being forced to wear seatbelts.

  4. I take back what I said about daydreaming while jogging, even on a park oval. And I have the following to remind me: a chipped front tooth with a huge filling and a nasty memory of a cut lip caused by the fall. And yes, bruises on both knees and sprains on fingers of both hands.

    All because my mind was somewhere else when my foot decided to jump off the curb.

  5. I'm more of a walker mainly because I walk fast enough that I don't need to waste more energy in jogging or running. I've read in a science article that you can actually go on "autopilot" when walking (that is, if I remember correctly, reduced conscious control over the act of walking and navigating); thus, the wandering of the mind.

  6. Dave, that's about right, since walking is so part of our daily activities that we hardly think about doing it. Thus, for example, when we are picking up our mail, we think about the mailbox and how to get its contents, not how to walk to it. But the same would be true to most anything that one does on a regular basis. Same with jogging. Except that any impending or possible threat or danger during the act will continue to require mindful attention, regardless of how second nature the act is.

    Aerobically, I find jogging most ideal for me for a host of reasons - among them, does not require plenty of time to burn calories needed to be disposed of, can reach target levels in heart rate at sustained levels.


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