I started jogging in 2003 at the age of forty-nine. I wanted to ‘run’ and get fit before I hit fifty. I wasn’t sure I could as I hadn’t exercised in years. In reality, I was an overweight, unfit, middle-aged menopausal woman. God forbid anyone who got in my way!
When I first started going ‘faster than a walk’ (and believe me, it didn’t happen overnight) I thought I’d turned into a runner, but as time wore on I realised what I was actually doing was jogging, I was going a constant pace, a bit faster than a walk, and that was okay.
Fast forward to now and I help run women’s jogging groups – and often get asked about the benefits of jogging – especially by beginners. Hopefully, this post will help dispel some of the myths and see you on your way to becoming a fully-fledged jogging-junkie.
Is there a jogging definition?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines jogging as “the activity of running at a slow, regular speed, especially as a form of exercise”. So if you’re going faster than a walk but not tearing along out of breath, the chances are you’re jogging.
Wikipedia defines jogging speed as “running slower than 6 miles per hour (10 km/h)”. Yep, that’s definitely me, but to be honest I really wouldn’t get hung up about speed. As long as you’re going faster than a walk, you’re definitely jogging!
What are the benefits of jogging?
There are so many, but here are my top five jogging benefits…
Jogging for beginners
You don’t need a gym membership, you can be any age (lots of people start jogging over 50) and as long as you can walk, and don’t have any medical reasons not to jog, you can start jogging straightaway. It really is that easy. Jogging was made for beginners.
I think jogging is one of the best exercises you can do to improve your fitness, and there’s a lot of scientific evidence to back this up if you search on Google. Believe me, if you have bad knees (the reason a lot of people don’t even try jogging) and learn how to jog properly, you can still run. I’m living proof of that!
Jogging for weight loss
This is maybe a slightly controversial benefit but I’ve noticed jogging and weight loss definitely seem to go hand in hand, especially if you follow a healthy diet. However, a much better way of measuring your success is whether your clothes feel better on you (or are getting loose) – but then you know that!
When I initially started jogging three times a week (and ate a healthy diet) I lost about 2 stone over 6 months, but that’s just me – it might not be the same for you. You need to try it out!
It doesn’t cost that much…
When you are just starting to jog this is definitely true. As long as you have a pair of general purpose trainers and some comfortable clothes to wear at a gym or out on the trails, you can jog. However, if you get hooked… beware, it can get expensive!
Improves mental health
This has certainly been the case for me (and lots of other women I’ve talked to). Pure and simply, jogging often makes you feel good. If I go out jogging feeling grumpy or sad I inevitably come back smiling.
I might add this euphoria is usually once you’ve stopped jogging (and you’re lying in the bath feeling incredibly self-righteous) but I have also experienced the much famed ‘runner’s high’ while out jogging – and you really don’t want to miss that! Woohoo!
I’ve talked about the benefits but what about the negatives, are there any? Ummm, there’s a few…
You might get an injury
OK, I’m telling you this now because absolutely everyone I know who jogs or runs (including me) has experienced an injury. However, I’d also like to add – it’s usually self-inflicted.
If you try to jog too much, go too fast, jog too many miles, or just don’t stretch after a jog – you’re probably going to get an injury – but hey, join the gang!
Don’t be surprised if at some point you need to take a few days or a few weeks off in order to heal properly (very frustrating!), but you can usually get back to jogging again pretty soon.
Even better – heed the warnings and be ultra-sensible. Believe me, you don’t want to get injured!
Safety while you’re jogging
Maybe not a negative, but definitely something to consider if you’re running outside. You need to have your wits about you, don’t jog along with earphones in – especially on country roads with no pavements or in dark, built-up areas – you’re asking for trouble.
Be sensible, wear bright clothing, always take your phone with you, and let people know where you are going if you are jogging alone, and you should be fine. I’m not trying to put you off – just being boringly sensible.
You might get hooked (and bore your family with jogging stories!)
Probably 70% of the people I know who started jogging are now hooked. It’s addictive, in a nice, weird, I’m out of breath and all sweaty kind of way!
Don’t say you weren’t warned… although maybe it’s your family you should really warn?
Washing… and more washing…
Yes, you read that right I did say washing. Piles of the stuff. I once read that if you don’t have a pile of smelly running clothes in the corner of your bedroom you aren’t a runner, and the same goes for us joggers.
You’ll find yourself buying more and more clothes to wear for jogging, just so you have several changes of clothes! When I said this was a cheap pastime, I was slightly fibbing. It depends on how hooked you get!
Jogging vs Running
Should you be jogging or running? I’ve known some people go from being complete beginners to fast runners in literally a few weeks, but honestly, that’s not the norm. Even now I sometimes put a bit of a spurt on and run down a hill but I just as often walk as well.
So, I guess what I’m saying is most of the time it evens itself out – and it really doesn’t matter. Whether you’re jogging or running you’ll still be doing more exercise than the bugger at home sitting on the sofa watching TV!
How to start jogging
Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty bit. You’ve been thinking you should get a bit fitter, move around a bit more but how ‘exactly’ do you start jogging? Obviously, you can go out and just start but I’d suggest you think about a few things before you do…
Make sure you wear a pair of trainers or running/jogging shoes that are really comfortable. If you already have a pair of trainers that you can walk 5k in and they don’t rub or cause you any pain, then they’re probably okay to use when you begin jogging.
As you progress (and hopefully when you get bitten by the jogging bug) you’ll almost certainly want to buy a flashy pair of shoes that are specifically for running/jogging (or go mad, and buy shoes with toes like I did) but to start with, you’re going to be fine wearing a pair of comfortable all-purpose trainers that you already have.
It’s always good to have a plan when you start something new and this is especially true when you start jogging. I remember the day that I started like it was yesterday.
I’d stupidly agreed to sign up for a 10k run to raise money for one of the charities I work for – right in the middle of one of our meetings. Driving home I starting asking myself what on earth I was playing at. I couldn’t run 10k!
Anyway, I got home, logged in to the 10k race website and luckily there were some 10k jogging plans for beginners. I printed one off and stuck it on the fridge, and that was the start.
Three days a week I’d do exactly as it told me on the plan, and to my surprise after 3 months (with quite a bit of self-doubt and numerous expletives along the way – especially going up hills), I could jog 10k. I wasn’t fast, but I was ecstatic.
So, what I’m trying to say is plans are good. They keep you on track. There are thousands of them (free) online. You just have to find the right one for you – and stick to it.
You need to want to jog
This might sound a bit weird, but I speak to quite a few people who are beginning on their jogging or running journey and the one thing that seems to affect whether they succeed or fail is whether they’re doing it for the right reasons.
It’s not enough to ‘feel that you should’ because you want to lose a few pounds or because all your friends are doing it – you’ve got to really want to jog.
It takes determination to learn how to jog, I’m not going to lie to you – it’s hard graft at times – if deep down you don’t really want to put in the effort, choose a different sport.
However, if you want to find total freedom, do something amazing for yourself, make loads of new friends and get fit at the same time – jogging is definitely for you.
Couch to 5k and parkrun
I can’t really finish this section without talking about Couch to 5k (the NHS free beginners plan and accompanying app that can help you get off the couch and jog or run 5k in 9 weeks) and parkrun (a free, walk/jog or run event that’s held in towns, villages and cities all over the UK – and the world – every Saturday morning at 9 am. Organised by volunteers). A really fun event that can involve the whole family.
If you don’t already know about Couch to 5k and parkrun, click through to their websites and please find out more – you won’t regret it. The Couch to 5k plan and app is especially useful for beginners who are starting to jog – as you can walk it and build up to walking/jogging without even realising over the 3 sessions per week. Give it a go!
Jogging tips for beginners
Finally, a few tips that I wish I’d known before I starting jogging.
Start slow and then go slower
When you start jogging you might feel you should be jogging for long periods of time, then when you try and can’t you get frustrated, out of breath and can end up hating it. Slow down and walk!
Just because you can maybe walk 5k easily – it doesn’t mean you can jog 5k. It takes time for your muscles to adapt, your body needs to get used to what it’s being asked to do.
Follow a plan and build-up slowly, and when it starts to feel a bit easier stop yourself from trying to jog further than you should. Stick to the plan!
Your breathing will get better – honest!
You might find that when you start jogging your breathing is all over the place. Even jogging for 2 minutes and breathing at the same time might seem impossible. Stick with it.
I promise, in time as you get fitter and your body adapts your breathing will get easier. Stick to the plan!
Resist the temptation to eat loads more food
OK, I’m not saying you shouldn’t reward yourself with a little treat after a jogging session (let’s face it – most people I know jog or run because it gives them an excuse to eat cake) but just don’t go mad!
It’s really easy to end up justifying to yourself that you should be eating a lot more food just because you’re exercising more (believe me, I’ve been there and done that and ended up putting on weight), when in reality if you’re already eating a healthy, balanced diet you shouldn’t need to change your calorie intake that much. Eat a slice of cake, but not the whole Victoria sponge! 😉
Drink more water
For every hour you are out exercising (walking or jogging included) try to drink 500ml of water. I’m awful at doing this and I inevitably end up with a headache because I’m dehydrated. I really need to take my own advice!
Stretch after you jog
There’s some really excellent advice online about stretches you should do if you jog or run (head over to Google and put in ‘running stretches’) but I hasten to add, don’t forget to do them. It really can help you avoid aches and pains for days on end – especially when you’re a beginner. Be kind to your muscles!
Honestly, I’m not kidding – I’ve had this conversation with loads of people who have started jogging. If you only have a shower fitted in your house I apologise now, but one of the best things about going for a jog is wallowing in a bath when you get home. It really is one of the most delicious feelings in the whole world – one that I’d totally forgotten about during the last few years when I was hopping in and out of a shower.
When you first start jogging you’re likely to feel a bit stiff after you jog (even if you’ve done all the stretches you’re supposed to do). The feeling of relaxing in a warm bath, preferably with ‘muscle-friendly’ bath salts, is amazing. My top three favourites are Epsom Bath Salts, Eucalyptus Dead Sea Bath Salts or deliciously pink Himalayan Salts – I have all three!
Let me know if you have any top tips that have worked for you.