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Fitness Friday: Is jogging a waste of time?

Every week my colleague @RonKaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. This week he presents the pros and cons (mostly cons) of jogging and gives you a quicker, more effective alternative. Look for Weekend Tip tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest

Here's Ron: The short answer is yes and no. Jogging can help improve blood circulation, bone density, weight loss, mental acuity, and raise your metabolic threshold (more on that later). But before you lace up your sneakers and hit the road or the treadmill, you should know that many of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in health and human performance think jogging IS a waste of time. It's especially inefficient if your goal is to look better and perform better in whatever sport you do. Yup, that includes golfers.

jogging_470.jpgI spoke with two nationally known fitness experts this week, Mike Boyle (@bodybyboyle) and Mark Verstegen (@apcoach), and they both recommend high-intensity interval training (HIIT) instead of lower-intensity endurance workouts such as jogging, walking on a stair mill, riding a stationary bike or rowing at a steady pace. In fact, Boyle says none of his training sessions involve aerobic training. The reason? In the past two decades, several studies (namely Trembly, Tibata, Gibala) have concluded that HIIT is considerably more effective than lower-intensity endurance training in terms of improving physique and increasing your metabolic threshold. The concept of HIIT is to do any strenuous physical activity as vigorously as you can for a short duration, then rest or decrease intensity for a slightly longer duration, and then go all out again. These training sessions are typically done in 20 minutes or less and sometimes 10 minutes or less. Typical lower-intensity "cardio" sessions start at 30 minutes and can be as long as a couple of hours. Big difference in time commitment. But there is also another reason why HIIT is better than, say, running on a treadmill for an hour.

Long cardio sessions, if done at a steady pace, don't challenge your metabolic threshold nearly as well as HIIT. Joggers, for example, will get into a groove where they are running at a speed just slow enough to avoid fatiguing until the distance they are running is nearly complete. With HIIT, you don't have that luxury. Within seconds of starting, you've already passed your current threshold and are quickly fatiguing.

If you're not familiar with metabolic threshold, in simplest terms, your muscles mostly rely on oxygen to work. But when you're working hard, there comes a point when you don't have enough oxygen for the muscles to function. So your body begins breaking down carbohydrates to provide those muscles with energy. This absence of oxygen, known as an anaerobic state, is tolerable for short periods, but then lactic acid begins to build, you feel a burning sensation, and the muscle eventually gives out.

HIIT training helps raise your metabolic threshold, studies have shown. And the intensity of the session also challenges muscles to work harder so they become stronger. It also can boost your resting metabolic rate, which means the amount of calories you burn while sitting, sleeping, etc. Oh, and did I forget to mention you can get in and out of the gym in less than half the time? What's not to love about that?

I created a workout, known as the 20-in-20 (link here) that takes advantage of HIIT training, but also improves the mobility and stability you need to play golf. However, if you're starting an exercise program, you shouldn't start the 20-in-20 for four to six weeks. Instead, Mike Boyle offers you a HIIT "starter kit" to get your body prepared for more vigorous exercises.

Here's what he recommends:

 -- Run on an even surface for 2:30, at 6 mph (10-minute pace).

-- Run for 60 seconds at 7.5 mph (eight-minute pace).

-- Walk for two minutes.

-- Run for 60 seconds at 7.5 mph.

-- Walk for two minutes.

-- Run for 60 seconds at 7.5 mph.

-- Walk for two minutes.

After doing this two to four times a week, for two weeks, you can decrease the walking time and/or add more reps of running time. But don't increase the duration of the run.

Ron Kaspriske
Fitness Editor
Golf Digest

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