As an entry point for return to running after an injury, slow jogging is a terrible option.
There I said it.
Slow jogging or as the literature often refers to it “slogging” (Ugh, its even just terrible to say- “Slogging) is underwhelmingly un-athletic. It’s often lazy and lumbering. It’s lukewarm. Sport is dynamic. It is hot and then cold. On and then off. And slow jogging is the professor that drones on about nothing of relevance to simply check a box that ultimately is left unchecked.
What did slow jogging ever do to me you ask? It became a catch all for return to run after injury. It became a pre-requisite to sprinting and change of direction. It became the calling card of the un-calculated “just go slow and ease back in to it” approach. Running is a skilled athletic movement. It requires foundational levels of strength, elasticity, power, and endurance. Slow jogging is a dead end to returning these qualities back, and in most circumstances, is exposing the recovering runner to GREATER forces than other seemingly more intense methods would be. Not only are we slogging in circles chasing our tail, but we are potentially creating technical and tolerance issues while we do it. If this is not enough for you to join my vendetta against slogging (ugh) then please keep reading.
Running issues (and the associate qualities that need to be built back up during rehab to mitigate injury risk) can be over simplified into two major inefficiencies:
- excess stiffness problems -too much force dispersed over to small an area (i.e bony stress)
- over compliance issues – too large an excursion of ROM creating increased load in areas that may not be as equipped for repetitive forces (knee/hip) and creating increased joint excursions thus increased eccentric stress (achilles and patellar tendon) and potential accumulation of musculotendinous micro-trauma.
For many injuries, slow jogging is not the graded re-introduction to loading that we think it is. For an issues that is either related to stiffness or compliance it is in the middle ground. Ground forces are surprisingly high and joint excursions are as well due to longer ground contact times. A 2019 paper by Hunter et. al demonstrated that lower than normal running speeds actually had higher estimated cumulative tibial loads than normal selected or fast speeds of running. Slogging often predisposes runners to a more lumbering gait style in which there is a slower cadence, higher vertical oscillation, and harder ground contacts. These characteristics are associated with higher vertical ground contact forces and a faster vertical loading rate both of the elements we are trying to shield the recovering athlete from. Additionally, these qualities are not serving as preparation for the faster more elastic running that the athlete will need to progress to in order to sprint and perform specific sporting tasks. The initial return to run progression should serve as a bridge. Slogging is a dead end. It is unproductive at best.
I will not send slow jogging out to pasture without providing alternative options. If we reverse engineer the process and look at the end goal (high quality running and sprinting) we can pick out the qualities needed to achieve success. These include the ability to produce and tolerate stiff ground contacts buffered by elastic qualities of the muscle and tendon. While slow jogging fails to train either of these qualities, progressions of drills such as rudiment hops, dribbles, skips, and bounding fit the bill. All of these interventions can be scaled and titrated with progressive volumes and intensities over time to match and progress the capabilities of the rehabbing athlete.
For return to sport rehab, just say no to slogging. There are much better options to protect the vulnerabilities of the reconditioning process while appropriately scaling stress and promoting athletic qualities.
Hunter JG, Garcia GL, Shim JK, Miller RH. Fast Running Does Not Contribute More to Cumulative Load than Slow Running. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2019 Jun;51(6):1178-1185. DOI: 10.1249/mss.0000000000001888.