The side effects of jogging

Several of my friends and acquaintances have recently taken up running... or maybe they're jogging. Different people seem to refer to it with different names and everyone believes that they are correct. As an outsider, I can't tell the difference so I'm content in assuming they are the same thing. I'm wondering if this sudden interest in moving quickly for the purpose of exercise has something to do with the New Year's Resolutions that people are usually giving up on at this point in the year.

Most folks seem to get defensive when it comes to discussing their preferred method of exercise. If asked why they jog, one of these runners will likely stand up and defend it, naming all of the muscles that it tones along with its health benefits. I then watch them channel into words all of the Internet research that they did prior to choosing their exercise routine. Of course, while rattling off this highly technical information, they are mistakenly under the impression that I care. It's a lot like listening to one of those television advertisements for some medication where at the end of the commercial they quickly list off the thousands of side effects that may come along with use of the medicine. It's always ends with "Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or death may occur." Turns out that these are also side effects of listening to someone talk about jogging.

You see people running and/or jogging (I'm still not quite sure which name is correct) down the sidewalks in heavy traffic areas usually brandishing a fashionable pair of sunglasses and their ears are hooked seamlessly into their MP3 players. The paces differ from person to person, mostly dependent on age. The younger crowd tends to keep a pace as if they were in a footrace with a cheetah, while the older folks somehow manage to look like they're running, but they're being passed on the sidewalk by pedestrians walking at normal speed and pushing baby carriages. The arms are swinging and the look of determination is thick on their faces, but they aren't going anywhere fast. My favorite thing is when these joggers get to a crosswalk, and have to wait on a red light so they can cross six lanes of traffic, they'll keep running in place, keeping that heart beating fast and their energy levels high but if you watch long enough, you'll notice them start to get self conscious about what they are doing, and the longer they have to wait to cross, they'll start to slow down, and eventually they will be standing completely still, realizing how silly they looked.

Serious runners cruise around as if they don't even notice the outside world. I admire their ability to tune everything out, but I feel that they are missing out on several great opportunities to combine their exercise with a higher level of entertainment for those who happen to see the joggers from their vehicles. After some thought, I decided that were I to take up this habit, then I would run down the sidewalk as normal, but the moment I came up alongside a high traffic area I would leap into character. Immediately, I would start flailing my arms wildly, clawing at the air in front of me. With a look of absolute terror on my face I'd be constantly looking over my shoulder to suggest that I'm being chased by a major threat to my life. From their cars, drivers might point and stare, but rather than make fun of my chicken legs and short shorts, they'd gasp and say to their passenger, "Oh my goodness! What is that guy running from? He looks terrified! Should we call the police?"

Once I became bored of that shtick, I'd unveil my next idea, which would kick the entertainment level up another notch. As I left my home to start my daily run, I'd do some stretches to make sure I don't pull a muscle, and then in addition to my regular jogging outfit, I'd cover my face with a tattered black ski-mask. One of those classic masks that have holes for my eyes and mouth and makes you automatically look like you're up to no good. The last step before taking off on my run would be to go into my living room, unplug my television set, pick it up and run straight out the door. Now, in high traffic areas, drivers would see a man running full speed down the sidewalk with a ski-mask on his head, carrying a television set. I can only imagine that this sight would spark drivers into conversation with their passengers.

"Look! Is that guy stealing a TV set?" the drivers would exclaim.

"Oh gosh, I think he is! Should we call the police?" the passenger would ask.

Immediately cellphones would come into hand and the local police department would be flooded with calls about a suspicious looking man running down the sidewalk with a television in tow, the cord dragging behind him.

Within minutes, I would likely be swarmed with police cars, but this was all part of the plan. As the officers exit their vehicles and command me to stop, I would comply for the most part. I'd set down my television set and take off the ski-mask, giving them an inquisitive look though during all of this, I would continue to run in place, not wanting the cops to ruin my good sweat.

"What seems to be the problem, Officer?" I'd ask.

The police, hands on their side arms, would start their questioning with, "Son, just where did you get that television set?"

"It's mine from home." I'd respond.

"Oh." They'd say, "Well, why are you running with it?"

"I'm jogging." I would answer, still galloping where I stood.

"Jogging, eh?" the officers would inquire, giving me a sideways look.

"Some people call it running." I'd suggest, slowing my pace a bit.

"Aren't they the same thing?" the cops would ask, puzzled.

"That's what I'm saying!" I'd agree enthusiastically. At this point, I would have stopped running in place, secretly self-conscious about how I looked doing so in the first place.

This would put the police into an awkward spot since they had not received any reports of a stolen TV, but due to the overall weirdness of the situation I'd likely be put into the back of their cruiser with my TV and taken home where I'd show them the empty spot on my entertainment center where the television belonged. They'd eventually apologize for the inconvenience and leave, suggesting that I take up a more practical form of exercise.

Credits - would like to thank the website Musing on Minutiae ( for the authorization to reprint the article "The Side Effects of Jogging" by Weston Locher. Locher is the author of the book Musing on Minutiae, 50 hilarious columns over 160 pages featuring humorous observations, anecdotes, and childhood memories, and including never before published essays.

Since September 7, 2007 - © Aerostato, Seattle - All Rights Reserved.

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