We crawl before we learn to walk.
We wog before we learn to run.
Wog? That's right, W-O-G.
Wogging is a word used in some circles to describe a combination of walking and jogging, or walking and running. You may not have heard the term, but this way of exercising is far from new, fitness experts say.
"It's a catchword for what we all do," says Michael Hewitt, exercise physiologist and research director for exercise science at the Canyon Ranch spa in Tucson, Ariz. "We like to attach labels to things but if you look at any 8-year-old kid, they're wogging. They'll run for a while and then walk when they get tired, and then run again. Kids are smart, and kids wog."
So do adults who are trying to make a transition from walking to running.
Woggers, Hewitt tells WebMD, are people who want to be runners, but don't yet have the muscular endurance to run.
"It's what we've been teaching people for years and years," says Julie Isphording, former Olympic marathon runner and host of "FIT: Fitness Information Talk" and "On Your Feet," two popular health and fitness radio shows aired on National Public Radio in and around Cincinnati.
Isphording trains people to become runners by interspersing short bouts of running into their walking routines.
"Whenever you embark on a fitness program and you want to become a runner, you start by walking," says Isphording. "Then you set a goal, like from this stop sign to the next corner, I'm going to run. You keep building that until you're jogging."
Even some people in the fitness industry haven't heard the term "wogging," say Dave Sellers, "Ask the Experts" editor of Runner's World magazine, but all are familiar with the workout that intersperses walking with running. In fact, he says, there is a new segment of people who are running for fitness and camaraderie rather than to win races.
"These folks have helped to spur the tremendous growth in running (slowly) for fitness among late-blooming recreational exercisers," says Sellers.
There are great benefits to including a little running in your walking routine. Even adding a few minutes of running can help you burn more calories, build stronger bones and boost your fitness level, say the experts at Runner's World magazine.
"It offers an exerciser a way to increase intensity, reduce musculoskeletal joint stress associated with doing too much of any one repetitive motion, and create more challenge and variety to his or her workout," says Kathy Stevens, a Reebok master trainer and member of the board of certification and training for the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America.
It can also improve your cardiovascular fitness, by increasing your endurance.
"It's similar to interval training," says Hewitt. "By taking short little dips into that anaerobic (high-intensity) zone, you train the body to tolerate a higher level of respiratory challenge."
So how do you know if wogging is right for you?
Many people are candidates for a walk/jog program. Before starting any new fitness routine though, experts advise checking with your doctor to be sure you have no limitations.
Exercise physiologist and WebMD Weight Loss Clinic sports physciologist Rich Weil says a walk-run program works best for someone who's already been walking at least 30 minutes consistently a few times per week and wants to start running.
"The idea is, over time, you increase your jogging time and decrease your walking time," he says.
You do that by setting up intervals, says Weil. Let's say you already walk 30 minutes. One day, decide that you'll walk for five minutes and then jog for one or two. Repeat that pattern until you've finished the workout, and, over time, continue to lengthen the time you jog and shorten the time you walk.
Runner's World magazine has a 10-week plan to take wannabe runners from two-minute intervals in week one to a full-fledged, 30-minute run by week 10, simply by adding one to two minutes to each running interval each week (while reducing the same number of minutes spent walking).
"The reality is that you can improve your fitness walking or running or a combination of the two," says Hewitt. "Asking your body to do just a little bit more than the comfort level allows, you're teasing your functional limitations -- teasing that edge."
Of course, as with any new program, the hardest part of wogging is sticking with it.
"The first step is the hardest in anything you do," Isphording says. "It's always two weeks of hell when you first start. Your body's adapting to something new and so is your mind."
Here are her tips for starting -- and staying with -- a walk-run program:
- Buy a pair of running shoes before beginning. They are lighter and absorb more shock than walking shoes.
- Get a workout partner. Having someone else to answer to will keep you more honest, and more committed.
- Have written goals. "It's important to have a plan, so everyday you're not saying, 'oh, my gosh, I didn't go as far today,'" says Isphording.
- Keep a journal. Looking back on your progress can be a great motivator, and can help you detect patterns that lead to difficult workouts.
- Have a goal or dream. And whether it's running a marathon or a neighborhood 10K, she says, "don't lose sight of that."
- Ask lots of questions, and don't be afraid to ask more experienced athletes for their advice. "People help change you," Isphording says.