If you’ve ever taken off for an outdoor run only to be disturbed by the amount of litter and debris you encounter on the way, take note. A Swedish fitness trend that combines running and helping the environment is gaining popularity around the globe. It’s called plogging, and it just might change the way you think about working out for good.
What exactly is plogging?
Plogging is a combination of jogging and the Swedish word “plocka upp,” or pick up. Runners carry trash bags and stop to pick up trash along their route. You can participate in plogging essentially anywhere you find litter—whether you live in a city, near a beach, or even in a suburb.
“This new green living ‘fad’ where runners pick up litter while they run has been catching on in the United States recently, especially since road runners and trail runners are sick of seeing their routes covered in trash,” says Meghan Kennihan, a certified personal trainer and running coach in LaGrange, Illinois. “There are even plogging groups forming here and in Europe. [We’re] becoming more aware of our footprint on the planet and the damage we can cause to the environment.”
Plogging offers physical and mental benefits.
Picking up trash while you run can help Mother Earth and make your hometown look a little cleaner, of course. But it also can benefit your running game—both mentally and physically, Kennihan explains.
Physically speaking, running is a repetitive movement. You hit your stride, and your body propels forward as your feet continue to hit the ground again and again. While running offers amazing physical benefits, mixing up your workout routine can challenge the muscles in new ways.
That’s where plogging comes in. “It forces you to move your body in functional ways,” says Kennihan. “You have to squat down and reach for each piece of trash. You have to learn to balance your body with different weight in each hand.”
Once you start plogging, you might find yourself running more miles than usual, adds Maggie Winzeler, an exercise psychologist and certified fitness professional in Virginia. “The process of picking up trash might help distract you from how hard and far you’ve run, allowing you to effortlessly do more,” she says. “And carrying a bag of trash as you go might even help burn more calories!”
In addition to the physical benefits, Kennihan says that plogging can mentally challenge runners and keep them motivated. “Plogging is a great way to keep you motivated and give your runs a purpose,” she says. “Many people lose their mojo to run because they just keep doing the same routine and same route over and over and burnout. Plogging forces you to pay attention to your surroundings and discover new areas to explore because your usual route will already be clean after running it once or twice.”
How to Start Plogging and Tips for Staying Safe
Ready to start plogging? It’s pretty simple. All you need is a trash bag, gloves, and your usual running getup. If you prefer to start out with a group, look for a Facebook community or plogging meetup in your area. As you become more experienced, you may even decide to start your own group to get others involved!
Winzeler also offers these plogging tips to stay safe on the road or trail:
- Alternate which arm you’re carrying your bag of trash in. This will help keep the effort evenly distributed through your body, keeping muscles balanced and strong.
- Whenever you’re running on a road, be sure to follow traffic safety rules and run going against traffic (Note: bikers should go with traffic). This will help you keep your eyes on cars that might not be expecting someone to be walking or running on the side of the road.
- If you’re picking up trash on the beach, you may find that your calves are extra sore, so be sure to stretch them thoroughly after you’re done.
- Be careful not to bend from your back. Squat down to pick up items.
Finally, be sure to take a #Selfie when you’re out there on the road doing good, recommends Winzeler. “Share that you’ve plogged! The more we spread the message that exercise can be eco-friendly, the more people will do it,” she says.