We first learned about Nate Tower when we saw news that he had broken the world record for backwards joggling a mile. We tracked him down to learn a little bit more about this backward joggling superstar.
TOWER: I live in St. Louis with my wife and daughter. Our daughter will turn two in March. She already knows the alphabet! I turn 31 in February, which I think will make me feel old finally. People told me that would happen when I turned 30, but it didn’t. So I’m thinking 31 will do it. I’ve been teaching high school English and coaching cross country and track and field for the last nine years. My girls won state last track season and last cross country season, so I’ve had a great year. I also spend a lot of time writing fiction and managing a literary magazine called Bartleby Snopes. I’ve written a few hundred short stories as well as a novel and a novella. I’ll have a short story collection out this year. For more information about my life as a writer and juggler, visit my website: http://www.nathanieltower.wordpress.com
JYAJ: What is the story of how you learned to juggle?
TOWER: I went to a high school where it’s sort of a tradition to know how to juggle. Almost everyone takes a theatre class, and part of the class is doing a juggling performance. My brother actually taught me before I got to high school. I learned pretty quickly. Of course, I dropped the balls plenty of times, but it didn’t take but maybe a week to really get the hang of it. I think juggling is one of those things that people think is more impressive than it really is. At least basic juggling. I think everyone can learn to juggle. But it’s one of those things that blows everyone’s mind. Although, if you can’t do any tricks, the audience gets pretty bored after about thirty seconds.
JYAJ – When did you start joggling? Why did you start?
TOWER: I started joggling in 2006 after seeing someone do it at the Kansas Relays. He joggled a 200 in something like 26 seconds. It was pretty awesome. I did it mostly as a gag for a while, showing off to my athletes. But now I like to go for long runs while juggling. My longest run currently is 10 miles, and my longest streak without dropping is right around 60 minutes. I prefer doing joggling track workouts over long runs though. I like to run fast while I joggle, to really challenge myself. At this point in my life, I would definitely rather go joggling than just for a regular run though.
JYAJ – How many races have you done while joggling?
TOWER: Unfortunately, I haven’t done any official races yet. I was going to do one this past October, but it ended up conflicting with cross country practice. I’ve raced people while joggling, but mostly just as a joke. I outran one of my athletes in the 100. He wasn’t joggling. The other kids on the team thought it was the greatest thing to watch. One of my goals for this year is to do an official race while joggling.
JYAJ – What are some of your most interesting joggling stories?
TOWER: It’s always interesting to hear the different reactions people give you when they see you joggling. Of course, I’ve had people tell me how cool it is. Most people laugh or say something like, “And I can’t even run.” Last summer I ran through the same park almost every day at the same time. There was a day camp going on, and the kids always went nuts. They would cheer and ask me questions as I joggled by. It made me feel really good about joggling. If I had just been running, they wouldn’t have cared. I think joggling is this great form of entertainment and fitness that really makes people happy to see. No one frowns when they see a joggler.
A couple weeks ago, I was running in a big wildlife reservation. A car pulled alongside me. The driver looked like the type of guy who’d kill you. But he was as nice as could be. He drove along asking me questions and talking about how cool it was that I was joggling. Of course, he didn’t know what it was called. Not many people are very familiar with the sport. It’s still viewed mostly as a gag, I think.
JYAJ – What kind of training do you do? How fast do you run?
TOWER: When I go for a longer run, I usually run around 7 minute per mile pace. Like I said though, I prefer to do track workouts. I like to do either 400s or 800s. Last week I did 12 x 400 in 78 second average. It was pretty intense. My best joggling 400 ever is 63 seconds. I’ve run the 800 in 2:26. And of course, I’ve run the mile backwards in 8:22 (world record!). Sometimes I would rather just come up with crazy new challenges than really go for a joggle. A few weeks ago I joggled a mile with a 40-pound weight vest. Last week I joggled with soccer balls. I don’t have a set training plan. I just want to get out and have as much fun with joggling as I can.
JYAJ – Do you eat a special diet?
TOWER: I don’t have a special diet. I just try to eat relatively healthy, although sometimes I pack in the desserts. I try to get a lot of fruit and vegetables in. But I don’t have any strict dieting rules. I’ll eat pretty much anything. I probably eat about 3500 calories a day.
JYAJ – How long do you think you will keep joggling?
TOWERS: I hope I’ll always do it. I hope I’ll be that crazy 80-year old joggling down the street.
JYAJ – Do you have any advice for would-be jogglers?
TOWER: Obviously, you should be really comfortable with just regular juggling before you start joggling. I recommend starting on a track. Don’t joggle down the street until you’ve really mastered it. I think the biggest obstacle is trying to focus too much on the juggling and not enough on the running and the world around you. The balls shouldn’t be your focal point. Look ahead. Look around. A few weeks ago I watched a group of deer scamper off while I was joggling. If I had just been focusing on the balls, I would’ve missed them completely. They gave me a “What the heck is that guy doing” look before they ran away.
JYAJ – Where do you see the sport of joggling in 10 years?
TOWER: In the Olympics? Wouldn’t that be cool. It seems like it’s getting a lot more press these days Still, most people I talk to about it think I invented it. I have to explain that it’s a real thing, and that it’s been around for a while. I’d like to see it really catch on. I’d like there to be joggling specific road races all over the country. Everyone has to joggle! Of course, it might be difficult to catch cheaters. But I think jogglers are more honest than most people.
JYAJ – What other interesting things do you do with juggling?
TOWER: I like to find ways to incorporate juggling in everyday situations. Sometimes I juggle in the classroom as a teaching supplement. I also like to find ways to really challenge myself. I’ve juggled while jumping over things and running up tall flights of stairs. I’d like to juggle up the stairs of some really tall building.
I’m also working on creating a program called Total Juggling Fitness. The program combines juggling with standard fitness exercises like squats, lunges, weights, etc. I think juggling while doing squats adds another element that gets the whole body working. I’m not sure how well it would catch on. It seems like too many people think of juggling as something that’s too hard to learn. And a lot of people think exercising is too hard. And I want them to do both? I must be crazy.
Be sure to check out Nate’s blog.