This week, I’m running a fun series of workout debates.  First up: Do you acknowledge strangers when exercising outdoors?  General consensus was that most people give a smile, wave, or head nod just to be nice; a few people said they make a point to be friendly as a safety mechanism. 


Today’s debate topic is one of my favorite running issues to ponder!

When running outdoors, what do you do when you approach an intersection?  Do you stop and wait patiently?  Or do you jog in place?  Run in circles?  Do a little dance?


I think this is a pretty divisive topics – I’ve been with some runners who insist on dancin’ in place and others who protest that jogging in circles makes you look like a straight-up idiot.  A side issue, of course, is whether you stop your watch at intersections or does the break count towards your total time?

Haven’t seen a distance or total time that high on my Garmin 305 in a long, long time!


Personally, I usually like to jog in place at stoplight and I stop my watch.  One of the hardest things about running is coming to a full stop and getting started again.  I feel like I lose momentum if I stand still at intersections; the run generally feels easier if I don’t stop moving.  However, sometimes I need a break and welcome excuse to take an intersection rest.  In that scenario, Instead of standing completely still while I wait for the light to change, I stretch.  Otherwise I cramp up!

Whether I’m dancin’ or stretchin’, I always have to wonder:  Do the drivers think I’m totally insane?  Probably!


So – what do you think?  Is stoplight dancin’ necessary or just plain crazy?



  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More July 23, 2012, 11:58 am

    Fun topic! I’m a jog in place or run in small circles person, but I’m with you on not being able to stop because I feel like I lose my momentum to keep moving forward. I use the Nike+ GPS app on my phone and I don’t stop it, just because it’s easier not to touch it, but I’m also not usually looking for the numbers at the end as my goal.

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats July 23, 2012, 11:58 am

    I usually just stop and wait, happy for the break! The few stoplights I hit on my routes aren’t too long, or I run early enough that there are barely any cars so I just cross anyway. And I definitely stop my watch!

  • Kara July 23, 2012, 12:00 pm

    I don’t have intersections or stop lights where I run. I will stop to let a tractor pass though because the kid likes to look at it and the dog is terrified.

    Joggers run in place at stop lights. Runners just stand there and look pissed.

    • Caitlin July 23, 2012, 12:01 pm

      Hahah i love that slogan.

    • Debbie @ Live from La Quinta July 23, 2012, 12:06 pm

      Didn’t read through the comments until after I made mine. I posted the same joke 🙂

  • Kristy Doyle July 23, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Ohh, I like this one, I’m looking forward to reading the comments.

    I stop. I feel silly jogging in place (not that I think others look silly, I just FEEL silly), so I stop, pause my Nike+ app and wait. It usually gives me time to skip the song if I’m not feeling it also. But typically I try to avoid them all together. If I see one ahead and I think I might get stuck, I’ll slow down a little or if I see one that’s about to change I’ll speed up. I figure it all evens out.

  • emily July 23, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Whenever I hit a red light I cross the street in the other direction instead (i.e. perpendicular to the cross I wanted to make). This keeps me from having to stop and ends up adding some distance to my run if I have to do it often.

  • Kelly July 23, 2012, 12:04 pm

    Funny how some folks said they are friendly as a safety precaution…I have found this to be the complete opposite. Somehow, I manage, no matter what I am doing, to attract the weirdos. Never fails. HOWEVER, the attracting of the weirdos is often made worse/increased by eye contact or a smile or a nod. This is especially true with when I do it with men. It’s like an invitation to talk to me or to make some obscene remarks about my looks and/or body. So, I definitely pick and choose who I am “friendly” with and this is upsetting because I’d LIKE to be friendly…you know? It’s just if you choose the wrong people, they take advantage of that and use it to approach you or to call after you or etc. Sad, isn’t it? Also, on the whole, I wonder if other women get harassed as much by men as I do? May be an interesting topic and of course, vice versa for the men that get cat calls from women. Anyway, none of this has to do with your topic today, just found that bit of information interesting.

    • Alex July 23, 2012, 4:23 pm

      I’ve never had any serious bad experiences – but I hate when guys in cars look at my chest when I’m running or biking! Makes me feel really yuk, which is weird because it bothers me a lot less when I’m not exercising.

  • Debbie @ Live from La Quinta July 23, 2012, 12:04 pm

    I saw a funny graphic on facebook. A picture of a female runner at a corner looking angry. The caption said something like, “Joggers jog in place at a traffic light. Runners stand there and look pissed.”

    And I do stop my watch.

  • LeeAnn July 23, 2012, 12:05 pm

    If it is snowy or cold, I will jog in place. Otherwise…I am all about taking a minute to stretch. And I typically set my Garmin to auto-pause, so it stops the time for me 🙂

    • Christina July 23, 2012, 12:12 pm

      I’ve had bad luck with auto-pause. My Garmin never seems to re-start after it auto-pauses. I’ve also had the bad luck of not re-starting my Garmin after manually pausing it. Haha.

  • Marissa@ohhhsolovely July 23, 2012, 12:09 pm

    this is such a great question & i think it totally depends on what your body needs at the time. so, i would simply treat it just the same as the rest of my workout. it’s not really a big deal to me if people think i’m crazy doing my stretches & all! i’m just happy to be getting in a decent sweat sess!

  • Christina July 23, 2012, 12:11 pm

    At stoplights, I just stop and stand there annoyed. I usually stop my Garmin too. I also stop my Garmin when I take a drink at a water fountain. I really don’t think there is a right or wrong way to go about this. 🙂

  • Rachel O. July 23, 2012, 12:13 pm

    i tend to stop and walk in circles a bit – catch my breath and i have my garmin set to auto pause.

    most of my route is stop-lightless, so it maybe only occurs once on a long run – if i’m in the neighborhood and a car is turning down a street i’m about to cross i sometimes run an arc outside of the the car’s path

  • Karen @ Run Shop Travel July 23, 2012, 12:16 pm

    I don’t run in place or dance when I am waiting at a stop light; I usually take the time to catch my breath and drink some water. I am used to stopping/starting/taking walking breaks so it doesn’t affect me too much!

  • Brooklyn July 23, 2012, 12:24 pm

    Perfect down dog!

  • Laura July 23, 2012, 12:28 pm

    I stop, but that’s usually because I’m panting for oxygen and welcome the opportunity to catch my breath! Sometimes I get grouchy when the light is green so I don’t have that excuse to stop!

  • Michelle @ Eat Move Balance July 23, 2012, 12:33 pm

    I’ve heard “stoplight dancing” (funny term–I like it!), is totally unnecessary. However, I still do it. It feels weird to just stop and stand there. 🙂

  • Alex @ Healthy Life Happy Wife July 23, 2012, 12:34 pm

    I normally just stop at a red light…& if I remember, I will stop my Garmin but I typically don’t remember. I agree with you about stopping while running making it harder once you start again. That’s why I try to run on a path without lights, cars, etc if possible!

  • Laura July 23, 2012, 12:39 pm

    I stand at the light/intersection-no running in cirlces for this girl! And we’re teaching the dog to not run across the dog and to wait for our signla so I stop even if there isn’t traffic so we are consistent! And I always stop my Garmin, but sometimes I forget to start it again!!

  • Melissa July 23, 2012, 12:50 pm

    I don’t jog at stop lights (like others, usually grateful for an imposed break!) and I stop my watch. Sometimes I might move from side to side just to keep myself moving, but that’s the extent of it. It’s funny though, one of my running buddies keeps her watch running for all of our stoplight breaks (or if one of us needs to stop and fix our ponytail, etc) and sometimes we end up with such different results from the same workout!

  • Brigid July 23, 2012, 1:02 pm

    I do the ridiculous jog-in-place thing at an intersection unless I was ready for a walking break. In that case, I rest and then start running again when the light turns green. I never stop my watch, though. That never occurred to me before.

  • Leah @ Chocolate and Wild Air July 23, 2012, 1:03 pm

    I tend to do the same thing Caitlin – usually I jog in place, unless I really need a break. Then I stop and stretch it out! But regardless, I’m sure that cars think I’m absolutely crazy

  • Megan@ The Running Doc July 23, 2012, 1:04 pm

    For me it depends how far into my run I am. If I’ve just started I’ll usually jog in place or turn around and run 15 ft back and hope the light has changed by the time I get back. Whereas if I’ve already been running for a while I welcome the short pause in action and use it to stretch, usually my hips or calves. Lots of times I need to stop and stretch anyways so I might as well use those built in stopping points for them. And I have no doubt that no matter what, all the drivers think I’m completely crazy, ha!

  • Dana July 23, 2012, 1:09 pm

    I take red lights as the universe’s way of telling me to take a break. Drink of water, stretch, stand, whatever – but I don’t run.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat July 23, 2012, 1:17 pm

    I’m a dancer too! I jog in place and can’t stand having to stop and re-start again. Once I get into the rhythm I don’t like to break it. Depending on whether or not I’m trying to do a run for time, I may stop my watch. Usually, I’ll just head out for an hour-ish long route, and if I can do it faster, then that’s great!

  • Shauna July 23, 2012, 1:18 pm

    Stand and stretch! I don’t have a watch, just an iPod nano, and I use the stopwatch function to record the time. The drawback is that it takes too long to get to and stop/start while I’m at a light, so as I wait at the stoplight I watch the seconds tick by on whatever song the nano is playing and then keep a running tally in my head of how many seconds to deduct from the final time.

  • Steph @ A Life without Ice Cream July 23, 2012, 1:18 pm

    Most of the time I stop or sway side to side and stretch out my hips or stretch my quads. Have to be honest I’ve never gone full downward dog at an intersection 😛

    I also don’t usually stop my watch, unless it’s one I know that is a really long light. Usually I feel that I’ll make up for that minute of rest when I start running again.

    The other night I stopped because I saw a baby bunny… I paused my timer for cuteness because who knows how long the baby bun would stop me 😛

  • Claire Zulkey July 23, 2012, 1:22 pm

    I used to always stoplight-jog just because I hated the feeling of stopping and starting. Then last year when I was training for a half marathon during a hot-ass summer, I’d take any break I could get. Then I started running while pregnant and I EXTRA took any break I got. So basically it just depends on whether the break outweighs the disruption of “flow” for me.

  • Julie (A Case of the Runs) July 23, 2012, 1:43 pm

    I stop at stoplights (just did it this morning!), and I don’t stop my watch. Granted, this is on a familiar-distance route so I’m actually wearing a heart-rate monitor instead of a GPS watch. So really, the stops are factored into my workout, so to speak. If I’m not feeling great, I stretch a little, but otherwise, I might stop completely, pace a little, kick my legs gently, or bash the cross button. Hah!

  • Aundra Weissert @ Fit for Life July 23, 2012, 1:53 pm

    Totes necessary!!! I jog in place, but I think now I’m gonna do a little dance!

  • Annette@FitnessPerks July 23, 2012, 2:06 pm

    I jog in place or stretch. No really dancing going on here unless a really fun song comes on and I can’t stop myself 😉

  • Theresa @ActiveEggplant July 23, 2012, 2:08 pm

    I’m a stoplight stretcher. I like to take advantage of the extra break to catch my breath a bit and to loosen up my muscles.

    I won’t stop my watch though. What’s another 30 seconds (or a few minutes if you hit a lot of lights) on your total time? In my mind, a race clock isn’t going to stop for me, so why should I stop my own clock?

    Plus, most GPS devices automatically calculate your “total time” and “moving time” anyway.

    • Alex July 23, 2012, 5:22 pm

      Yes, but you will almost never have to stop at a red light in a race. I always stop my watch at a forced stop (i.e., red light), but I wouldn’t stop my watch at an optional stop (i.e., pulled over to stretch, get water, etc.). If the red light wasn’t there, I’d still be going!

  • Faith @ For the Health of It July 23, 2012, 2:21 pm

    I fall into the “stand still, stop your watch” category. I leave my watch running if I take breaks because I’m out of breath, but if I’m forced to take one so I – ya know, don’t get pancaked by a Mack truck – I don’t penalize myself for that!

  • K @ Finding a skinnier me July 23, 2012, 2:37 pm

    I usually stretch out my sore calves or ankles but I agree, it sucks to have to stop while you have the momentum. Usually my GPS program tracts my movement pretty well, so if I stop, it tends to show no activity at that point.

  • Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy July 23, 2012, 2:55 pm

    i hate intersections and avoid them at all costs! but i usually run to the other end of the block and back, and by that time, the walk light has come on

  • Mary @ food and fun on the run July 23, 2012, 2:55 pm

    I definitely just stop at the intersection, and I stop my watch. I welcome the mini break (most of the time). I just don’t like to reflect the break in my time.

  • Paige @ Your Trainer Paige July 23, 2012, 2:58 pm

    Fun topic! I’ll usually jog in place – or stand there looking pissed LOL

  • Breanne July 23, 2012, 3:07 pm

    It’s always changing for me… there are days I take the break (usually stretching and rarely just standing) and other days that I jog or hop around while I wait.

    Some days I can’t be bothered to stop at all and so I’ll change my route and run whichever way doesn’t require stopping.

  • Callie July 23, 2012, 3:13 pm

    I love these debates. 🙂 I usually jog in place, but I’ve seen other runners do burpees, lunges, pushups.

  • Courtney July 23, 2012, 3:25 pm

    I usually jog in place, but if it’s a rough run and I’m with another person then we’ll agree to stop for a quick break 🙂

  • Kattrina July 23, 2012, 3:31 pm

    I usually come to a complete stop and do some stretching. When I run in DC I have a bunch of stoplights interfering with my run but I just try to be patient. One of my “rules” is that I’m not allowed to dart across the street when I don’t have the crossing light (too dangerous – and I try to practice patience whenever I can). When I’m running closer to home I don’t have so many streetlights as crosswalks and most people stop so I can continue running. And to be honest, I usually like to stop and stretch at lights!

    And I don’t usually run with a watch so I don’t have anything to stop. The few times I’ve run with something, I don’t stop it, I just figure that it ups my miles-per-minute average so when I do a race or something I seem to run faster (even if it’s not true).

  • Sam @ Better With Sprinkles July 23, 2012, 3:47 pm

    I love these posts so much 🙂

    I definitely just stop at stoplights. When I’m out for a run and feel like I need a break, I start looking for lights where I’ll probably be stopped! It sounds so much better in my head to say “I HAD to stop” as opposed to “ohmygod I’m dying and I NEED to stop”…I know there’s nothing wrong with taking a break during a run, but it always makes me feel more legit. 🙂

    Oh, and I always stop my watch when I’m at a light (or any other break). I’m not running at the exact moment, so to me it doesn’t count.

  • Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See July 23, 2012, 4:06 pm

    DANCING!! All the way. Nothing like a little 1 person dance party 🙂

  • Socal Rachel July 23, 2012, 4:12 pm

    I always stop the timer at lights and I walk back and forth while waiting for the light to change. I usually welcome the break. But I never just stop, I let my heart rate come down a little by walking.

  • Lauren T July 23, 2012, 4:21 pm

    I usually jog in place, or if I’m extra tired I will step-touch in place. If I stop completely it’s hard to get started again like you said.

  • Mary July 23, 2012, 4:21 pm

    I usually turn back and run several paces down the sidewalk, then loop around back towards the stoplight. If the light’s still red, I’ll do a second loop. I try to keep my eye on the pedestrian counter on the opposite light so I can gauge when my light’s about ready to turn green again.

    I have done the jog in place and the stop and stand still, and don’t like either option.

  • Roselyn @ A Balanced Fit July 23, 2012, 4:26 pm

    When I stop at intersections, I walk around and stretch. No dancing here. 🙂

  • Tricia July 23, 2012, 4:28 pm

    I completely avoid intersections. I basically run circuitous routes around my neighborhood or take my runs to a track. I hate waiting at intersections. I feel so awkward!

  • Ashley July 23, 2012, 4:34 pm

    Stoplight dancing/jogging = “straight up idiot” (haha). I just stand there looking pissed. And occasionally hitting the button.

    I do stop my Garmin at stoplights. I didn’t ask to be stopped…I certainly don’t think it should affect my pace! After all, I still ran at whatever min/mi before and after that.

  • AmandaonMaui July 23, 2012, 4:41 pm

    I’m a stoplight stretcher, but that only happens when I am on the mainland. Most of the time I don’t have lights to worry about in my area.

    Oh, and as for the people in cars, well I don’t think anything about the runners other than “don’t hit them” and “good for them.”

  • Ruby Leigh July 23, 2012, 4:49 pm

    I stop my watch and usually stand or stretch in place. Probably the least exercise oriented. I guess I like the break.

  • Katheryn July 23, 2012, 5:07 pm

    At an intersection I stop and either stretch a bit or nothing. I don’t understand the whole running in circles or in place. That just looks silly!

  • Brandi@StringCheeseRunner July 23, 2012, 5:18 pm

    I usually wave to strangers or give a smile. If they don’t acknowledge me back, then it’s their loss. I also just jog in place at a stoplight. I hate having to actually stop, so it lessens the blow of stoplights.

  • Kailey July 23, 2012, 5:27 pm

    I usually just stop at intersections. I find it amusing to see really buff guys running in place at stoplights though haha.

  • Jessica @ New Girl, New City July 23, 2012, 5:53 pm

    I’ve come to the realization that everyone who is not a runner thinks people who run for fun are insane. SO, they think you’re insane no matter what you do.. might as well make the most of the dancing and crazy stretching!

  • Alexis July 23, 2012, 5:57 pm

    I jog in place typically, but there is one light that I encounter on EVERY run (there’s no way to avoid this intersection) that is always a long wait if you miss it. For that intersection, I turn right and run down the block, then turn around and run back. I know the intersection well enough to know depending on what point in the light rotation I hit it, how far down the block I have time to run.

    Also, one thing I never worry about is what the drivers think. Because if they exercise, then they totally understand. And if they don’t exercise, I tell myself they’re motivated by seeing me out there;)

  • Heather July 23, 2012, 5:58 pm

    I totally used to jog in place, and then I started running with this guy who was an awesome runner, and he stopped and just looked at me weirdly. He screamed ‘Save your energy!’ – and from then on in, I’ve loved intersections. I don’t know if I could ever run in the country!

  • Bobbie July 23, 2012, 6:18 pm

    I’m really enjoying these little workout debates. I am one of the people who think it’s really silly to jog in place or do a little dance while waiting at an intersection. No offense Caitlyn 😉 I do stop my watch.
    I am with the other commenter though who said most people think us runners are insane anyway so if moving in place works for you then go for it.

  • Ali July 23, 2012, 6:33 pm

    I’ve only been regularily running for about 1.5 months and I typically stop and stretch my shoulders as they get tight when I run. I always stop my watch! I never can decide if this is cheating or not! I’m lucky to live in a small college town so I don’t need to worry that much about stopping this time of the year. Come September when the students come back, that will change and maybe I’ll be running in place too!

    As for your previous post, I was thinking about it on my run this morning. I very rarely pass anyone when I run in the morning because it’s so early (5-6am) but when I do, I typically give a half smile and half wave or an extra-perky “Good morning!” if I’m feeling really good. I passed a woman this morning that A) didn’t acknowlege me and B) stared straight ahead as though I didn’t exist. We were the only two people on the entire 1 mile stretch in front of an elementary school, no cars, nothing. It was SUPER creepy!

  • BroccoliHut July 23, 2012, 6:34 pm

    I usually use stoplights as an opportunity to stretch. Maybe I’ll try dancing on my next run though 🙂

  • Joy July 23, 2012, 8:04 pm

    Love these posts!

    I jog in place if it’s a short stop, but if it’s a long stoplight, I stop and mentally try and get the light to change quicker.

    I don’t stop my watch at either a short or long stop. I figure it’s all part of the run and count it towards my final time.

  • Nicole July 23, 2012, 8:43 pm

    I stop and welcome the break. I also stop my watch. If I have a drink with me, Ill take one during that time, and maybe stretch if something is bothering me.

  • Julia H. @ Going Gulia July 23, 2012, 9:21 pm

    I sort of fake-jog-in-place when waiting to cross the street. More like lifting my heels up and down as opposed to my entire foot. I don’t stop my timer, though….mainly because I run on a route usually that doesn’t involve actual stop-light intersections, but rather just checking to make sure I don’t get hit by a car while crossing a street.

  • Melissa @ Be Not Simply Good July 25, 2012, 3:26 pm

    I usually stop and stretch a bit. And I stop my Garmin. I’ve often wondered how other people handle the Garmin issue.

  • Jodi July 25, 2012, 6:45 pm

    hahaha i love all the comments! I HATE lights…i’m the type who jogs up and down the street until the light changes

  • Amber July 26, 2012, 12:09 pm

    I tend to run during low traffic times so I don’t worry about the 2 streets I cross for my route but sometimes I just have to push the crosswalk button so then I push it for the direction I want to go run across the street the other direction and hope its changed by the time I get to the other side of the road.

  • Chantal July 27, 2012, 2:05 pm

    Is is bad that I’ll usually run farther down the street until there’s a break in traffic and then jay-run across so I don’t have to stop at lights?

    If I do have to stop, I stop running and stop the watch.

  • Liz August 4, 2012, 11:46 pm

    I refer you to this blog post for the answer to your question about moving or stopping at the light, although I do agree that stopping too long will make a person tighten up.

  • Sarah August 5, 2012, 5:27 pm

    I stop and stretch a little and stop my watch 🙂

  • Lindsay @ Trial By Sapphire August 8, 2012, 2:33 pm

    You’ve got a great downward facing dog! Love it!

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