Moving Forward with the Run/Walk Training Method

I started running as a way to lose weight, get fit and most of all to prove to my 6th grade P.E. teacher that I could run. Once I ran my first race, I was hooked. I love the challenge of running, and although not every run is joyful, running is my passion.

When I laced up my first pair of running shoes well over three years ago, I started like many new runners do: with a run/walk program, where you alternate between walking and running. Most people do not have the endurance or stamina to run long distances right off the bat, but with time and patience, you can eventually go from a run/walk program to running a good three miles in a matter of weeks. However, many experts are now advocating adding walking breaks into your runs to help with your endurance and your recovery.

While I have run more than 60 races ranging in distances from a 5K to a half-marathon, I decided to return to the run/walk method, which many believe to be a backwards approach, while training for my first marathon. I was reluctant; it had been years since I had incorporated walk breaks into my runs. While I have read it works well for many, I felt at first that it was a step backwards.

During training, I discovered that walking intervals did not set me back! Jeff Galloway, one of the country’s premiere advocates for this technique, has been teaching this method for many years. He has had such great success with his program that he now leads clinics all over the country to help running coaches teach this run/walk method. He even has had clients who have qualified for the Boston Marathon using this training technique.

I started integrating walk breaks into my long runs and was stunned to see my pace per mile was basically the same as when I do an all-out run. Perhaps the most important change I noticed is that I recovered so much faster between my runs. As a master runner (anyone older than 40 is considered a master runner), it is even more important to allow for recovery between your runs to decrease your injury risk.

So each Saturday morning, I headed outside with my Garmin strapped to my wrist, set to a 5:1 run/walk ratio. In other words, I ran 5 minutes followed by a brisk 1-minute walk only to pick back up to a 5 minute run again. I did this for the entire duration of my training run, and it was truly amazing how great I felt when my long runs were over. Just remember that you want to incorporate the walk breaks early on. Do not wait until you get tired to start incorporating walking breaks; you must follow this schedule from the start of your training. And if you are looking for more guidance, there is a SparkTeam for members who are using Jeff Galloway’s training techniques.

If you use the run/walk method, you're still a runner. You may even be a better one than you ever imagined!