Christine Luff

If you’re just getting started with running, your eventual goal may be to build up running a certain distance or time period without stopping or taking a walking break.  Or, if you’re already an experienced runner, you may be thinking that walking during a race or run is cheating or admitting defeat.

Try to put your preconceived notions about running and walking aside, and consider all the great benefits of doing the run/walk method, also known as the Galloway Method.  With run/walk, you run for specific intervals (either time or distance) and then walk for a specific interval, and keep alternating back and forth between running and walking.

Here are five reasons you may want to give the run/walk method a try:

1. You’ll reduce your injury risk.  

You put a lot of stress on your muscles and joints when you’re running and too much of it can lead to overuse injuries, such as shin splintsplantar fasciitis, or knee pain. When you take walk breaks during runs, you’re using different muscles and you’re reducing the impact on your joints, even if you’re covering the same distance as you would doing all run. Walking is much more gentle on the body, so you’ll help prevent common running injuries.

2. Your overall pace may improve.

I talk to lots of Galloway Method converts who report that they had faster race times after they made the switch from all run to run/walk. Taking short walk breaks gave them enough of a rest that they ran faster than their usual pace during their run segments, resulting in a faster overall pace.

Towards the end of races, I’ve witnessed many race participants doing run/walk pass tons of people who had been running during the entire race. While those who ran the entire time have slowed down and are trudging with fatigued legs through to the finish line, those who have been taking walk breaks were able to keep a consistent pace and finish strong.

3. It’s easier mentally than running the entire distance. 

The run/walkers I coach report that the walk intervals help just as much mentally as they do physically. Having a short walk break to look forward to can make a long distance feel much more manageable and help you stay more positive during your miles. And breaking up the monotony of a long run with walk intervals makes the time go by much faster.

4. You’ll recover faster.  

Run/walking is easier on your body, so you’ll find that you won’t be as sore and fatigued after a long run or race. You’ll be able to get back to your workout routine much faster.

5. You can improve your endurance.

Many runners find that once they reach a certain distance, it’s very difficult for them to get past it. They find themselves stuck at a plateau in mileage.

I’ve talked to lots of run/walkers who’ve said that taking walk breaks helped them complete distances that they never thought they’ve be able to reach. Because the Galloway Method is easier both physically and mentally, they’re able to go farther than ever before. If you’ve thought that completing a half or full marathon wasn’t a reasonable goal, you may reconsider if you decide to run/walk the distance.

The How and Why of Walk Breaks

How do walk breaks work? Most runners will record faster times when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of a long run or race.  By switching back and forth between using your walking and running muscles, you distribute the workload and conserve more energy to stay strong longer. For beginner and veteran marathoners, this simple strategy can shave minutes off your finish time.

The earlier you take the walk breaks, the more they help you!  To receive maximum benefit, you should start the walk breaks BEFORE you feel any fatigue, in the first mile. If you wait until you feel the need for a walk break, you’ve already reduced your potential performance.

Make sure you maintain good form when walking – shoulders back, arms at a 90 degree angle, rotating at the shoulder. Walk with a purpose, at a brisk pace – it should not be a leisurely walk or shuffle. That will make the transition back to running easier.

How fast should the walk break be?  When you walk fast for a minute, most runners will lose about 15 seconds over running at their regular pace. But if you walk slowly, you’ll have lost only about 20 seconds.

Practice in training.  Practice makes switching from walk to run and back again smooth and second nature. Run at your usual pace–transitions are easier if you run efficiently with your feet close to the ground.

The mental benefit is huge. Just knowing you plan to take a walk break every 3, 5, 10 minutes or every mile at the aid station can help you keep going when the going gets tough.

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