Benefits of Walk-Running

Benefits of Walk-Running

I’ve been extolling the walk-run method since I injured my knee two years ago. I’ve always believed in it as the ideal way for anyone to begin running or return to running. I’ve also long known of the evidence behind Olympic-runner-now-coach Jeff Galloway’s walk-run method helping veteran runners achieve time goals they couldn’t get with steady running. So, what’s the dang deal with the walk-run method? Let me tell you about it.

The broad strokes answer is that alternating segments of run with walk intervals give you micro-breaks that substantially help you recover throughout your run. This recovery means you are less fatigued, have a lower potential for injury, hurt less the next day and may enjoy your run experience a lot more.

There are many reasons to love the walk-run, and many people who can enjoy those benefits.

Beginning runners – How do I start a walk-run routine?

This is, hands-down, the best way to start running. Start with a brisk walk, and after 5-10 minutes, insert :30-:60 of jogging (not too hard), then drop back to walking for a few minutes. Repeat that cycle several times, or over a couple of miles. One format I especially like, is to do this in blocks of five minutes. After a 5:00 brisk walk, jog for 1:00, then walk for 4:00. Repeat. After a week or so of that (assuming you do it a few times a week, with a rest day between outings), increase the jog portion to 2:00 followed by a 3:00 walk. After a week or two of that, increase to 3:00 of easy jog followed by 2:00 walk, and so on. Be patient and stick with the plan, building up the jog, and whittling down the walk, and in 4-6 weeks, you’ll be running a more or less sustained 2-3 miles. It’s a safe methodical way to start running. You’re welcome!

How do I re-introduce running after an injury?

Essentially, ditto the above paragraph. Gradual return to running beats going out and just running in every way. The gradually increasing interval style allows your joints, tendons and muscles to adapt to the stress over time. When you are coming back from injury that’s the way to go. Pay attention to your pain threshold. It may be appropriate and okay to experience some pain as you return to running. Consult with a physical therapist in order to gauge that.

Walkers – How can I increase my walking stamina?

Walking is great for fitness, and yet, there are greater health benefits with increasing cardio intensity. So if you’re a walker, moving some of your walk toward a jog or run is huge. And before you freak out on me that you aren’t a runner, don’t want to be a runner, etc etc, I’m not suggesting you go out and run! Think of walking and running on a spectrum. Adding a few seconds of increased pace every few minutes, just dialing up to a more vigorous pace by several seconds of slow jogging, going harder up stairs or a hill, or even skipping or dance-walking 😉 has massive improvements to life expectancy.

Unmotivated, burned out or Bored runners – How can I start enjoying running?

Working with runners for over a dozen years now, I have encountered many who have periods of disillusionment with running. Sometimes this happens after someone has trained hard for a big running goal and just needs a break for a while. Sometimes it comes about due to stress in other areas of life, or due to grief–running can feel too intense. And sometimes, a runner can feel stagnant with their running routine and just needs to try something new. All of these situations cry out for a walk-run approach. Thinking of the spectrum of walk-run, it can be a welcome innovation to tune your pace up and down, and can really show or remind people what they love about exercise in the first place.

Runners looking to hit a time goal – How can I BQ with a walk-run strategy? Who is Jeff Galloway, and what is Jeffing?

A very specific niche in the walk-run phenomenon comes to us from running coach Jeff Galloway. He has taken the concept to a high art, which he evangelizes for all the situations I’ve listed here, but also for those athletes who are specifically seeking a time goal, such as qualifying for the Boston Marathon (BQ-ing). Jeffing, as it’s come to be known, is following a very specific protocol of walk-run that involves holding a high pace for your run, easing into a short walking rest interval, then dialing back up to the high pace, repeatedly for your full marathon. It takes a lot of training to get those paces so well tuned, but when runners do that they have been able to qualify for Boston (or hit other aggressive running goals) that they never could do with sustained running. That just shows you the power of these mini-recoveries. Check out Jeff’s books, or hit me up if you want to explore a Jeffing strategy for an upcoming race.

Why Else? Running Errands, Just for Fun, Mental Health and Neighborhood Vibes

Before closing this topic out, I have to include a nod to some of the greatest benefits of walk-running. Let’s say you want to get outside, explore your environs, see neighbors, maybe mail a letter, check out the little library down the street, burn a few calories, and just break up your day. This kind of multifaceted experience is maybe the best benefit to walk-running in my book. When my goal is not so much to run a certain distance or specific amount of time, or to keep my heart rate at a threshold level, I open myself up to a really cool experience by blending walking and running organically as I move through my neighborhood and shift my focus. It FEELS SO DANG GOOD!

If you see yourself in any of these categories, play around with walk-running. Join the Unstill Life Half-Fast Walk & Run group no matter how you roll. We meet on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 and most Saturdays at 9:30am. We’d love to see you there.

Be sure to check out our classes and run/walk group – we’d love to see you there!

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