The run-walk method is a proven way to improve a runner’s pace and race times. Not only that, it helps runners to be less injury prone, and enjoy their runs and training even more. Yet as great as this technique is, mistakes with the run walk method do occur.
These common mistakes with run walk can not only impede your progress, but set you up for injury, or more fatigue/discomfort than is necessary.
With that, here’s 10 mistakes you must avoid when using the run walk method.
Waiting until you’re tired before starting to run/walk.
To receive the most 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. (This may be the most common, biggest mistake with run walk!)
Related topic: 8 Tips Beginner Runners Must Know to Succeed
Walk intervals last longer than 30 seconds.
Research shows that the most benefit occurs in the first 30 seconds. And, as distance increases, it’s more difficult to “restart” the legs for the run interval with longer walk breaks.
Ignoring your walking form.
The walk is an important part of the run/walk interval! Therefore, 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 – not a leisurely walk or shuffle. That makes transitioning back to running easier.
Plus, just as with your running form, keep your walking strides shorter, more brisk, with your feet underneath you versus over-striding.
Not using a timer for your intervals.
First, you run the risk of being inconsistent with your intervals, or miscounting if you’re counting “in your head.” Secondly, constantly looking at your watch is distracting, and you’re more likely to fall or mis-step.
There are many smartphone apps and devices (ie: Garmin) that have an interval timer feature. Another favorite among run/walkers is the Gymboss, a small, easy-to-use interval timer that can clip onto your shorts, shirt, jacket, etc. It beeps loudly to signal when to start and stop your intervals.
Regardless of what you use, ensure it clearly and loudly alerts you so you can focus on the run instead of your watch.
Running too fast on the run.
Having walk intervals doesn’t mean that it’s okay to “floor it” on the run. You want to be sufficiently recovered after the walk interval to begin running again. If you’re breathing heavily at the end of the walk, you’re running too fast. And, if you’re still winded, it’s tempting to delay your run interval.
Run Walk Method Mistakes, Continued
Not adhering to the run walk time intervals during the workout/race.
One common mistake is to walk fewer intervals at the beginning of a workout (skipping the walk portion). The thought “I’ll start using the interval when I’m tired” is a poor one. The entire notion of run/walk is to better manage your endurance and progress your distance with less fatigue.
Conversely, there’s a temptation to increase the time walking later in the run. Before you know it, the walk interval is over, and you delay your run interval. The issue with this is it’s a slippery slope.
With physical and mental fatigue, it can easily spiral into more walking than you planned (even though you’re capable of the run). If anything, be sure to use run/walk from the START, and back off your RUN pace if you’re feeling the fatigue really set in.
Ignoring weather/terrain conditions.
If it’s an exceptionally warm day, or you’re on a very hilly route – remember, you can adjust your run/walk interval. For example, if you normally have a ratio of 4:2, you can modify it to 3:2, or 2:2. Example: if your typical interval is 60” run/30” walk, you can switch it up to 45’/30’, or 30’/30’.
Also, it’s a good strategy if there are particularly difficult/hilly portions on a course. For the Big Sur Marathon, there’s a 2+ mile climb. We chose to use run/walk for that portion, and it helped immensely.
Assuming NO speed work when using run/walk.
Using run/walk does not preclude you from doing other types of work-outs, including speed work! For the most part, speed work is largely broken up into intervals, just like run/walk intervals.
Run/walk athletes can do track workouts, progression runs, and other forms of interval training. It typically requires some tweaks/modifications, but they certainly can be part of a run/walk athlete’s plan.
Never changing up your run/walk interval.
We develop and improve as runners. Thankfully! That means as our endurance and fitness improve, it’s important to adjust the run/walk interval. Essentially, as your fitness improves, your run interval can increase in duration. However, be careful to increase in smaller increments, just as runners increase their weekly mileage in small increments.
Abandoning run/walk intervals in a race — after primarily using the run/walk method in training.
If the run/walk method is your primary means of completing your runs, there is risk in ignoring the intervals on race day. First, your body both physically, and mentally has become accustomed to the strategy, even if you don’t use it for all your runs. This is especially applicable if you’re attempting a new race distance you’ve not done before, or are running a distance further than any of your training runs.
One caveat: if it’s a shorter race/distance than you’ve been covering, that likely won’t be an issue.
Thinking that progress is only being able to run the entire distance.
Consider this a bonus mistake (#11!): If run/walk works for you, stick with it. Some folks feel as if they’re not a runner if they can’t cover the distance without walking. That’s simply FALSE. If run/walk helps you to stay more injury free, makes your runs more enjoyable, and keeps you loving and IN the sport, then what more can you ask for?
Are there any learnings or mistakes you’ve want to share about the run walk method?