Did you know the run-walk method has proven to improve runners’ pace and race times? That’s right, walking (at intervals) can may make you faster, less injury prone, and your runs downright more enjoyable. Who would have thought?
Yes, many new runners start with the run walk method, but it doesn’t mean more experienced runners have nothing to gain. I ran my first marathon (Disney) with this method, and had run many years prior to that race. And, each time I’ve run the Disney Marathon (six times!), there are large groups of runners participating in the Galloway Run Walk Run pace groups.
The run walk method is fairly straightforward: pre-set time intervals where you alternate running & walking throughout the run (or race). Meaning, you don’t begin intervals when you fatigue sets in.
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Does the run walk method WORK?
Short answer: YES. But, here’s more proof.
Run Walk Method BENEFITS
- Run-walk method allows new runners to more safely increase their endurance and time spent on foot with less injury/pain risk.
- Research indicates aerobic development begins/peaks between 30-90 minutes. Using this method allows new runners to extend their sessions into that time frame more easily/safely.
- Allows runners to recover their breathing, give muscles a rest & reduces core-body temps. (Long story short: higher body temps = slower pace/harder effort.)
- Faster times. Jeff Galloway’s data shows on average, those that use run-walk improve half-marathon time by seven minutes, and marathon by 13 minutes!
Run Walk Method BASIC PRINCIPLES
- A muscle’s continued use results in quicker fatigue; this method breaks the ‘chain’ allowing your muscles to fatigue at a slower rate.
- Allows for quicker post run recovery
- Puts less stress on areas more prone to injury
- Mentally breaks up distance into more manageable segments
- Run-walk method is interval training: by varying the intensity of effort, it improves aerobic capacity, allowing you to run longer & at more intense levels.
- Endorphins released during walk breaks endorphins allow better mental/physical recovery.
Can anyone benefit from the run-walk method, other than beginner runners?
Short answer: YES.
OKAY, but who/when?
- Runners increasing to a new distance for the first time (my first marathon).
- Runners recovering from an injury, especially if lost two weeks + of training. It helps prevent re-injury, plus transitions back to normal training faster.
- Any runners recovering from a hard workout by reducing soreness, and potential for injury. Allows the recovery run to be a true recovery run (ie: walk for a minute every 10’ or so).
- Other scenarios: hot temps, if you’ve been bonking during a run, or taking too long to recover from long runs. Also: injury prone runners, those racing with sub-par training, runs/races with elevation gain, runners who go out too fast in a race.
I’m In! What should my run walk ratio be?
Some main variables on which interval to choose are dependent on your base level of fitness, your “magic mile” result, race distance (if racing), and if it’s your long run of the week.
As you likely know, Jeff Galloway’s method is hugely popular, and has a lot of data to support his recommendations. A method to determine the best interval is to run a mile at good, hard effort (“magic mile”) after you complete a proper warm-up. Based on the result, you can loosely follow the parameters below. Use this link to determine your pace at different distances based on your mile’s results.
|Overall Pace/Mi.||Run||Walk||Alternate Intervals|
|9:30-10:45||90”||30”||60/30, 60/20, 45/15|
|10:45-12:15||60”||30”||40/20, 30/15, 30/30, 20/20|
Remember, it’s wise to repeat a mile “time trial” every few weeks as your fitness improves. You’ll notice the faster the pace, the higher the run to walk ratio, and the opposite for a slower pace.
A 30 second walk interval is the maximum time as research shows that 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.
Keep these run walk method pointers in mind:
- These are not hard/fast rules; temper intervals with what feels right for you. Plus, you may find that you need to vary the walk break frequency to adjust for speed, hills, heat, humidity, etc.
- Some do all runs with the run walk method, while others tend to use it more on their long runs. If you can run continuously on shorter runs, you don’t have to take the walk breaks. However, keep in mind walk intervals on midweek runs will help you recover more quickly from your long run.
- Long run pace: can be as much as two minutes slower than the marathon pace as outlined within this link. (This is not implying you are training for a marathon!)
- Modify your run walk method intervals as your fitness/endurance improves.
- The premise of run walk intervals is not to run until you’re exhausted or tired. Pick an interval where you still have some “wind” left at the end of interval.
- Focus on conversational pace while running (just what you think that means).
- Lastly, use intervals from the start, not when you feel that you’re getting tired!
How fast do I run the run interval?
While the intervals above will get you in a time range (pace/mile), to better understand the individual interval paces, Runner’s World has this pace calculator. Note for the time (left two entries), input the time interval. For example, if you choose to do a 60/30 interval, 60 seconds in Running Time, and 30 seconds in Walking Time. A brisk walk (for walking pace) is typically around 15 minutes.
How do I track my intervals?
You don’t want to look at your watch repeatedly during a run, so there are a few options. Many run watches (ie: Garmin) have an interval setting to beep/chime as the interval changes. Or, there are phone apps if you don’t want to invest in a run watch just yet. Here’s a link for recommended interval apps, and in particular, this one iSmoothRun, gets very high ratings. It also works with the Apple Watch, which is a great feature. Third option: the Gym Boss timer is an inexpensive and effective timer for runners (or any timed workout).
When to use Run-Walk Method When it’s Not Consistently Part of Your Training
Some runners for various reasons don’t want to use the run walk method all the time, and that’s okay. BUT, here’s some potentially key times to use the run walk method for a better, more enjoyable result:
- Your training has been lackluster, and you still plan to complete the race.
- The temperatures are very high. Have a pre-set interval, but take advantage of the shady spots.
- Long runs/races where you ingest food/gels/fuel upsets your stomach. During race, walk the aid stations (or on long run, walk when taking fuel).
- Portions of race have significant elevation gain. Time intervals with the parts in race with elev gains. I did this at Big Sur (2 mi. climb!), & it helped immensely.
- You go out too fast in your races. Use run walk method until mid point of race. If you feel good, then run for balance, if fatigued, continue intervals.
Training Plan and Rest/Recovery
Overall, the run walk method can be used with any training plan by using intervals during your run. (The exception is speed workouts with a prescribed workout.) New runners should space a day of rest/cross training between the run sessions. As a result, you become stronger, faster, fitter, & less injury prone because rest & recovery between run workouts is necessary.
Remember, the purpose of the run walk method, and any training plan is to help your body gradually adjust to the increase in physical work. Therefore, don’t be tempted to skip rest days. As one of my coaches with Team in Training often says, “it’s not what you could do, it’s what you should do.”