October 19 2017
There's some for the uber-competitive and some for the not-so-much.
For beginning runners, walk breaks during a run workout are expected—necessary, even. Many newbies work toward the day when they can brag they finished a whole run without stopping to walk. That’s the true measurement of fitness…right?
Maybe not. For some runners, the run/walk interval is more than just a newbie strategy—it’s a critical ingredient of their race-day success. Alternating between two modes is also known as the Galloway Method, named for Jeff Galloway, a running coach who developed a formal training program and race strategy specifically designed around run/walk intervals.
Contrary to popular belief, the technique doesn’t mean walking when you’re tired; it means taking brief walk breaks when you’re not. Depending on one’s fitness level and race goals, a set ratio of run/walk is developed to follow for the duration of a workout or race. For one athlete, it might be alternating periods of one minute of walking followed by one minute of running; for another, it might be a one-minute walk break at the start of every new mile.
These breaks help to mentally divide a challenging race or workout by focusing on only one segment at a time, says running and triathlon coach Heidi Lueb of Valor Triathlon Project. They also give muscles recovery time during the run, reducing the risk of injury and giving athletes a chance to finish stronger. A 2014 study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport indicates that run/walk intervals don’t slow a person down; in a comparison of marathon finishers, those who took one-minute walk breaks every 1.5 miles finished with similar times as those who ran the entire way. What’s more, the walk-breakers experienced less muscle pain and fatigue after the race than their running-only counterparts.
Intervals aren’t just for road races either. Doug Hay, an ultrarunning coach and host of the “Trail Talk” podcast, says run/walk intervals are a must for success while running trails: “The run/walk method can be particularly helpful in trail running with maintaining a consistent effort level. Trails are often hilly, and the added work that goes in to maneuvering over rocks, roots and other obstacles can raise your effort level and heart rate quickly. Switching to a walk on technical sections of trails or when climbing a hill will keep your breathing under control and effort in check.” This, in turn, allows the runner to go further and faster without fatigue.
Ready to run (and walk) your way to a PR? Try these three workouts.