If you’ve ever stopped to walk during a run or race because you were exhausted or out of breath, and then started running again once you felt bettfer, you’ve incorporated walking with your running.
When discussing the run/walk method, however, we are talking about a more specific, planned strategy, using pre-determined times for walking breaks.
Far from a sign of failure, following a run/walk plan has many benefits and can be an effective running strategy for any distance and any ability level.
In this article, we will discuss:
- What Is The Run/Walk Method,
- What Are The Benefits of Using the Run/Walk Method
- How To Implement The Run/Walk Method
Let’s get to it!
What Is The Run Walk Method ?
Made popular by runner and coach Jeff Galloway in the 1970s, the Run Walk Method is simply a running strategy that involves incorporating planned walking breaks in your runs, so you’re regularly switching between running and walking.
Some runners refer to it as the Jeff Galloway Method (or, as Galloway refers to it, “Run Walk Run”).
Coaches and running programs may recommend different run/walk ratios, but the basic concept is the same: run for a pre-determined distance or time, then walk for a pre-determined distance or time, and repeat!
7 Benefits of Using The Run Walk Method
#1 Helps New Runners
If you’re just beginning to run, implementing a run/walk strategy will make you feel more in control of your workout and will also allow you to cover more miles than you would without walking breaks.
These benefits will likely reduce your feelings of intimidation about running and increase your motivation, which means you’ll be more likely to stick with running and establish a solid running base.
#2 Improves Recovery
Walking breaks are, effectively, short periods of active recovery which prevent you from fatiguing your body through repetitive exercise, and allow your running muscles to rest and recover, and also help you conserve energy so you can run farther with less fatigue and stress on your body.
Using a run walk method also helps you post-run, as you will recover quicker because you put less stress on your body during your workout and therefore will have less muscle soreness and inflammation.
#3 Good For The Injury-Prone
Whether returning to running after an injury, running through a minor injury, or trying to avoid injury in the first place, the walking breaks of the run walk method are invaluable.
During the walk segments, different muscle groups are utilized, which counteract the effects of repetitive stress inherent with continuous running and thus minimize the chances of aggravating a prior injury or causing a new one.
#4 Helps You Go Farther
By allowing your body to essentially re-set during walking breaks, you delay fatigue and extend the time you can continue making forward progress and may find yourself going distances you never imagined possible.
#5 May Help You Go Faster
Although counter-intuitive, inserting walking breaks into your running may help you reduce your race time.
If you typically slog through the last few miles of a race or reign in your pace throughout a race for fear of running out of steam at the end, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that taking regular short walking breaks results in a faster finishing time.
This improvement happens because the walking breaks give you a chance to recover, both physically and mentally, so you can go a bit faster during the running segments than you would if you were running continuously.
The walking breaks will also help you feel less fatigued than you would otherwise, which will leave you with sufficient reserves of energy to finish strong.
#6 Makes Running Less Stressful Mentally
While there are many physical benefits to taking walk breaks, there are mental benefits as well.
Many runners, in fact, find that integrating walking segments into their runs helps them feel more in control of their workouts and makes running less stressful and intimidating.
#7 Helps Keep You Focused
If you have trouble staying in the moment during your runs and find yourself worried about getting to mile 13 when you’re only on mile 1, having a run/walk strategy may help keep you present,
as monitoring the time for your running and walking segments will, necessarily, require some focus and will help keep your mind on the segment you’re in rather than on all the miles ahead of you.
Who Can Benefit from the Run Walk Method?
Almost everyone can benefit from using the run/walk method, including if you are:
- A new runner
- Injured, injury prone, or coming back from injury
- Trying to build endurance, but are not progressing or are feeling burned out
- Dreading your runs or finding them stressful
- Struggling with training for a race.
How To Implement The Run Walk Method
After deciding you’d like to give the run/walk method a try, the next step is to find the running and walking ratio that is right for you.
Galloway has done extensive research on this method over the years and has concluded most runners do not need more than a 30-second walking break no matter how long the running segment is.
His website even offers a calculator to help runners determine an appropriate run/walk ratio, with the recommended running segments ranging from 6 minutes for a runner covering miles at 7:00 per mile to 5 seconds of running for those with a pace of 18:30 per mile or slower.
Other coaches and programs recommend different run/walk ratios, often with longer walking segments, but the bottom line is that what feels right and works for one runner may not feel right for another runner, so it’s best to simply experiment with various ratios until you find what works best for you.
As you experiment, consider:
If you are new to running
Start with short running segments and longer walking segments. As you progress and feel stronger, try lengthening the running segments and/or shortening the walking segments.
Although the intervals can be based on time or distance (or even heart rate), newer runners may find time the best gauge initially to avoid worrying about covering a specific number of miles.
A good option to start would be to alternate 30 seconds of running with two minutes of walking, repeated eight times, with five minutes of walking for a warm-up and cool-down at either end, for a total of 30 minutes of exercise.
Looking for a beginner run training plan to get started that incorporates run walk method?
Check out our popular Couch To 5k Training Plan.
From this point, you can make adjustments based on how you feel as well as your progress and goals.
If running without walking breaks is your goal, you can certainly work toward that by gradually shortening your walking segments and increasing your running segments, but you should not feel compelled to do so, especially if including walking breaks keeps you progressing, motivated, and injury-free.
If you like the run walk method, you can also consider keeping your walking breaks but working toward improving your pace.
If you are returning to running after injury
In these circumstances, the run/walk ratio will depend on many factors, including the nature of your injury, time off from running, whether you’ve recovered completely, your prior level of fitness, and your goals.
Implementing a run/walk strategy of some sort, however, may allow you to ease back into running and avoid aggravating an injury.
As with newer runners, start with shorter running segments and longer walking segments as you test your abilities and fitness level.
You may also want to initially keep your pace a bit slower than it was pre-injury.
If your goal is to get your running back to the level it was prior to your injury, create a plan that takes you gradually from where you are to where you want to be, but as you ramp up, be flexible and willing to scale back if your injury stars to flare.
If you are training for a race
If you are training for a race and struggling to run the distances prescribed by your plan, try using a run/walk strategy, which will likely allow you to cover the scheduled miles and keep you on track.
If you are only having trouble completing your long runs, you may want to use the run/walk strategy for those runs only, but can certainly use them for your shorter runs as well if you find they help you recover faster and keep you motivated to stick to your plan.
During a race
If you have been using a run/walk strategy while training, you will want to use the same strategy during your race, starting from the beginning to avoid using up energy reserves you’re likely to need at the end.
If you did not use a run/walk strategy while training, but find yourself undertrained or struggling during a race, consider incorporating regular walking breaks during the race.
Many runners take a short walking break at every aid station, which has the double benefit of giving you a brief recovery period and also allowing you to get some water and fuel more easily.
If walking through the aid stations does not seem sufficient, settle on a run/walk ratio that seems to fit your situation.
Perhaps you think running three minutes and walking one minute seems doable, so give that a try, and then adjust based on how you feel.
In general, it is better to have a run/walk strategy, even one created on the fly, than cycling between running until you can’t run anymore and are forced to walk, and then feeling horrible about walking and forcing yourself to run again, which is a stressful and demoralizing process.
Having a set plan in mind puts you back in control and may even reduce your fatigue levels to the point you can finish the race stronger than you anticipated.
The Walk Run Method For Burned Out Runners
Even veteran runners go through periods where running seems harder than normal.
Sickness, allergies, insufficient sleep, poor diet, or any number of life stressors can affect anyone and make it difficult to run paces or distances that previously seemed fairly easy, which, in turn, can lead toward dreading runs, or skipping them entirely.
If you find yourself in this situation, consider trying a run/walk strategy, at least temporarily, until you get your running mojo back.
If you’re intrigued, get out there and run … and walk!
Check out the following training plans that use the run walk method: