The Run Walk Method: The Ultimate Running Method For Going Longer

Use the run walk run method to get started on your running journey today!

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 better, you’ve incorporated walking with your running.

However, when discussing the run walk method, 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 training program has many benefits and can be an effective running strategy for any distance and ability level, from beginner runners to experienced runners.

A close up of a person's pink sneakers.

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, the run-walk-run method”).

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 amount of time, and repeat!

7 Benefits of Using The Run Walk Method

#1: Ideal For New Runners

If you’re just beginning to run, implementing run/walk intervals will make you feel more in control of your workout and allow you to cover longer distances than you would without walking breaks.

These benefits will likely reduce your feelings of intimidation about running and increase your motivation, making you more likely to stick with running and establish a solid running base.

#2: Improves Recovery

Walking breaks are short periods of active recovery that prevent you from fatiguing your body through repetitive exercise.

Interval training with walking breaks allows your running muscles to rest and recover and also helps you conserve energy so you can run farther with less fatigue and stress on your body.

Using a run walk method also helps your 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.

A person practicing the run walk method on the road.

#3: Good For The Injury-Prone

Whether returning to running after an injury, running through a minor injury, or trying to lower your risk of injury in the first place, the walking breaks of the run walk method are invaluable.

Different muscle groups are utilized during the walk segments, 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 reset during the walk breaks, you delay fatigue and extend the time you can continue progressing. You 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 finish times.

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 can result in faster times on race day.

This improvement happens because the walking breaks give you a chance to recover 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, leaving you with sufficient energy reserves to finish strong.

A person walking along a lake.

#6: Makes Running Less Stressful Mentally

While taking walk breaks has many physical benefits, there are also mental benefits.

Many runners 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.

Monitoring the time for your running and walking segments will require some focus and will help keep your mind on the segment you’re in rather than on all the miles ahead of you.

A person running through leaves.

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.

What Is A Good Walk Run Ratio For Beginners?

After deciding to try the run/walk method in your training runs, 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 website1Jeff Galloway | The official site of Run-Walk-Run. (n.d.). https://www.jeffgalloway.com/ 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 running coaches and programs recommend different run/walk ratios, often with longer walking segments.

The bottom line is that what feels right in terms of ratios and run and walk paces for one runner may not feel right for another, so it’s best to experiment until you find what works best for you.

A person running.

As you experiment with the Galloway run walk, consider the following training tips:

Beginner Runners

Start with short running segments and longer walking segments. Try lengthening the running and/or shortening the walking segments as you progress and feel stronger.

Although the intervals can be based on periods of 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 the run walk method?

Check out our popular Couch To 5k Training Plan.

From this point, you can make adjustments based on how you feel and 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.

However, 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.

A person walking.

Returning From An 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.

However, implementing a run/walk strategy 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.

Two people jogging.

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 you can certainly use them for your shorter runs if you find they help you recover faster and keep you motivated to stick to your plan.

Here’s our complete guide to using the Run Walk Method for marathon training!

And check out our half marathon training plans and marathon training plans – all free to download.

Racing

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 gives you a brief recovery period and allows you to get some water and fuel more easily.

A person jogging.

If walking through the aid stations is insufficient, settle on a run/walk ratio that fits 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 pushing through running until you can’t run anymore and are forced to walk.

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.

Overtraining

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:

Couch To 5k Training Plan

Couch To Half Marathon Training Plan

A person running over a metal bridge.

References

Photo of author
A lifelong runner and USATF Level 1 coach of high school cross country and track, Sarah enjoys racing all distances, from the mile to ultras. She is a recent transplant from California to Seattle and spends her free time exploring her new neighborhoods by foot.

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