The Magic Of Run-Walk Training (And Racing)

+ How U.S. mid-distance runners are getting better

The Magic Of Run-Walk Training (And Racing) 1

Here’s the free but abridged version of the Run Long, Run Healthy newsletter. See the links below to subscribe to the full-text edition with more articles and deeper, more specific running advice. – Amby

Why You Should Exercise Like A Hunter-Gatherer

The Magic Of Run-Walk Training (And Racing) 2

I take it as a given that many of us believe in key aspects of the so-called “hunter-gatherer” (HG) lifestyle: regular daily activity, simple, unprocessed foods, consuming water as our main fluid, hanging out in social pods, and so on. On the other hand, few of us are eager to give up our glasses, hearing aids, certain medications, central HVAC, toilets, cars, and cell phones.

So, it becomes a matter of balance. What modern conveniences do you want to keep? What modern habits, such as long periods of sitting, plastic-wrapped and processed foods, etc., are you willing to forego?

In this article, two cardiologist-fans of the HG lifestyle argue that modern humans should pay more attention to the exercise components of daily living. They write little about diet, but point out that HG peoples had few chronic diseases.

As usual, I think they overstate the case that “excessive exercise” is dangerous. This conclusion is tenuous in my view, with little hard data and many opposing views. For example, this new study with free full text found no evidence of cardiac fibrosis in male endurance athletes.

But I won’t argue with the notion that taking at least one rest day per week is smart. That is smart.

I agree with much of what the authors write. For example, they propose that hunter-gatherers averaged about 10,000 steps per day at a low intensity but also practiced high-intensity training (HIT).This happened when they had to sprint to conclude a successful hunt. Definitely, a little sprinting is good.

The authors also believe in the power of play in the natural environment. Who doesn’t? But they don’t consider running a form of play, preferring tennis, badminton, soccer, dancing, and… golf!? I find this a weak point. No one can define what play means in our individual lives.

Also, a quick thought: Some consider solo running a form of meditation and stress relief, which are big health benefits. But tennis and soccer? I don’t think anyone counts them as meditation.

The paper notes that at least one HG tribe, the Ache of Paraguay, apparently sings as they walk and hunt. I know runners who do the same while listening to their very modern streaming devices. Particularly if they are following Taylor Swift.

Most importantly, the paper points out that exercise is “one stone that can kill many birds.” (Gosh, what a horrid expression, but you know what it means.)

The American Heart Association advises following “Life’s Simple 7” health practices. Regular exercise is one of these and directly impacts four others, including weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and glucose regulation. Thus, it essentially scores five out of seven all by itself. (The other two are no tobacco and a healthy diet.)

The big, important conclusion: “Our ancestral hunter-gatherers are thought to have been virtually free of obesity and chronic non-communicable disease largely due to daily energy expenditures of 800–1200 kcal, three to five times the total energy expenditure of the average American.” Exercise is medicine. More at J of Science in Sports & Exercise with free full text.

RELATED ARTICLE: Walking 10,000 Steps A Day: 8 Tips To Make It Easy

How U.S. Mid-Distance Runners Are Getting Better

This article interviews two top U.S. coaches—Ron Warhurst from Michigan and Mark Coogan from Boston—who happen to coach several of the world’s fastest 1500-meter runners. Warhurst coaches Hobbs Kessler and Coogan coaches Elle St. Pierre and Emily Mackay. St. Pierre won a gold medal at last winter’s World Indoor Championships, and Kessler and Mackay both grabbed bronzes.

How did they do it? Warhurst and Coogan listed these strong contributors:

  1. Coaches and athletes are paying more attention to the science of training and the successes of other runners.
  2. U.S. runners have more professional teams they can join.
  3. Coaches and runners are learning more about recovery, especially how to mix training and recovery.
  4. Super shoes might be absorbing tissue damage that previously would have led to injury.
  5. Better funding of teams and runners is leading to longer running careers with potentially greater improvements.
  6. Drug testing is getting better, which “levels the playing field.”

Warhurst says, “People have got some good ideas that have come down the pike in the last 10 years or so, and everybody’s doing it, trying it, and everybody’s experimenting with it, and everybody’s kind of putting their own twist to it. It’s basically a lot more strength work and a lot more volume over a period of time.”

You might not win a World Championships, but you can put your own spin on the new programs and ideas working for the elites. Read more at Track & Field News.

RELATED ARTICLE: The 8 Best Marathon Strength Training Exercises For Performance

Jeff Galloway And The Gospel Of Run-Walking

The Magic Of Run-Walk Training (And Racing) 3

Jeff Galloway is one of the all-time heroes of running. Not just because he was my college roommate and taught me many important running and life lessons, and not because he was an elite distance runner who won the first Peachtree Road Race and made a U.S. Olympic Team.

No, what sets Jeff apart is the way he pivoted 180 degrees after his elite days to spend the rest of his life helping slower, out-of-shape runners.

Jeff recognized they had more to gain than anyone else, physically and emotionally, by covering that first mile or two. Long before we first heard about “Couch to 5K,” Jeff helped tens of thousands of runners achieve that very goal with his run-walk programs.

And then, like Sly Stone, he took them higher and higher, or at least farther and farther. His followers kept run-walking until they covered half-marathons, marathons, and even ultras. (In ultras, pretty much everyone has to run-walk, which ought to send a strong message: It’s the most efficient way to cover distance on foot.)

For decades, Galloway gave free lectures at countless road races and running stores. He counseled the most out-of-shape that “Yes, you can.” You can become a runner—even a marathoner—as long as you start slow and stay controlled. A run-walk program shows the way.

Most coaches are driven to develop state, national, and even international running stars. Galloway never cared about that. He wasn’t trying to burnish his reputation. He was aiming to improve people’s lives and broaden their horizons.

He succeeded like no other coach before him, or since. A heart attack slowed Galloway’s travel schedule several years ago but didn’t end it. He’s still showing up here and there, preaching the gospel: you can do it, you’ve just got to follow an appropriate run-walk-run program.

I thought I knew a lot about my former roomie, but somehow I missed “Girls Who Jeff,” a private Facebook group with 32,000 members. The group describes itself as “a women-only, international running community for those who use or are interested in the Run Walk Repeat technique.”

This article does a great job summarizing Jeff’s life, coaching, and influence. More at Geezer Jock.

RELATED ARTICLE: Run Walk Marathon Training Guide: Jeff Galloway Method Explained

SHORT STUFF You Don’t Want To Miss

Here’s what else you would have received this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.” Why not give it a try? SUBSCRIBE HERE. 

  • Proof that infrared lamps boost recovery
  • 10 ways to make workouts more fun
  • How to stride right for smoother, faster performance
  • The pills ultra runners use to go the distance
  • 4 steps to preventing and overcoming knee injuries
  • Impressive cardio benefits: In 20.9 million observations, high cardio fitness reduced illness and mortality by 18 to 73%
  • Eccentric muscle training: It’s powerful, and you only need to do it once a week
  • An inspirational quote on “the ultimate” from 1964 Olympic 10,000 gold medalist Billy Mills

Don’t forget, I spend hours searching the internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles so you can review them in minutes.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby

Photo of author
Amby Burfoot stands as a titan in the running world. Crowned the Boston Marathon champion in 1968, he became the first collegian to win this prestigious event and the first American to claim the title since John Kelley in 1957. As well as a stellar racing career, Amby channeled his passion for running into journalism. He joined Runner’s World magazine in 1978, rising to the position of Editor-in-Chief and then serving as its Editor-at-Large. As well as being the author of several books on running, he regularly contributes articles to the major publications, and curates his weekly Run Long, Run Healthy Newsletter.

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