Run/Walk/Run for Healthy Running Today and in the Future
When it comes to running, there are different camps about walking during a run.
The tough running school of thought is that runners do not walk, they run. The thought is to be a true runner, you should run the full distance of any run and definitely of any race.
The medium school of thought is that walking is okay on extreme hills, long distances, when your lungs are screaming or you have pain somewhere. People in this group don’t usually schedule walking breaks but they will take them if the conditions or circumstances warrant it.
Then there is the run/walk/run crowd which I am a proud member of.
I’m thankful that Jeff Galloway has made this an acceptable way of doing runs. For me running is about being healthy today and in the future. Doing the run/walk/run method makes running more manageable, both physically and mentally, which increases the chances that I will continue doing it longer.
Soon after I started running at age 28, I discovered that I get exercise-induced asthma if I didn’t warm up with a 5 or 10 minute walk before I started running. So I’ve been warming up with a walk for about 18 years, but before being injured I rarely took walking breaks during a run. I was young and tough (ha!).
When I returned to running in 2008 with a beat-up body, taking walking breaks was the key to strengthen my body and not injury myself. But I figured with time I would quit taking walking breaks and return to continual running.
During 2009 and 2010, as my body became stronger, I increased my run/walk ratio from running 1 minute and walking 1 minute to running 8 minutes and walking 2 minutes. Then I figured I can drop the walking breaks, so I did a 5k or two without walking. My times were slower than when I took walking breaks! Plus, after those races my body ached a lot more than normal. I felt lousy and I didn’t want to ever run again.
That’s when I looked more seriously into Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run method. Jeff says,
“Most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of a long run. You can easily spot these folks. They’re the ones who are picking up speed during the last two to six miles when everyone else is slowing down.”
That’s when I decided that run/walk/run was the only way I would run. I bought a timer, which quickly began one of my running essentials… whether I’m doing 3 or 13 miles. I like not having to check my watch all the time. I just listen for the beep and/or feel the vibration of the timer.
I planned to do my first post-accident half-marathon in the summer of 2010 with the 8/2 ratio. I trained with that ratio, but that race was a bust… the day was hot and humid (temps in mid 90s). I felt lousy and ended up doing more of a 5/5 ratio.
After that I backed off and settled into a 4/1 ratio for a time. I did a successful half-marathon with that ratio last April and felt good. Then over the past few months I began doing a 3/1 ratio and decided that is my sweet spot. I feel best during and after a run with this ratio.
With the 4/1 ratio, I often found myself checking my timer to see how soon I can walk. But with the 3/1 ratio, the three minutes fly by so fast, that my timer beeps before I even think about walking.
While long distances are still a challenge, especially as I train for my first full marathon post-accident, I’m finding that I’m enjoying running more than ever. It’s not a chore, it’s doable.
Jeff has recommended ratios based on mile pace… and he suggests a 2/1 ratio for my normal pace of 12 to 13 minute per mile, but I like the 3/1 ratio, so I’m going to stick with that.
I call the timer my running dictator… but I’m not a die-hard. Whether on training runs or races, I’ll mess with the 3/1 ratio, especially if I want to walk on an upcoming hill. And in most races, I run through the first walking break or two, especially if it’s crowded and there’s no place to step out of the way of the other runners.
But I don’t push my walking breaks off too long, because I agree with Jeff that,
The earlier you take the walk breaks, the more they help you! To receive maximum benefit, you must start the walk breaks before you feel any fatigue, in the first mile. If you wait until you feel the need for a walk break, you’ve already reduced your potential performance.
Another great thing about the run/walk/run method is that it scales running down from a monster that looks overwhelming to many to something that almost anyone can do. It’s been great to see a number of my friends who never ran before start running over the past few years. And they’ve been amazed at what they can do with the run/walk/run method..
I’m counting on this run/walk/run method to help keep me
healthy (and sane) today and long into the future.
Have you ever tried the run/walk/run method? Why or why not?More info: Running Well With a Timer—Transitions and Speed Work.
How I went from a hospital bed to a Successful Full Marathon