Next time you see someone walking and running in different intervals, don’t assume they are a beginner runner. Jeff Galloway’s method recommends run/walk intervals for all runners, even veteran marathoners, because walk breaks speed up recovery and minimize muscle overuse. Walking, when used in alternating intervals, distributes the workload between more muscles. I have found, from personal experience and in working with clients, that this method increases performance, minimizes muscle breakdown over long miles and wards off injury.
1) Increases cardiovascular stamina, allowing you to exercise for longer than if you were to go out and only run.
2) Builds up your cardiovascular endurance without injury or discouragement.
3) Allows your body, especially your joints, to acclimate to your new endeavor.
Incorporating regular run/walk intervals into your longer runs is beneficial for all levels of runners because it:
- Minimizes injury risks.
- Helps to erase the weak-links in muscles and joints that cause those pesky runner injuries: runner’s knee, ITB issues and Achilles tendinitis.
- Allows you to run farther and longer which increases cardiovascular endurance.
How to Begin
Measure your intervals in minutes and figure out what works for you – there’s no set run/walk minute interval pace that you need to follow to do this correctly. It’s about listening to your body. If you are off the couch, start slowly – an injury will only hamper your progress. Your run/walk might be 1:3 (1 minute running and 3 minutes walking). If you are highly active and just starting to run, you might want to try 5:2 or 7:2 intervals. If you are a seasoned runner, try walking for 30 seconds every mile. Find which run/walk interval works for you and your pace.
There are two key points to effectively incorporate walking in to your runs:
- Walk briskly during the walk segments. Maintain a fast pace during your walk intervals in order to stay in an aerobic zone – you don’t want your body to start cooling down. This is not a break from the run, rather a way to ward off injury.
- Start the intervals early on a run, meaning before your muscles fatigue. This allows your muscles to recover instantly during the walk intervals. If you wait too long to incorporate them, you’ll end up walking too slowly and it will be difficult to start running again.
I recommend that beginners aim for a conversational pace during the run intervals. If you start to feel like you are losing control of your breathing, slow down. Intermediate and advanced runners should aim for their pace, for example, race effort, easy pace or long run pace, depending on the type of run in their training plan. Remember, the walk is a fast walk for every level of runner, not a leisurely stroll.
I recommend buying the Gymboss because it alerts you, via a beep or vibration, when the interval is up. This keeps you on top of your intervals and transitioning regularly between your runs and walks. You can set it for up to 99 intervals and clip it to your shorts or pants. No need to monitor time or remember numbers!
Author Meghan Reynolds is a running coach, personal trainer and co-founder of the running company Hot Bird Running. Over the past four years she’s worked with numerous clients in NYC and across the country in helping them achieve their fitness goals. Follow her at @hotbirdrunning.