Does Walking Help Running Endurance?

You may have seen me make this suggestion on the channel before to go do run-walk workouts. And you know that I utilize these on my long runs on the weekend. So, then you start thinking to yourself, does walking actually help build running endurance.


You may have seen me make this suggestion on the channel before to go do run-walk workouts. And you know that I utilize these on my long runs on the weekend. So, then you start thinking to yourself, does walking actually help build running endurance.

Of course, if you’ve been on the channel before you know I’m Jesse Funk, this is a show I call Runner’s High, and I’ve talked about that run-walk workout. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, subscribe, stick around, you’ll see those videos here eventually, I’m sure. But I’m talking about running for a certain amount of time and then walking for a certain amount of time. And none of us are above this workout. I often like to mention my friend, former coach, Barb Lindquist, who used this strategy to get ready for her Olympic debut in triathlon back in 2004. She used a run-walk strategy to train. If an Olympian can use it, so can the rest of us.

So, the question is, does walking help running endurance? And it really matters specifically, how you’re framing that question. So, if we’re speaking physiologically, like muscularly, if I go out for a long walk, is that going to help my running endurance? And, of course, we’re using some of the same muscles to move, right? But I think the answer is relatively definitively, no. The muscle activation in walking is different than the biomechanics of running. The very obvious thing is, well, when we run both of our feet come off the ground, we are effectively doing a series of leaps. But on top of that, you are not activating one of the major movers in running and that is your butt, your glutes. Those are very important for running and you don’t really activate those during a walk gait cycle.

So, physiologically speaking, does it help you? No, I wouldn’t use it as a, well, I want to get better at running so I’m going to go walk a lot. You really just need to run. However, there are reasons why using walking can help your running endurance, but not for that physiological reason. So, then what we have to think about is, why might it actually help if it doesn’t help us physically? Because everything’s physical, right? Wrong. Everything’s not physical. Lots of things are physical and running is physical, but there’s a component you forget about. And that’s your mental component. So, if we want walking to help us, it depends on your situation.

But one way it can help you is simply getting checkmarks on the calendar. And you’re like, Jesse, what the heck are you talking about check marks on the calendar? I mean, consecutive days doing something. There’s something about momentum, right? Something about, I’ve got this streak of days going, where I hit an activity that allows us to continue to propel forward. And then when we break that streak, sometimes it’s harder to get going again.

So, if you’re starting out running, or you’re coming back from an injury, or you’re coming back from time off, and you’re not ready to run all of the days of the week, but you can get out and walk, that is one way that walking will help your running endurance. Physiologically, is it helping? Probably not in terms of muscle growth, but it could be good for recovery; getting blood flow through your legs, getting a little motion, lubricating joints, on a day when maybe you’re just going to sit on the couch otherwise.

And then again, getting that checkmark where it’s like, maybe you could only run two, three days a week. But you to five. So, instead of running, you go out for a walk and you get that checkmark for activity that day. That mental momentum can in turn long term translate to running endurance is improved. So, it’s not always just about is this physiologically going to make me better, but what mental strategies are going to help me become better as well?

Now I mentioned that run walk strategy in the beginning of the video and you’re like, what is that? If you haven’t been on the channel, you haven’t seen me talk about that, what is that and why are you doing it? Especially me, why am I doing it? I’ve been running for 20 years, why am I walking? That’s actually something I incorporated post-collegiately past being, you know, kind of my highest performing level and I wish that we would have done it then and the reason is injury prevention.

So, what does this have to do with running endurance? Well, if you know anything about what I preach upon it’s consistency. If you’re injured, you have to take time off, you’re not consistent. If you use a run-walk strategy, which is in my case, I get a 30-second break every 15 minutes of running. So, it’s not terribly long, but it gives my muscles a little break to recover, my heart rate comes down, and then I get going again. It’s really surprising how much 30 seconds of break makes you feel better to start again. Some people start out with a one-minute run, one-minute walk or one-minute run, two-minute walk even, and build up from there.

But the thing is injury prevention and allowing you to stay consistent over time, be it in building that mileage or be it in being injury free, consistency over time is important. So, although no, walking itself, the biomechanics of it are significantly different from running and the physicality of it doesn’t necessarily translate using it as a strategy to help us both mentally and preventive measures to prevent injury, it definitely can help us become better runners and improve our running endurance through those methods. So, what questions do you have for me about running? I’d love to make a video for you in the future. Leave them down in the comments below, and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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