What is the run walk run training method

[00:00:00] Today, I want to talk about something that you may think of as unthinkable, something as a runner you just couldn’t possibly do under any circumstance. Are you ever going to do it? And that is walk. I want to talk to you about when specifically you actually should walk and how it might actually benefit you.

[00:00:30] I’m Jesse Funk, the founder of Solpri.com and the host of this show Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running and endurance related. Today’s topic is the Run Walk Run method, really popularized by running legend coach Jeff Galloway. But I know I have used it in my own training as recommended by my coach, and other people have used it at very high levels of success, including friend of the show, former coach of mine Barb Lindquist, who is World — former world number one in triathlon. She was in 2004 Olympics competing in triathlon and she used run walk method to train for the run portion of her race.

[00:01:15] So if somebody who is literally at the top of their game on the planet can use a run walk method, then you can too. Now what is the run walk method? It is basically, as you would imagine, where you’re running for some time, and then you walk and then you go back to run. That’s the basics of it, right? The nitty gritty of it is going to depend on you, your fitness level, your goals, all these kinds of things.

[00:01:48] But the basics. Are you going to run for some time? You want to walk for some time, you want to run for some time. So where are you in your running journey or are you just starting out or are you having a hard time running at all? Well, then the walking portion is going to be weighted much more heavily than the running portion. I know we look back at some of the times that Jeff Galloway has suggested for his very beginning runners. We may be running like a minute and then walking 5 to 8 minutes and then maybe running a minute and so and so forth.

[00:02:20] And then over time, you decrease that interval or decrease the amount of time you’re walking and increase the amount of time you’re running. But this can be proportional. So say you’re sticking with that one-minute runtime, but you reduce the walking time. So if you go out for 40 minutes and you originally you’re walking eight, running one, and then now you’ve moved down, you’re I’m going to walk for 5 and run four 1. Now you’re getting more running time in that same period of time that you’re out.

[00:02:52] The same thing applies as you progress. So if you get down to, say, one and one, you walk one minute, then you run one minute, then maybe you increase that and you go, I’m going to walk for one minute and then I’m going to run for a minute and a half or 2 minutes, something like that.

[00:03:08] And you can continue that trend up as you build your mileage. It’s a way to start from a place of I’m not in shape at all. I haven’t ever run before. Maybe I need to lose some weight or I have problems with my joints, something like that. And you just need to build up some strength with avoiding injury. And that’s kind of the key of using the run walk method, and that is to avoid injury.

[00:03:37] Now, this is something even I’ve used in my training, and especially as we are building mileage my longer days, we will almost always do this. I in particular my coach, prescribed for me 15 minutes of running and then a 32nd walk break. But it could vary. We could go a minute even. The idea here is that we are trying to avoid injury from running, which are typically repetitive motion injuries.

[00:04:05] So because we’re doing the same thing over and over again, that some particular muscle group gets overloaded and breaks effectively because we have that same pattern of motion over and over and over again, we run into these kinds of injuries, especially when we’re going too fast. So walking does two things for us. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner, your advanced again, you can use this. 

[00:04:31] Walking does first, gives us a break with our cardio system come back down, which gives us kind of active recovery muscles are able to clear out any kind of lactic acid buildup maybe that we would have had, which theoretically you really shouldn’t have on a long run.

[00:04:49] But supposing that you do good, that’s a good time for that. But also the other thing that it does is it gives you a kind of mental check of, am I going too fast? Am I going the right speed? How much recovery do you feel like you need during that walk period? A kind of an interesting application of the run, walk run method is to use it while racing, which is really counterintuitive.

[00:05:18] And I think especially for somebody like me who comes from this kind of really competitive background and thinks like, as I mentioned at the top video. “No, I’m never going to walk. I just I can’t possibly. It’s just totally against the grain of who I am as a runner. I don’t walk. If you don’t, you’re not a runner if you walk’, you hear these kinds of things in your head.

[00:05:40] But again, Jeff Galloway makes the suggestion that there is the possibility to speed up your half marathon time by up to 7 minutes in your marathon time by up to 13 minutes by actually taking a walk breaks at the mile markers. And this is up to he suggests something like up to the 18th mile in a full marathon to take walk breaks.

[00:06:03] And this is going to be like a conservation of energy thing. When you allow your muscles to recover, then you’re going to be able to continue to go on faster. So the theory here is that by taking the walk breaks, allowing that recovery interval, you will be able to keep that higher pace for longer. And that higher pace will overcome the deficit that you might experience through that walk break.

[00:06:35] I would say this ultimately has its limits, but I think for the vast majority of us, it’s probably worth a try. It’s probably worth a try to figure out is this actually effective? And I think for probably a large majority of the field, it probably is effective, especially because we know when we’re walking, especially those mile markers are probably aid stations and that gives you the opportunity to take in hydration, take in fuel, all those kind of things, which is going to be crucial, especially in a longer race, like a half marathon or marathon.

[00:07:12] So even if the running speed isn’t improved, your fuel and capacity probably can be improved, which then in turn improve your running speed. But beyond that, I think it breaks down when you start going to the top end of the field. I don’t think you’re ever going to see, say, the best marathoners in the world or running some 5 minutes for their pace.

[00:07:37] I don’t think you’re going to see them stopping at aid stations for breaks, and that is because at that point in time, they would have to run so much faster to make up that time. So like proportionally, let’s say you run 10-minute miles. If you stop for a 30-second break, which you’re still making progress, you’re walking, you’re walking forward. So you’re not even losing 30 seconds a mile. But let’s just for easy Math. Let’s say you take a 30-second break, you lose 30 seconds. Can you then be running 9:30 pace, which would be break even or faster than 9:30?

[00:08:21] Okay. So that’s where it starts to break down on the top end because those people running sub-5, let’s just say 5 for easy Math. Were 30 seconds was proportionately very small to that 10 minutes. It’s now twice as much of a deficit for 5 minutes. And at that speed, trying to go from 5 to 4:30 pace much more difficult than going from 10 to 9:30 pace because of the way time and exertion works, it’s almost logarithmic. You have to put in more and more and more energy to get incremental gains over time.

[00:09:02] So it does break down at the very top end of the range. But if you like, many people are in the I’m going to hazard a guess here. I didn’t do the math I should have. But I’m going to say, if you’re anywhere above 7 to 8-minute pace, anywhere slower than that, then it’s probably worth considering trying the run walk method for some of these longer runs especially and then possibly even your race.

[00:09:32] All of that’s to say, what’s our goal as runners, right? What is our goal? If you want to be competitive, whether you’re competitive with the field or competitive with yourself, you decide what your goal is, where you are and how to get there. I think using the Run Walk method as a method of injury prevention, crucially important if you want to be competitive because you need to stay consistent to get the most out of yourself.

[00:10:03] Now, if you are just a casual runner, well then you can probably use it because maybe you don’t have as much fitness as somebody who runs more often, but you can still stay in the game by using the run walk method. And then as you get to those races, still using that method to complete them. The big — I guess what I would see roadblock or mental roadblock really is that voice inside yourself or maybe other people going, you’re not a real runner if you don’t run the entire time.

[00:10:39] This is a mentality that I think I experienced a lot growing up. Coaches really try to coach through this, and I think part of that mentality, at least in my experience, had to do with people who didn’t really want to be out for cross-country or track, but somehow were maybe for their friends.

[00:11:02] And at this point, if you’re watching this video, most likely you’re an adult. You have the idea or the ability to choose to be there or not. And if you’re choosing to be there, then whether you are a real runner or not, I would say doesn’t matter, but more importantly is ineffective because you’re choosing to be there. You are the thing. This is your method of training and it doesn’t make you less than. 

[00:11:34] In some ways if you apply this because you know it is useful for your situation, then you’ve become more effective than somebody who simply balks at the idea because it’s against their identity. Smart people make adjustments based on evidence, which I think we have plenty of evidence to show that this is an effective method for injury prevention and training for a wide breadth of speeds and people. And if you are unwilling to consider the evidence, then I think you’ve already done a disservice to yourself.

[00:12:10] So do you have any questions for me about the Run Walk Run method, how to implement it, where you should use it, your specific situation? Leave down the comments below. I’d love to help you out. Subscribe to the channel for videos every Tuesday and Thursday and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.

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