Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Run-Walk-Run Training

I'm partway through week one of my half marathon training schedule, and I'm adjusting to a new approach.  My calves and feet took a beating during my 10K training in July, likely from being on my feet all day, sometimes in killer heels.  And let's be real: my mileage base during residency is nothing like it was in medical school when I trained for full marathons without so much as a sore calf let alone injuries.

I'm walking.  Well, part time.

I noticed something a few weeks ago when I was running at home in Grand Rapids.  A lot of times on my runs I take my iPhone along for photo opportunities.  I stopped every so often to take pics and then would pick up the pace again.  Those runs lasted so much longer-- not because I was using up time taking pics -- but because the breaks were giving me way more energy and incentive to keep going.  I'd return home happy, smiling (though sweaty) with some more miles and photos logged, ready to go again the next day.

I remember reading about the run-walk-run method years ago when I started running long distances.  At that time I was easily covering my miles running continuously and didn't give the method much thought.  But these days I'm more easily fatigued and more injury prone.  Basically I'm not 22 and getting 8 hours of solid sleep anymore.  Ironically, what I have been doing by walking and taking photos on my runs is actually helping me!  I'm run-walk-running without realizing it!

Why take walk breaks?

  • I notice that when I go back to running after a walk break, I'm stronger, faster, happier to push myself.  That's because during the walks, the body has time to release the oh-so-coveted endorphins that we all hope to experience when we workout.  
  • Less fatigue -- both acutely and chronically.  You'll be more willing to finish the miles than crap out early if you're getting a break, and your body will be less tired the next day, will recover faster, and better prepared for the next run.  
  • It battles mental block.  No one likes to think about the miles and miles ahead of them; breaking up the run into segments seems much more manageable.  I often think to myself "you just need to get to that tree... to that mailbox... to that driveway" and just by breaking up the run I avoid hitting a mental wall.  
  • Less injuries -- self explanatory.  Less impact means lower incidence of stress fracture, plantar fascitis, runner's knee, etc.  This is especially important if you haven't been running for a while or are increasing your distance.  
How to do it?
  • Everyone has their preferred method of creating these run-walk-run intervals, here are some suggestions:
  • By elevation: Walk the hills and climbs, run the flats and downhills. 
  • By ratio: Using either time or mileage, find a ratio that works well for you
    • 2:1 (ex: 6 minutes : 3 minutes, or 2 miles : 1 mile)
    • 1:1 (ex: 5 minutes : 5 minutes, or 1 mile : 1/2 mile)
  • Run one minute of each mile.
  • Run one song on the playlist, walk the next -OR- run two songs and walk the next.  (This is my preferred method because I don't have to time or measure distance obsessively.)

My favorite part of this is feeling strong during each of my run segments instead of slowly losing steam across a continuous run.  I also am hoping to get to race day without injury.

Don't want to walk?  This can totally be adapted to a run-jog-run format as well!

If you want to train for free for the Grand Rapids Marathon with me via virtual training group on Facebook, click here to fill out the sign up form:  http://bit.ly/1TmPG3j


  1. I admire you! This old woman doesn't run (never was a runner) but I love to walk!

    1. Thanks Pam! Walking is so calming, I have been really enjoying taking the time to observe the environment when I take my walk breaks.