We’ve all heard the fable about the tortoise and the hare. The moral of the story? Slow and steady wins the race. It’s counter to my personal race motto: The faster you run, the sooner you’re done.
Sure, I had heard of the run/walk method when I took up distance running back in 2014, but I always thought of it as a last resort to be used if I was fatigued enough I just couldn’t continue. My mindset then: stop, and it’s harder to get going again. Plus, finish time aside, I’ve considered not stopping to walk a sign of mental victory.
Turns out, used strategically, following a run/walk method may allow you to go further and even faster. And while it’s a great tool for anyone just starting to run regularly, “every level of runner could benefit from incorporating this method into their training routine,” says Dale Erdmier, NASM personal trainer and running coach.
Keep reading to learn more about this training plan and how to use the run/walk method to boost your runs.
What is the run/walk method?
Popularized by runner and coach Jeff Galloway in the 1970s, the run/walk method is a running strategy that includes planned walking breaks, so you’re regularly switching between running and walking.
Originally, Galloway considered the method a workaround for people who couldn’t sustain distance running. Then, those former beginners using the run-walk-run method started beating veteran runners. That’s when the run/walk method really took off.
The benefits of the run/walk method
There are quite a few reasons to try the run/walk method — even if you’re an experienced runner.
For Erdmier, she says that “keeping easy days truly easy, I recover more quickly and am ready for the hard speed workouts.”
Plus, “the run/walk method helps you slow things down, check-in, drop your heart rate a bit, then pick it up again,” she says.
What’s more, with reduced impact on the body, “runners are able to cover more distance with better form and alignment, and a reduced risk of fatigue,” running coach Jenny Hadfield tells Runner’s World.
For athletes who love to compete — but are looking for longevity — Erdmier cautions that you have to train in a smart way. This is something the run/walk method can help you achieve.
“Running too fast all the time often leads to injury,” she says. “If you’re intentional about varying your paces, keeping your easy days easy, and having energy for your speed work, I think you’ll be better off in the long run.”
It’s something that’s proven valuable to her personally since her own incorporation of the run/walk method into her routine in 2017.
“It is an intentional way to train, and I have found I have gotten faster by training like this,” says Erdmier.
How to try the run/walk method
Want to try it for yourself? According to Erdmier, there’s no “right way” to do it.
“If you’re a beginner, maybe start out with a 50/50 split,” she suggests. “Run two minutes, walk two minutes, repeat. For more experienced runners, I recommend a nine-minute run, one-minute walk, or a 14-minute run, one-minute walk. Using 14/1 for a one-hour run, you are only walking for a total of four minutes.”
While this might not sound like much, it can make a big difference in how you feel throughout. “The goal with this method is to finish feeling like you could keep going,” says Erdmier. “I love when athletes finish a long run/walk and think, ‘Wow! I hardly feel like I ran.’”
The bottom line: “It’s a safe way to build mileage and endurance and better for recovery time needed between runs,” says Erdmier.