5 Tips to Walk Your Way to Better Runs

by Lara Rosenbaum
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5 Tips to Walk Your Way to Better Runs

Slowing down to a walk may be the key to running faster — and even scoring your first marathon finish. You may even nab a PR. Former Olympian and elite running coach Jeff Galloway developed the Run Walk Run Method, and other runners have been incorporating his techniques with great success. Exercise physiologist and “The Marathon Method” author Tom Holland won his fastest marathon by walking a bit every mile until the last two. “It was my first time breaking 3 hours,” he says. Now Holland uses the technique with runners he coaches, as well as during Ironman triathlons. “You’ll often see the pros walk through the aid stations; it can help them finish stronger.”

Walking during your runs gives your muscles a rest, because you use them slightly differently, and allows your heart rate to drop, giving you time for a literal breather, as well. Resting this way — even for extremely short bits of time — helps you maintain more energy during your runs, not to mention better form. You’ll be less likely to injure yourself, too.

The irony is that walking can help you finish faster.

Are you ready to slow down? Experiment by adding walking intervals to your weekly long runs and go from there. Here are five foolproof tips to getting started:

1. GET OVER YOUR EGO

“This seems to be the biggest hurdle,” Holland says. “Purists will want to run the entire training distance or race. The irony is that walking can help you finish faster. You’ll also notice that when you walk, the folks ahead won’t really get away from you, and you may even pass them once you pick your pace back up.”

2. START AT MILE 1

Unless you’re only running a mile or two, starting the method early by walking at the first mile can help you finish strong. “If you’re racing, you can skip walking during the last few miles and use the energy you’ve saved up,” Holland says.

3. WALK 10-60 SECONDS AT THE END OF EVERY MILE

“If you’re fit, 10 seconds is enough time to allow your heart rate to drop so you can rest,” Holland says. If you’re newer to running, you can extend your walks: “Beginners can walk 60 seconds every mile and shorten the breaks from there,” Holland says. If your distances are short, you can work with time rather than distance, and walk every 2–3 minutes. “Shorten your walk sets over time as your runs start to feel easier,” Holland adds.


READ MORE > 5 EASY STEPS TO TURN WALKS INTO RUNS


4. WATCH YOUR HEART RATE

One way to ensure you’re resting long enough during runs (or to determine the length of your walks) is to watch your heart rate during breaks. “Your maximum heart rate is an individual matter, but generally speaking, once your heart rate drops below 120 while you walk, you’re good to go in terms of starting to run again,” Holland says.

5. MIND THE BENEFITS

“I always notice how walking delivers a mental break as well as a physical one,” Holland says. “It helps my clients, too. For example, if you’re running a marathon or building that distance, it helps to know you can walk at the end of each mile. It also chunks it down: Instead of a 26-mile race, it becomes 26 one-mile races, and it feels good to cross them off as you go along.”

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