When it comes to walk breaks, there are two camps.
The first camp views walking during runs/races as weakness. You only walk when you are transporting yourself to the start line or after you bonk, hit the wall, or are sidelined with a debilitating injury.
The second camp embraces walking as an essential, healthy part of a running training program. Walking will better prepare you to hit the starting line injury free and to greet the finish line with great success or even a negative split.
You might think that all of us here at Salty Running are rabid members of the first camp and intrinsically anti-walking. But you’d be wrong.
If you’re that person making statements like “the point of running is TO RUN” and you snub our nose at us who mix in walking, then I think you should be ashamed. Just like those speedist runners who look down on those of different speeds and abilities, looking down on those who choose to mix in walking only hurts the sport. I am a firm believer that those of us who take walk breaks are just as much runners as those who don’t. In fact, I’m here today to not only stick up for my walk-break-taking sisters, but to tell you why taking walk breaks might actually make you faster. True story!
When I advocate walk breaks, I am talking about the Galloway method. Jeff Galloway is an accomplished runner who coaches runners to take walk breaks during races and long runs (and short training runs) to prevent injury and reduce fatigue. The length and number of breaks are determined by your individual fitness level and speed, but he advocates that you begin taking walk breaks from the very beginning of your run/race at regular intervals to maximize your results.
How I do it. When I started running longer distances, I would walk one minute for every ten minutes of running during my races and long runs. Now, I take a 30 second walk/jog every 15 minutes or two miles during my long runs. These breaks have helped me so much that I’ve chosen not to take the breaks for the last couple of miles of my races, and have some pretty amazing negative splits. Incorporating walk breaks even helped me to beat my half-marathon PR by over twenty minutes at the Syracuse Half-Marathon in 2011!
Avoid Injuries. Additionally, walk breaks have kept me healthy. I am prone to shin splints and have had runner’s knee and hip pain. So I take walk breaks to reduce the likelihood of injury while I build my endurance. Using this method, I was able to run/walk 24 miles on Saturday in preparation for the Seattle Marathon, which I will run on November 25. To me, walking breaks have been an essential and healthy part of my training plan. Avoiding injuries and training consistently over the long term is the way to get faster and make big gains in your running performance. Strategically using walking breaks can help you achieve that!
Stay Fresh. If you are a new or injury-prone runner, I definitely recommend that you consider taking walk breaks early in long runs and even races. I also ask you to keep an open mind. I know there is a contingent of runners who think that if they take walk breaks they are not “real” runners. I vehemently disagree. Taking these pre-planned short walk breaks can give the running muscles a break and it will allow you to mentally break up your long runs into manageable chunks. The walk breaks I took during my first marathon this summer led to a debut marathon time of 3:47. Not too shabby for someone who some would consider not a “real” runner! I was pretty darn proud of those times. I find it outrageous that someone might tell me that my marathon time doesn’t count because I walked. Regularly. Up until the last 2 miles. The walk breaks saved my legs so I felt fresh enough to hammer the last two miles and negative split! If you find you’re consistently falling apart at the end of your long races and underperforming, you might consider working in some early regular walk breaks and see if that helps you finish stronger and perform better.
Walking is a great way to build up to running continuously – if you are a new, old, middle or green runner, don’t EVER feel bad about taking walk breaks. Do what you need to do to optimally cover the distance. During longer races, I just walk through the water stops, which is a great way for me to give my muscles a break and drink the liquids I need because I refuse to carry water.
And now I’ll run AND walk off of my soap box.
What do you think about walk breaks?