Running

Why Walk-Run Strategies Can Net Faster Miles Than Running Alone

Dominique Michelle Astorino

Photo: Getty Images/Oscar Wong
My whole journey with fitness began with a half marathon. In reality, it began with watching my mom do half marathons. And when I say “do” I mean, “walk-run”. The fact that she could get through 13.1 miles—and make decent time while walking—was simply mind-blowing to me.

Her secret was not so secret. She borrowed from Jeff Galloway, the Olympic runner, and marathon winner, who is considered one of the forbearers of the walk-run approach. The Galloway Run-Walk-Run method was the foundation of my mom’s local run group’s training program. She’d get together with her group a couple of times a week, and work on interval training, fine-tuning her pace, and improving her stamina.

This type of strategy can help you net a faster finishing time than if you were to strictly run (and could potentially prevent further fatigue and injury). Evidently, some surveys have shown that you could shave half a minute off your average mile time overall during a marathon using this method. And one small study found that: “There was a significant change in the direction of improvement for a one mile, run-walk-run time trial that included all participants, following training in the [Galloway] protocol.”

There are a few reasons why this might be true (though conclusive, concrete statements on this would require more study). For starters, you’re reducing the risk of injury by adding low-impact work into the mix. Running is exceptionally high impact, and by adding a percentage of walking into this formula, you’re inherently reducing the chance of sustaining a running injury.

Secondly, Active.com reports that you’ll “allow endorphins to collect during each walk break — you feel good.” Seventeen-time marathoner Meghan Kita reported that she tried this method, and “it was like hitting the reset button every mile. I would start to feel like I was working hard, to begin entering that negative headspace…but then a walk break would wipe the slate clean.” Her finish time? Only a few minutes over her running personal record.

All to say, this method is physical of course… but it’s also partly mental. These strategic walking breaks help prevent you from getting too mentally fatigued, which may help you perform better for longer. Galloway calls this “cognitive control” over your workout. As such, with less physical and mental fatigue (or, at least, less perceived fatigue), you’re able to not only perform, but you’re able to enjoy your experience a little bit more.

This approach changed my mom’s life, and in turn, changed mine. It introduced me to fitness and health in an accessible way. Fast forward a couple of years into this journey, and we met Jeff Galloway at the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando—a full circle moment, where we got to thank the man behind the method.

Should you try it I’d think so—you have nothing to lose. It’s less risky than a run training program, could help you net a faster time, feel better while you’re running (always incredible), and keep you out there chasing that runner’s high for more years.

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