How a Run/Walk Program Can Make You Faster

Jeff Galloway was part of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team for the 10,000-meters. In college, he ran a 4:12 mile and in 1970, he won the very first Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. So how did this former Olympic athlete become the inventor of a method that includes running and walking?

It all started in 1974, after Galloway started a chain of running stores called Phidippides. He started a running class that would end with a “test” of a 5K or 10K race, and realized that none of the runners could pass the conversation test (i.e. if you can’t hold a conversation on a regular run, you’re going too fast) without slowing down and walking. He started having his students take regular walk breaks — at the end of the class, everyone completed their race injury free.

From that point on, he started working with intervals and nailed it down to a science. If you want to run a 9-minute mile, run for 2 minutes and walk for 30 seconds. For a 7-minute mile, run for 6 minutes and walk for 30 seconds.

READ MORE > A BRIEF (AND SURPRISING) HISTORY OF THE MARATHON

My run/walk journey started in 2008. I was training for my third marathon, the Athens Marathon in Greece. I had never run a successful marathon and seemed to be in a perpetual state of injury. The run/walk method seemed like a good fit. According to Galloway’s website, it’s a form of interval training designed to reduce muscle fatigue and injury. By walking, you give your run muscles a break instead of keeping constant pressure on them.

PUTTING THE RUN/WALK THEORY TO THE TEST

Coincidentally, Jeff and Barbara Galloway partnered with the company I was traveling with to Greece. I was going to run the marathon with the king of run/walk himself! I liked to break my runs into easy-to-remember intervals, like run 4 and walk 1, or run 8 and walk 2. When I reached out to Galloway for training advice, he told me, “because of the 13-mile hill in Athens, a 1-1 is what I recommend. The 1-1 reduces the chance of injury down to almost nothing.” For the record, even though I was onboard with the run/walk program, I was still skeptical of running for one minute and walking for one minute.

When the marathon rolled around, I was determined to stay with Galloway and stick with his plan. Sure enough, I survived (with the mantra “I can do anything for a minute”) and set a marathon PR on a course most people do not set PRs on.

After coming home, I was convinced I could run fast with a run/walk program. While I still didn’t use the method for 5K races (I just gutted out the three miles), I ended up breaking the 2-hour half marathon barrier and setting a personal PR by running and walking. And my results are par for the course. When you’re using the right run/walk ratio, you could cut seven minutes off your half marathon time and 13 minutes off your marathon time.

READ MORE > WHAT’S A PR? AND WHY YOU NEED ONE

While Galloway himself may not be running 4:15 miles any more, he has been running injury-free for the last 30 years, thanks to his run/walk method.

If you want to try the method, here are the key points to keep in mind:

1. BE CONSISTENT

You have to do the intervals from the time the gun goes off to the end. If you wait until you’re tired, your muscles are already fatigued.

2. RUN SLOWER

Start out running more slowly than you typically would (at least on your training runs). This, paired with walking, will leave more in your tank for the second half of your run.

3. WALK FASTER

Just because you aren’t running doesn’t mean you are taking a leisurely walk in the park. Keep up the pace.

4. IT’S NOT JUST FOR BEGINNERS

The run/walk method isn’t just for beginners. Veteran runners have success with these intervals, too. I’d been a runner for 10 years when I decided to try walk breaks.

5. KEEP THINGS INTERESTING

Let’s face it – running can get boring. When you break it into intervals, that sub two-hour run flies by.

(From Jeff Galloway’s old website)
Most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of a long run. Thousands of time-goal-oriented veterans have improved by 10, 20, 30 minutes and more in marathons by taking walk breaks early and often in their goal races. You can easily spot these folks. They’re the ones who are picking up speed during the last two to six miles when everyone else is slowing down.
The mental benefit: breaking 26 miles into segments, which you know you can do Even sub-three hour marathoners continue to take their walk breaks to the end. One of them explained it this way: “Instead of thinking at 20 miles I had six more gut-wretching miles to go, I was saying to myself one more mile until my break. Even when it was tough, I always felt I could go one more mile.”
Walk breaks in the marathon: how long and how often?
The following is recommended until 18 miles in the marathon. After that point, walk breaks can be reduced or eliminated as desired.
First time marathoners should follow the ratios used in training as long as they haven’t slowed down significantly at the end of the long ones. If you struggled during the last few miles take walk breaks more often from the beginning. A minimum suggestion for first time marathoners would be one minute of walking for every 3-4 minutes of running.
Here are my recommended ratios of running and walking, based upon your pace per mile. Remember that long runs should be run at least 2 min/mi slower than your projected finish pace in the marathon. An additional slowdown should be made for increased temperature: 30 sec per mile slower for each 5 degrees of temperature increase above 60F. It is always safer to walk more often.
Run-walk-run ratio should correspond to the training pace used:
(Compared to earlier versions of the run-walk-run ratio, you will note that there are no longer any walk breaks longer than 30 seconds. This is because it was discovered with longer walk breaks of 45 sec. or 1 minute, majority of the benefit was derived during the first 30 seconds of the walk break… and that as runs became longer, it was harder and harder to re-start the legs for the run portion with the longer walk breaks. Remember, these ratios are for long run training, NOT for races. You cannot run too slowly on the long run.)
8 min./mi.—run 4 min/walk 30 seconds (or 2/15)
8:30 min./mi—run 3 min/walk 30 seconds (or 2/23)
9 min./mi.—2 min run/walk 30 seconds (or 80/20)
9:30-10:45—90/30 or 60/20 or 45/15 (or 60/30 or 40/20)
10:45-12:15—60/30 or 40/20 or 30/15 (or 30/30 or 20/20)
12:15-14:15—30/30/ or 20/20 or 15/15
14:15-15:45—15/30
15:45-17:00—10/30
17-18:30—8/30 or 5/25 or 10/30
18:30-20:00—5/30 or 5/25 or 4/30
Note: The Galloway NYC Training Group has modified these intervals as follows:
9:30-11:00 training pace (MM under 7:45) = 90/30 (or 60/20 or 45/15) – Team Zero-Walk-Thirty
11:01-12:30 training pace (MM 7:45-8:45) = 75/30 (or 25/15) – Team 75 is the New 30
12:31-14:00 training pace (MM 8:46-9:45) = 60/30 (or 40/20 or 30/15) – Team Gone in 60 Seconds
14:01-15:30 training pace (MM 9:46-10:45) = 45/30 (or 30/20 or 15/10) – Team Narrow Escape
15:31-17:00 training pace (MM 10:46-11:45) = 30/30 (or 20/20 or 15/15) – Team 30 Below
17:01-18:30 training pace (MM 11:46-13:45) = 20/20 (or 15/15 or 10/10) – Team Lazer Vizion
18:30+ training pace (MM 13:45+) = 20/30 (or 10/15) – Team Bumblebees
Why do walk breaks work?
By using muscles in different ways from the beginning, your legs keep their bounce as they conserve resources. When a muscle group, such as your calf, is used continuously step by step, it fatigues relatively soon. The weak areas get overused and force you to slow down later or scream at you in pain afterward. By shifting back and forth between walking and running muscles, you distribute the workload among a variety of muscles, increasing your overall performance capacity. For veteran marathoners, this is often the difference between achieving a time goal or not.
Walk breaks will significantly speed up recovery because there is less damage to repair. The early walk breaks erase fatigue, and the later walk breaks will reduce or eliminate overuse muscle breakdown.
The earlier you take the walk breaks, the more they help you!
To receive maximum benefit, you must start the walk breaks before you feel any fatigue, in the first mile. If you wait until you feel the need for a walk break, you’ve already reduced your potential performance.
How fast should the walk break be?
When you walk fast for a minute, most runners will lose about 15 seconds over running at their regular pace. But if you walk slowly, you’ll have lost only about 20 seconds.
Once we find the ideal ratio for a given distance, walk breaks allow us to feel strong to the end and recover fast, while bestowing the same stamina and conditioning we would have received if we had run continuously.
Don’t get too rigidly locked into a specific ratio of walk breaks, adjust as needed.
Even if you run the same distance every day, you’ll find that you’ll need to vary the walk break frequency to adjust for speed, hills, heat, humidity, time off from training, etc. If you anticipate that your run will be more difficult or will produce a longer recovery, take more frequent walk breaks (or longer walks) and you may be surprised at how quickly you recover.
Do I need to take the walk breaks on the short runs during the week?
If you can run continuously now on shorter runs, you don’t have to take the walk breaks. If you want to take them, do so. Walk breaks on midweek runs will insure that you recover from the long ones at the fastest pace.
Training Tips:

  • Don’t wait to take walk breaks. By alternating walking and running from the beginning, you speed recovery without losing any of the endurance effect of the long one. Start with jogging one to two minutes and walking two to three minutes. As your training level increases you can adjust your run/walk ratio to running 5 minutes/walking one minute on your long runs.
  • Be sure to do the running portion slow enough at the beginning of every run (especially the long run) so that you’ll feel tired but strong at the end. The conservatism will allow you to recover faster.
  • Every other day you can cross-train instead of walking. Cross country ski machines, water running, cycling, and any other other mode which you find fun and interesting (but non-pounding) will improve overall fitness.
  • Stay conversational on all of your exercise sessions. This means that you should be exerting yourself at a low enough level that you could talk. It’s okay to take deep breaths between sentences, but you don’t want to “huff and puff” between every word.
  • As the runs get longer, be sure to keep your blood sugar boosted by eating an energy bar (or equivalent) about an hour before exercise. Drink water continuously before and during exercise and with all food.

Why It’s Perfectly Acceptable to Walk During Your Runs

Photo: boonchai wedmakawand/Getty Images

It was the night before the Lululemon Seawheeze half-marathon in Vancouver, and I was talking to the pacer I planned to follow during the race. He was promising me he’d pay extra attention to me to help me meet my goal time. “You might lose track of me sometimes,” I warned him. “I use run-walk-run.”

I said it to him in a hushed tone-I was in a room full of other health and fitness writers and editors, and I was afraid to admit that I planned to walk the next day.

“Oh girl, no!” he said, confirming all my fears. “That’s not right. You gotta run it for real!”

I’ve been a run-walk-run runner for the past five years, and I’ve always harbored a low-key concern that people don’t think of my strategy as “real” running. Hearing the pacer say that to me made me want to disappear. I went back into the run-walk-run closet after that. (Related: What Might Happen If You Walk 30 Minutes a Day)

But I’m coming out now-for good this time-because run-walk-run is awesome, and it works.

The Science Behind the Run-Walk-Run Method

For starters, the strategy is what took running from a slog to a challenge I enjoyed. Using this method, I started craving greater distances and even #milesforbreakfast. (Related: 5 Reasons Mornings Are the Best Time to Run)

I found the method early on in my distance running career when I was training for a runDisney half marathon. I used their official training guide, which is designed by Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, who is basically the godfather of the run-walk-run method. I, like the Lululemon pacer, went in thinking that this was not a legitimate way to complete my first half, but if it was the officially recommended way to train, I figured I’d give it a shot.

After a few training runs, I realized this was my jam. Walk breaks let me feel confident that I wouldn’t run out of steam and not be able to finish a planned distance or time. Things didn’t seem so overwhelming suddenly, and I didn’t get frustrated or intimidated as the mileage mounted. Walk breaks were the little treats that let me take in the beauty of my route (especially if I was on a vacation running somewhere I’d never been before). Running was fun again! (Related: The Best Walking Workouts for Weight Loss, According to Fitness Experts)

This is, of course, exactly the point. Galloway started teaching run-walk-run to true beginners back in 1973, knowing if he had them run nonstop there would be injuries and quitters. At the time, he too thought of it more like a workaround for people who couldn’t handle running straight through.

“Then, the former beginners using run-walk-run started beating veteran runners. That’s when it really took off,” Galloway told me.

He then started digging into the science of why it works and found there’s actually an evolutionary reason. “Our ancestors used very little running,” he explained. (Take note, Paleo fans.) “Up until about 1,000 years ago, the leading cause of death was starvation. We wouldn’t use up resources running when walking is so efficient. Running was done in short segments as hunts developed. When needed better quality food, they’d spot the animal and jog toward it, walk to recover, and repeat.” In other words, run-walk-run. Because there were recovery breaks built in, the hunt could go on for several hours, at which point the animal would keel over from heat exhaustion. The human’s endurance triumphed.

There’s also the science of Galloway’s own running career: He’s run a whopping 226 marathons since he started using run-walk-run himself in 1978, and he’s never once been injured. He gets that regular runners might be hesitant to try the method, especially because it requires building walk breaks into the early part of runs, before you actually feel like you need a rest. (Related: How an Injury Taught Me That There’s Nothing Wrong with Running a Shorter Distance)

This is always the thing that makes me feel the most self-conscious-sure, lots of runners take walk breaks around mile 15 of a marathon, but taking one five minutes into a 5K has always felt like it makes me look out of shape. But Galloway says it’s all about calibrating the run time to the walk time, regardless of how much distance you’ve covered (or plan to cover): When he laces up, he runs for 15 seconds, then walks for 15 seconds.

“Look, if someone wants to run nonstop, there’s no problem with that,” he says. “But they’re gonna pay for it. There will be a distance when the stress is going to build up on weak links and something is going to break. What we do with each walk break is we erase the fatigue and stress that builds up on those weak links.”

Still not convinced? Runners using run-walk-run have completed marathons in under two and a half hours.

What Run-Walk-Run Does for My Running

Personally, I shaved eight minutes off my previous half-marathon time using run-walk-run at that Lululemon race and felt great-I beat my goal time by almost two minutes.

I may have been hiding my run-walk-run status all this time, but I’ve never regretted it: I had a baby earlier this year, and I never had to stop running during my pregnancy thanks to those little walk breaks. I’d just reduce the number of minutes I spent running and increase my walking time-in my 39th week I was at about one minute of running to one minute of walking. (I did stop at 40 weeks, but only because I was worried I’d run one morning and go into labor later in the day and be out of much-needed endurance reserves!). (Related: Training Through My First Year of Motherhood Made Me a Better a Runner)

I picked my running back up at about the same ratio as soon as I got exercise clearance from my doctor postpartum. Sure, I was slow, but the run felt amazing.

And make no mistake: It was a real run.

  • By By Sara Gaynes Levy

Perhaps this has happened to you: You’re grinding it out in a race, working your hardest to maintain a tough pace, and you pass someone who’s walking. Within the next minute, the same person runs past you. Within a mile or so, you catch them walking again and pass them again.

Somehow this game of leapfrog goes on and on for the rest of the race.

This hypothetical person is likely using the run-walk method, a training and racing technique popularized by Olympian and running coach Jeff Galloway. The run-walk method involves running for a predetermined length of time, taking a planned walk break, and repeating. The purpose of the walk break is to reduce stress on the body and mind.

The run-walk method is often associated with beginners, but more experienced runners can (and do) use it. I encountered my first run-walker in the final miles of the 2011 Disney Princess Half Marathon. I ran a PR (at the time) of 1:41:48, and the run-walker finished right on my heels. The leap-frogging irritated me at the time, but I was definitely intrigued.

After a string of bad marathons, this method made me even more curious. Maybe walk breaks during a marathon could help me take in and digest midrun fuel (a big problem for me), which would help me race the run portions stronger. Before I ventured to trying this in a full 26.2, I wanted to test it in a shorter event first, and the 2016 Runner’s World Half Marathon in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I had a lackluster year of training and racing that included few long runs, even fewer tempo runs, and even fewer runs on terrain similar to the course (that is, nonstop ups and downs), so I wasn’t sure what kind of time to expect. I figured I could break 1:50—which I could achieve if my running segments were around 8:00 pace—but I thought sub-1:45 might be too optimistic. Here’s what happened.

2017 Runner’s World Calendar: Run farther, faster, and stronger 365 days a year!

I felt ridiculous at times.
I have considered “not stopping to walk” a sign of mental victory in tough races since I began running in high school 14 years ago, so I felt extra silly stopping at the first mile marker. (My run-walk strategy was to walk one minute at a normal walking pace after every mile marker—a tactic 1968 Boston Marathon winner and former RW editor-in-chief Amby Burfoot wrote about using back in the ’90s.)

There was a big cheer group stationed near mile 1, and they didn’t seem to know what to make of me. The same thing happened at mile 12—I got a few half-hearted cheers of the “You can do it!” variety, but because I didn’t appear to be riding the struggle bus, people weren’t sure how to react. (I didn’t stop after mile 13 because I would have been walking over the finish line, basically.)

Other runners were more curious than irritated.
I realized early on that I was going to be playing leapfrog with the 1:45 pace group, a large mass of people aiming for an ambitious goal on a tough course. Around mile 4 or 5, people started asking me about what I was doing. “

I explained that I was experimenting for an online story. A few people were impressed that I was keeping up with their group despite walk breaks. A few others shared stories like, “I know a guy who qualified for Boston using walk breaks,” or, “I run-walked back when I was trying to break 4:00 in the marathon for the first time.” Thanks for your patience and understanding, other runners!

I got a story idea.
The RW Half course includes very few flat stretches. You’re either climbing or descending for the bulk of the race. Some of the mile markers were located on descents, and it felt like a waste slowing to a walk when I could be using gravity to carry me.

I still stopped at each marker until mile 11, which hit a few hundred yards before the base of a hill. There, I ran through the marker, then walked for a minute when it flattened out. “I should ask Jeff Galloway if advanced runners should take course layout into account when planning a run-walk strategy for a race,” I thought. I edit his column in the magazine, so perhaps you’ll see that question answered in an upcoming issue.

My gel sat better.
Because of my aforementioned lackluster training, I haven’t taken a gel since May, when I ran the Brooklyn Half with a friend. I’ve done a handful of easy 10+ mile runs since that race, but I fueled them with a large breakfast beforehand.

My stomach was not trained to take gel at all, especially not while running tempo pace (about 7:15 to 7:30 pace for me). So, I took my gel during my mile 8 walk break and washed it down with some water at the next aid station. Usually midrace gels make me feel like I’m going to throw up, even when I’ve trained with them, so not feeling that way during this race was a step in the right direction.

I finished much faster than I thought I could.
At the RW Half, all of the RW editors are labeled as such with bibs we wear on the back of our shirts. I tend to be a cranky racer—especially in the final miles—so I’ve always been afraid to run any of our races all-out: What if I snap at someone who’s just trying to chat with me while I am supposed to be representing the brand? The walk breaks took the crankiness out of the equation.

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. As such, I was still laughing at funny signs and saying hi to people I recognized and smiling at the on-course entertainment through the final straightaway.

And while my finishing time (1:43:28) was not all that close to my PR (1:36:33), it was a whole lot faster than I expected or deserved to run given how poorly I prepared and the difficulty of the course. If I had run the entire way, I might have finished a minute or two faster, but I would have really suffered for it—and I might have been a not-so-nice person along the way.

If you’re curious about run-walking, check out this article or JeffGalloway.com.

Half Marathon Pacing Strategies

The half marathon is a difficult balance between conserving fuel and energy while running just at the edge of your lactate threshold. Start too fast and you’ll burn through your carbohydrate stores and bonk. Start too slow and you’ll be too far behind in the final miles to record your best time.

You need to find the ideal half marathon pacing strategy that will ensure that you conserve enough energy early to finish strong while still pushing your limits the entire distance.

More: Calculate your Running Pace.

The Overall Strategy

To race your best, you should focus on running a patient and conservative race over the first 3 miles, relaxing during the middle miles, and then attacking the course for the last 2 miles.

Interestingly, every world record from the 1500 meters to the marathon has been set running negative splits—running the first half of the race slightly slower than the second half.

This means that if you want to ensure that you run the fastest time possible, you don’t want to run the first mile or two too fast, which is one of the most common mistakes runners make. With the adrenaline and competition, this can be difficult and will require focus. Your normal half marathon pace will feel like you’re almost walking, so it’s very important you pay strict attention to your pace.

More: Target Pace Training

Pacing Over the First 3 Miles

You should target a pace that is 5 -10 seconds per mile slower than your goal finishing pace for the first two to three miles. While this is a scary proposition for many runners, you will easily make up these seconds by being able to close the last few miles fast as opposed to fading and crawling across the finish line.

Remember that it will feel “slow” and you might be getting passed by people you want to beat. While it is mentally difficult, this is by the most effective way to run a race and you’ll tear by those people during the last mile when you’re fresh and they are dying.

Pacing for Miles 3 Through 11

At 3 miles, begin to increase your pace and effort so you’re running at goal half marathon pace. If you’ve practiced this pace in training, it should feel like a comfortable rhythm for you.

Be aware that you need to increase your effort to maintain the same pace or run faster as the race goes on. As you get more tired, it gets more difficult to keep running faster, so you have to try harder. Many runners make the mistake of thinking that the same effort at mile three will net them the same pace as it will in mile 11. Unfortunately, with each mile your legs will get more tired and it will get harder to remain on pace. Be conscious of this reality and maintain focus.

After 3 miles or so, start looking around and engage the competitors around you. Find a group that is running your pace or a little faster and latch on. Try to relax and keep your focus on staying with the group, not your splits. Use the group and the people around you to help you relax and take your mind of the distance ahead.

More: 4 Steps to Your Perfect Pace

Can’t imagine running 13.1 miles without stopping? No worries! Here’s how to run-walk (or walk-run) to a half marathon finish line.

Want a foolproof recipe for half marathon success? Mix running with walking! A run-walk plan can be used for a number of purposes. If you’re currently walking and want a little extra challenge, if you want to ease your body into long distance running or if you simply want to run longer and recover faster, this method is the perfect way to reach your dreams.

We’ve included two different half marathon plans, for you to choose from based on your current fitness level and personal goals. The first program (walk-run) is best for walkers who want to try running to improve fitness and muscle tone. The walk-run intervals in this plan remain consistent throughout (one minute of running and three minutes of walking) up until the race. The second program (run-walk) is for women who currently run-walk or who run shorter distances. Run-walk workouts are running-focused and intervals vary to help improve performance and speed.

Are You Ready?

Before you get started, look at “Week 1” of the plan you would like to follow. Does your current workout regimen match that first week? If you are not quite there yet, don’t sweat it. Simply invest in a four to six week build up base to get ready to start half marathon training. Jumping in before you’re ready increases your chances of injury and fatigue. Why risk it?

“A” for Effort

If you are all set to go, it’s time to get in touch with your perceived effort levels. This plan will ask you perform easy workouts, moderate workouts and hard workouts—and sometimes you’ll combine all three into one session. When we say “easy,” we mean it. This is an effort level where you feel great and can talk fluidly without stopping for air. A “moderate” effort level is slightly more challenging. You can hear your breathing, but you’re not gasping. A “hard” effort level is tough! When you’re in this zone, you can’t talk, your breathing is rapid and your body feels uncomfortable.

Jenny Hadfield is the co-author of Running for Mortals and Marathoning for Mortals. You can find more of her training programs, tips and running classes on coachjenny.com.

Workout Guidelines

For every single workout, make time for a warm up and cool down with three to five minutes of brisk walking. “Walk-Run 3/1” means: “walk three minutes, run three minutes and repeat until finished.” Similarly, “Run-Walk 4/1” indicates: run four minutes, walk one minute and repeat until finished.

–Easy Effort Workouts (EZ): Train at an easy, conversational effort level for the length of time indicated.

–Endurance Workouts (E): Perform these long run-walks at an easy effort level. While your pace will be easy, the workout is more difficult due to its length.

–Race Rehearsal Workouts (RR): This challenging workout is your chance to practice race-day pacing on a smaller scale. The first third of the workout at an easy effort, the second at a moderate effort and the third at a hard effort. (If the workout is 60 minutes, the first 20 should be comfortable, the second 20 minutes will be less comfortable and the final 20 minutes will be outside your comfort zone). You will stick with the same run-walk intervals throughout the workout, but your overall pace will change. Walk-runners should concentrate on pushing harder during the walk portion, keeping the run at a steady pace. Run-walkers should push the running pace, keeping the walk at a steady pace.

–Speed Intervals (SI; Walk-Run): Warm up with five full minutes of brisk walking. Perform 16 minutes of Walk-Run 1/3 at an easy effort to warm up further. Repeat the italicized pattern six times: Run 30 seconds at a moderate pace, walk one minute at an easy pace to recover, then walk two minutes at a brisk pace. Finish with five minutes of easy walking to cool down.

–Speed Intervals (SI; Run-Walk): Warm up with five minutes of brisk walking. Perform 15 minutes of Run-Walk 4/3 at an easy effort level to warm up further. Repeat the italicized pattern five times: Run two minutes at a moderate pace, walk one minute at an easy pace to recover, then walk two minutes at a brisk pace. Finish with five minutes of easy walking to cool down.

–Cross Training (XT): Non-running activities, such as cycling, swimming, strength training and Pilates, are low-impact ways to increase fitness without putting stress on taxed muscles.

–Rest: On days labeled “Rest,” don’t do anything active. This is your body’s much-needed chance to recover.

Walk/Run Half Marathon Training Progam

Click here for a pdf version of the plan

*Read the Workout Guidelines Tab for the key to the training plan.

Get more amazing training plans by subscribing to Women’s Running Magazine today!

Run/Walk Half Marathon Training Progam

Click here for a pdf version of the plan

*Read the Workout Guidelines Tab for the key to the training plan.

Get more amazing training plans by subscribing to Women’s Running Magazine today!

If you are a beginner runner looking to improve endurance and conditioning to run for prolonged periods of time without risking fatigue, injury, or burnout, then you are in the right place.

The Walk/Run Method Demystified

The run/walk method is a great method for a beginner runner to get their foot in the door, and for experienced athletes to improve their running performance and race times.

The guy who pioneered this method is Jeff Galloway— a former Olympian, and legendary coach. According to his website, Jeff has coached over 200,000 walkers and runners to improve their running performance throughout his coaching career.

The Run/Walk method is based on a simple premise: regular walking breaks can improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury. This involves following an explicit training strategy by mixing low intensity running intervals with walking breaks.

By opting for the right “dosages” of walking and running, you’ll be able to manage your fatigue, improve your fitness, build stamina—without risking injury or burnout.

The Benefits of Run Walking

The Run/Walk method is great for beginners as they don’t have yet enough cardio reserves to run for extended periods of time.

This approach can help them transition slowly into becoming full-time runners without increasing the risks of discomfort, injury, or burnouts.

A well-planned walk/run session can postpone fatigue, prevent muscle cramps, reduce the risks of pain and injury, improve recovery rate, and get you fit without getting hurt.

Former runners returning to running after a long layoff should ease into regular training to walk/run sessions, which can help fortify a wide range of slow-twitch fibers.

Intermediate and advanced runners can benefit from this method too as it can help them stay safe while nursing an injury as well as improve their race times, according to Jeff Galloway.

Walking to Running Ratios

To make the most out of this method, take the walk breaks before fatigue starts to set in.

Contrary to popular belief, the walk/run method does not mean that you should take breaks only when tired. Au contraire, it’s about taking brief walk break even if you are not tired.

If you wait until you are completely drained, you might go over the red line, thus burning your engine before you are done working out.

Here are 3 walk-to-running ratios to try out. Choose whatever ratio of walking and running that works for you.

The Beginner: Run for 15 to 30 seconds. Then walk for one to two minutes

The Intermediate: Run for two to five minutes. Then walk for one to two minutes.

The Experienced: Run for eight to ten minutes. Then walk for 30-second to one full minute.

Word to the wise, stay within your fitness level the entire time. That’s the cardinal rule for injury-free training. No more. No less. So, be careful.

Go For Time, Not Distance

Measure the walk and run segments in terms of minutes, not distance. Doing so takes the pressure off of having to cover a particular distance at a set pace.

The Ideal Session

Pick a distance, a 2-miler loop around your neighborhood for instance,

Next, after a proper 5-minute walk as warm up, do an easy run/walk routine: jog slowly for 1 minute, then walk for two to three minutes for recovery. Make sure you’re fully recovered after the walk segment.

Repeat the cycle for 5 to 7 times. End the session with a proper cool-down.

Perform this workout at least three times per week.

Once you can run for 10-minutes nonstop, then increase to 12, then 15, and so on.

Tips for Beginners

First, you got to assess your fitness level. Check my posts here.

Next, set clear and realistic targets. A 5K (3.1 miles) distance, for instance. Here is my full guide to fitness goals setting.

Then, aim to increase training volume, intensity, and frequency.

If you follow one of these training plans consistently, you’ll be, eventually, able to run a 3.1-mile race within 8 to 12 weeks of beginning your training.

Training Plans

The Internet is full of elaborate training programs, but I believe in keeping it simple.

Here are more tips for a great training plan:

  • Aim to exercise at least three times per week.
  • Walk, run/walk, or run for 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week.
  • Cross train or rest on your off days.
  • Keep your workouts at a conversational pace. AKA the Talk Test.

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Seeing athletes crush a road race or just spotting runners glide through your local park might be enough to motivate you to head out on the road yourself. Or if you’re just looking for a way to be more active or lose weight, then you’ll find running is a solid option for moving more. But no matter why you want to start running, it’s time to lace up and enjoy every step.

Follow these beginner tips on how to start running, and you could very easily discover a new workout that you’ll keep going back to over and over.

1. Just Get Started

As a beginner, you can spend all week/month/year thinking about it and browsing the web for tips and plans, or you can just get out there regularly. “The biggest thing when you first start out is establishing the habit—getting used to being on your feet,” says Matthew Meyer, a certified trainer and running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York and Streets101.

Forget about hitting a certain pace (turn that watch around!), ditch the idea of reaching a certain distance, and instead, just set a time goal. Meyer says a good beginner running target is to get outside or on a treadmill for 20 minutes, three days a week. Eventually, aim to build up to four days, and then you can bump 20 minutes to 25 and so on.

2. Embrace the Run-Walk Method

It’s here, in the beginning, when many new runners stumble. You think, “Today, I’m going to start running!” and out the door you go with the best of intentions—but maybe not the best preparation. Four minutes later, everything hurts, and you feel like you are dying. Don’t despair. Whether you’re fresh off the couch or coming from another sport, running takes time to break into.

“Every able-bodied person can be a runner,” says Gordon Bakoulis, a running coach based in New York City. “Just start slowly and build up gradually.” Most coaches agree that the best way to become a runner is with a run-walk program.

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With that 20-minute target in mind, focus on a few minutes of running, followed by a period of walking. Meyer suggests aiming to run for three minutes and walking for one minute—continue to alternate until you reach the time goal, always ending with a walking segment to cool down.

If you’re not comfortable with just a one-minute walk between rounds, Christine Hinton, a Road Runners Club of America certified coach in Annapolis, Maryland says it’s okay to start with four minutes of walking and just two minutes of running as an alternative, or try this 10-week walk-run plan below.

10-Week Run-Walk Plan

Start and finish each workout with five minutes of walking. Then, alternate the following run/walk ratios for 30 minutes.

  • Week 1: 2 minutes running/4 minutes walking
  • Week 2: 3 minutes running/3 minutes walking
  • Week 3: 4 minutes running/2 minutes walking
  • Week 4: 5 minutes running/3 minutes walking
  • Week 5: 7 minutes running/3 minutes walking
  • Week 6: 8 minutes running/2 minutes walking
  • Week 7: 9 minutes running/1 minute walking
  • Week 8: 13 minutes running/2 minutes walking
  • Week 9: 14 minutes running/1 minute walking
  • Week 10: Run for 30 minutes!

No matter how long you’re going for, think about reaching a 6 to 7 out of 10 in terms of your exertion level during those run periods, then dial it down to 2 or 3 during the walk. That means you should still be able to have a conversation during those three-minute run periods, Meyer says.

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A warmup and cooldown will also help you ease in and out of a run. Start with a few reverse lunges on each leg, followed by squats, side lunges, butt kicks, and high knees, and a few minutes of walking before your run. After, take a few minutes to walk slowly, then foam roll your legs (the quads, hamstrings, and calves are good places to work on) or stretch.

3. Consider Proper Technique

Treat yourself like a runner—from day one. That means taking time to properly warm up and cool down. “A good warmup makes it much easier to get going and keep going,” says Andrew Kastor, former coach of the official New York City Marathon online training program. “It’s much more than just boosting blood flow to your muscles.” Your neuromuscular system, which involves your brain telling your muscles how to contract, gets up to speed. Your body starts churning out fat-burning enzymes, which help your aerobic system work more efficiently. Synovial fluid warms up, which helps lubricate your joints.

“Too many beginners skip this step without realizing how much easier it makes the whole workout feel,” Kastor says. Cooling down, while less critical, allows your body to gradually adjust from running back to a resting state. “Just a few minutes of walking is all you need to let your heart rate return to normal and for your body to clear out any metabolic waste you created during your efforts,” Kastor adds.

Even (and especially) in the early stages of running, you also want to think about form. Meyer has a few simple questions he tells his clients to ask themselves on the road: Am I leaning forward through the chest? Are my arms swinging? Is my core engaged? Are my knees driving? Are my heels nice and high? “Really focus on picking up your heels behind you, especially if you’re feeling tired and your legs are feeling heavy to take your mind off the run for a little,” he says.

4. Explore New Places

An easy way to keep your motivation up on the run? Finding a new area to discover, Meyer says. “I remember when I first started running, I would seek out interesting parks or places I hadn’t been before,” he says. “You want to get moving, but you also want to be in a beautiful place to get to know and spend time exploring.”

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It even helps to explore different running surfaces. Runners often have strong opinions about where to run, but the best solution for you as a new runner may be to simply mix it up, says Shelly Florence-Glover, exercise physiologist in New York and coach for runningcoach.com. The options include: new roads, park paths, urban greenways, dirt trails, your local track, that huge neighborhood hill, the gym treadmill, and more.

“Soft is not necessarily better,” she says. “Both treadmills and dirt may seem ‘softer’ and therefore safer, but they have their issues. A treadmill belt has a slight shimmy when the belt impacts the bed that can contribute to shin issues. Dirt and trails can be uneven and have holes and ruts. Keep it varied; maybe sidewalk one day, paved road the next, and a trail on the weekends.”

5. Progress Slowly

When you feel comfortable running 20 to 30 minutes at an easy pace (when your exertion level drops below 6, and you feel confident in taking it up a notch), then it’s time to increase the challenge. Your next step is to either extend your total workout time or the number of runs each week. But choose just one option at a time, Meyer says. For instance, you could aim to go for 30 minutes instead of 20. Or run four times a week instead of three. A very important rule of thumb: Increase your total weekly time or distance by no more than 10 percent from week to week. For example: If this week you ran 90 minutes total, you’ll run 99 next week. Or if you ran 10 miles total this week, you’ll run 11 total next week.

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It’s easy to overdo it on the days you feel good, or when you’re running with a faster friend. But doing too much too soon is a classic rookie mistake that can lead to injury and burnout. “When you’re first starting out, your goal should just be to have fun and ,” says Glover. Once you’re running consistently, you can add days until you’re running five days a week or more.

6. Don’t Get Discouraged

A few things to think about when you start to feel like you just want to stop: For starters, really focus on why you decided to start running. “Whenever I’m in the middle of a really hard workout, I remember, ‘You chose this, and you really love this,’” says Meyer. “Even when it gets hard, there’s a reason you got out in the first place.”

Before you start your next run, Meyer recommends deciding what you want to get out of it to keep your focus. Do you want to get outside and enjoy it? Do you want to end smiling and feeling good? Do you want to get mentally or physically stronger? Do you just want to sweat a little? Whatever it is, point it out and use it as your motivation to just keep going.

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Also, don’t dwell on one bad run, because everyone has them. Yes, even the pros. “Running is more of a collection of work—day by day, you work for it—and it’s at the end that you see everything. So just focus on showing up a little bit every day. Some days you’ll feel amazing; some days you’ll feel terrible,” Meyer says. “Success is not determined by one day, but by all of them put together.”

In the end, running should be fun; and even veteran runners use outside assistance to keep the fun factor high.

Tools To Help You Stay Inspired

A Training Log

A simple journal offers insight into how far you’ve come, what’s working, what’s not, and keeps you on track to meet your goals. Some items to consider recording: type of run (duration/miles/special workout); effort level; food and drink consumed before, during, and after; weather; and how you felt.

Running Partners

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends having an exercise partner because it improves the odds that you’ll stick with working out. Here’s why: Your run flies by when you’re talking with a friend, and knowing a partner is waiting for you is great motivation to leave the comfort of your chair.

Music

If you’ve ever taken a studio fitness class, then you know the powerful effect music can have on performance. “Certain types of music can help lower the perception of fatigue and enhance feelings of vigor and excitement,” says sports and exercise psychologist Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., psychologist at West London’s Brunel University. Just be sure to keep the volume low or opt for open-air earphones so you’re aware of your surroundings.

Gear

The beauty of running is in its simplicity. All you really need is a good pair of shoes. Go to a specialty running store where trained professionals will evaluate your feet, watch you run, recommend the right shoes, and then let you go out for a test drive. You’ll leave with a comfortable pair of shoes that will have you running pain-and injury-free.

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Finally, always remember that you’re a runner, no matter how much time you put in and whether you walk or not. “All you have to do is show up, put one foot in front of the other, and you’re a runner,” Meyer says. Don’t forget it!

selene yeager “The Fit Chick” Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, pro licensed mountain bike racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.

Walking in a race will slow you down, right? Not necessarily.

Walking in a race will slow you down, right? Not necessarily. “Beginner’s Luck” columnist Meredith Atwood writes about the power of Jeff Galloway’s run-walk method.

I had the honor to sit down with the legendary Jeff Galloway for a recent podcast interview. Jeff came to the sport of running in eighth grade “because he had to” in school. Turns out that this “fat, lazy kid” ended up becoming an Olympian and hero in our running world with his amazing “Galloway Method.” It is a precise methodology that incorporates planned and timed walk breaks into running in order to increase overall speed, distance and—most importantly of all—the ability to train faster and farther with fewer injuries.

One of the things that Jeff discuss in the interview was the difference between “Monkey Brain” and “Human Brain”—which he also discusses in his book, Mental Training for Runners. The key to making the biggest gains in running is not only getting to race day healthy, trained and free of injury, but also harnessing the mental aspect of running. By learning to use our “Human Brain” to control our “Monkey Brain” (which as you might surmise is the subconscious brain), we grow as athletes. Interestingly one of the most methodical ways to control this subconscious brain that might be screaming things like “stop running!” and “you are slow” and “this is painful” and “you’ll never finish” is to pick a pace that we can run and then pick a logical pace that we can walk. When these are combined using the protocols with the “Magic Mile” and Galloway’s other methods, we set ourselves up for using the Human Brain to control our runs.

“Here’s the thing,” says Galloway, “The Monkey Brain will produce certain thoughts and emotions under stress—those thoughts will trigger the negative thoughts and actions that can really get in the way of our progress as runners, especially beginners.”

My first dip into the Galloway method was at Ironman Louisville in 2015. I used the method as a Hail Mary for my race, having crashed my bike and been involved in a car crash which seriously impeded the final weeks of peak training. Using Galloway’s method, I ran 3:1 run/walk intervals, taking me straight to a marathon PR in the race. (Note: I am not a fast runner, but a 13:28 pace is where I ended up in the marathon for the Ironman race.)

Since opening Phidippides, his running store in Atlanta, Ga., in 1975 Jeff has been on a mission to help runners across the world. The students in the Galloway run-walk programs report incredible low injury rates (in Jeff’s words—“almost 0 percent”) and increases in speeds.

Are you a hardcore continuous runner and shaking your head at the run-walk?

Well, think again. Galloway’s students and methods boast an average improvement in their half marathon of 6 minutes and 13 minutes faster in a marathon using the Galloway method. Compare those non-stop runners in the same events, who tend to slow down 5-12 minutes in a half and 10-20 minutes in a full. Also, Galloway set his 2:16 marathon PR taking walk breaks. How’s that for some Human Brain food?

Do you rely on the run-walk method? Tweet us at @Swimbikemom and @Triathletemag and tell us about it!

Check out the full interview with Jeff Galloway on The Same 24 Hours Podcast, Episode 18, “Jeff Galloway: Running and Walking and Running,” available on iTunes, Stitcher and Podbean. Learn more about Jeff Galloway and the Galloway Method at JeffGalloway.com.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, writer, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. Meredith has teamed up with amazing experts to bring programs from peak performance to nutrition to her own sobriety group to her social following. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com.

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