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The Run Walk Method for Beginners

Whether you’re training for a competitive running event or starting your fitness and health journey by getting into running, the transition into regular running can be a rough one. Although most of us have probably stopped mid-run to walk (out of sheer exhaustion), a specific run walk method can help you train smarter and improve your endurance and pace. It’s aptly named the run walk method.

What is the run walk method?

Female on bridge mid-run.

The run walk method is a training strategy that incorporates planned walking intervals into your runs. It’s also called the Jeff Galloway method because Jeff Galloway developed it in 1974.1

Galloway created the run walk method for his class of non-runners and novice runners and quickly discovered that it was an excellent way to help people improve their fitness with minimal risk of injury.

What are the benefits of the run walk method?

A group of people on a set of treadmills running or walking.

The run walk method is very popular among beginner runners, but seasoned marathon runners use it too! That’s because it’s proven to be an effective way to improve running performance with fewer injuries and less overall fatigue.

If you choose to implement the run walk method into your training program, you’ll likely reap some of the following physical and psychological benefits:2

Less fatigue

It’s no surprise that constantly running without stopping for several minutes is tiring. But you’re conserving more energy by taking walking breaks (which is a form of active recovery). The run walk method also allows your heart rate to “reset” so you feel refreshed and ready once you start running again.

Fewer injuries

Running produces a lot of repetitive stress on your muscles and joints. When you take short intervals of walking breaks with the run walk method, you reduce this stress and create more variety in your gait cycle. Basically, you’re distributing the workload to different muscle groups instead of hammering the same ones for the entire 30 minutes (or however long you run). By redistributing the total workload of your run, you’re less likely to experience common aches and pains associated with running, like lower back, knee, hip, or ankle pain.

Faster recovery

Taking short walking breaks with the run walk method during your run gives your body a headstart on its recovery. The gentle movements help promote blood flow, flush metabolic waste from your body, and reduce overall inflammation, helping your body recover after exercise.

Run faster

Although you might think incorporating the run walk method into your runs would slow you down, that’s not always the case. You’re likely to improve your overall running time by reducing your overall fatigue during your workout! So if you want to learn how to run faster, the run walk method might be a great place to start.

More manageable running experience

Running is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. When you break up a longer run into more manageable chunks with the run walk method, it may feel easier to navigate the fatigue and soreness you’re likely to experience. Instead of falling into the trap of believing you’ve failed by stopping for a brief moment to walk during your run, you can retrain your brain to think about it differently. You’re not failing by walking! You’re giving your body (and mind) a better chance at succeeding by making the long run more manageable. 

How do you do the run walk method as a beginner?

A female walking her dog mid walk with arms mid stride.

The run walk method is very strategic, but it’s not complicated by any means. Anyone can do it and perfect for beginners! Here’s how to implement the run walk method into your daily running routine with Vingo or outdoors on the road or trails:

  • Take a few minutes to warm up your muscles before you begin your workout.
  • Run for a short interval of time.
  • Talk a brief break to walk.
  • Repeat this pattern throughout your run.
  • Cool down for a few minutes before concluding your workout for the day.

And that’s it! No hard and fast rule says you have to be utterly exhausted at the end of a long run. The run walk method shatters that assumption and provides a healthier alternative.

If you’re new to running, start with short intervals you feel comfortable with, such as one minute of running followed by one minute of walking. As your physical fitness and endurance improve, you can adjust the ratio to make it more challenging. For example:

  • 1 minute running, 5 minutes walking
  • 5 minutes running, 1 minute walking
  • 8 minutes running, 2 minutes walking

As you become more accustomed to running, you can also adjust the run walk ratio based on your heart rate. To do this, simply run until your heart rate reaches the desired zone and then take a walking break until your heart rate drops into a desired lower zone and repeat as many times as you prefer.

Does the run walk method work?

Woman on the treadmill looking down.

Yes! Many runners find the run walk method to be very effective for overall training. However, like any training technique, there are some downsides to consider.

  • It may disrupt the natural “flow” of your run. For some people, running can be a meditative experience. However, using a timer to complete intervals of the run walk method can disrupt any meditative experience you might have while running.
  • It can be challenging to stay motivated. If you’re running with others, you might feel unmotivated stopping and starting every few minutes, especially if others are running consistently.

Who should use the run walk method?

An older couple running in the forest with big smiles.

The run walk method is excellent for those new to running because it helps them build endurance and aerobic fitness. However, the run walk method is a great training strategy for everyone, even experienced runners!

  • If you’re a beginner runner, starting with equal intervals of the run walk method is probably best. For example, three minutes of running followed by three minutes of walking.
  • Intermediate runners should use the run walk method based on their heart rate. You can read more about running heart rate and ideal training zones in this blog.
  • Experienced runners may choose to use a time-based, heart rate-based, or distance-based approach to maximize the benefits of the run walk method. For example, you might run one mile a little faster than your average race pace and then walk for a quarter mile. Repeat the cycle as often as you want to pack more mileage into your training session.

Key Takeaways:

The run/walk method (also known as the Jeff Galloway method) incorporates planned intervals of running and walking into your workouts. It’s an excellent way to improve your endurance and speed and enjoy your runs, whether you’re a new or experienced runner.

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Sources:

  1. Galloway, J. (2016). The Run Walk Run Method· (2nd ed.). Meyer & Meyer Sport.
  2. Walk Breaks & The Long Run. (n.d.). GALLOWAY NYC. http://www.gallowaynyc.org/walk-breaks–the-long-run.html 

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