The Run/Walk Method for improving performance and speed while avoiding injury and burnout is nothing new. Coach Jeff Galloway, Coach Bobby McGhee, and Ultrarunners worldwide have been practicing this form of training for years. I first started using this type of training while doing training runs at Mt. Evans last summer, and after my ego got used to the idea that “walking” is still training and not “cheating”, I began to love it and really reap the rewards.
Breaking up your runs with a short period of walking will work different muscles in the body which will allow the prime running muscles to relax and recover. This allows runners to go longer, faster, and not feel completely wrecked after your long runs. Coaches’ Galloway and McGhee use this technique for their elite runners and triathletes to break previous PR’s and have better races. A golden rule for ultrarunners (especially middle and back of the packers) is to walk the uphills and run the flats and downhills. “If you can’t see over it, WALK it!”
The Run/Walk method is also a great way to break through time or distance barriers for fledging ultrarunners like myself. My chronic Achilles Tendonosis has been either MINIMAL or non-existant with taking walking breaks on my runs lasting longer than 2 hours (Active Release Technique also plays a large part in this). Using walk breaks is also a nice way to break up the monotony of a long run and keeps me engaged while timing my splits.
It is important to note that when I mean walking, I am referring to a fast tempo walk with swinging arms and not just a light meandering stroll. I like using trekking poles and Nordic Walking for breaking up the running because it engages my upper body more and really helps with the uphills/downhills on technical trail.
If you are a beginning runner, try a 5 min walk and 1 min run and adjust accordingly as your fitness increases. When I am on the trails for a few hours I like to start with a 30 min easy run and then switch to a 3min run and 1 min walk. You can AND should play around with the splits to see what works best for you and your body.