As you know I am the director of a Jeff Galloway running program, and Jeff’s philosophy is that taking walk breaks while running can allow anyone to run any distance. Anyone. And they can do it without injuries.
Jeff is 67 years old and runs a marathon with his wife each month. I’ve spent time with Jeff twice, and each time I am so inspired and get that feeling that I want to run a marathon. (Luckily that feeling passes after a day or two – because just because I CAN run a marathon doesn’t mean I WANT to run a marathon.) Jeff was in town a few weeks ago and some runners from our group took a little run with him.
He is extremely knowledgeable, funny, and just a great guy. He made the 1972 Olympic team, but in the 10K distance, not the marathon. He set a record in the US 10 mile distance, and his fastest marathon was 2:16:35 (yeah, that is faster than my fastest half marathon.) He is not running that fast these days, but it is quite an accomplishment to run 12 marathons a year.
Jeff trains beginning and advanced runners, and by adding walk breaks to their running, they are able to cut minutes off of their race times. In some cases, lots of minutes. Like, up to 30 minutes or more.
This is what Jeff says about walk breaks:
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.
I became a convert 4 years ago when I ran two 10K’s in one month. The first one I ran continuously, and the second I took walk breaks from the very beginning. My time and pace for both races was the same, but my recovery from the continuous running race was painful. After the run/walk race I was fine the next day.
Jeff’s tips to avoid injury are:
1. Run every other day
2. Start each run significantly slower than your regular training pace.
3. Don’t let faster, fitter running partners coax you into running beyond your speed limit or endurance level.
4. Add regular walk breaks to your long runs. Walk breaks reduce the intensity of runs and lessen muscle fatigue during a workout, which lowers your risk of injury.
Some elitist runners think that adding walk breaks to a run means you are not a “real” runner. Well, I have to disagree. To me, whatever works to get you to the finish line is ok, and anyway, who are these people to judge other runners? At this year’s Cherry Blossom 10 Mile race my volunteer job was to pick up a couple of elite athletes at the airport, and they were two young guys from Boulder who turned out to be the first two Americans to finish the race. I told them how long it takes me to finish a 10 mile race, and that I take walk breaks, and that probably makes me less of a runner. Well, they practically snapped my head off at that comment, they said I was most certainly a runner, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to finish the race. The real elite runners respect every runner, and feel that anyone out there running is a credit to the sport.
I’ve had people make comments behind my back at the beginning of a race, “Can you believe people are walking already? How will they ever finish the race?” I always have the last laugh, don’t I? I will always be a fan of Jeff Galloway and his training program. I have directed three programs so far this year, and the progress I see in our runners is amazing. Some have never run before, some haven’t run in years, some were always getting injured. But they reach the 5K, 10K and even marathon distances, happily and without injury, and I know that anyone can do it.