Should You Take Walk Breaks While Running?

Injury prevention is the main reason most runners take walk breaks. Contrary to what others may believe, it is not because the runner is tired.

Walking breaks offer many benefits and I can only think of one downside. To someone who doesn't understand the purpose of a run-walk-run program, it may appear to them that the runner is weak and cannot keep running. This is totally untrue and if you are not concerned about this, then read on to discover the many advantages to short walking breaks while running. Perhaps you will decide to make them part of your running regime.

Benefits of Walk Breaks

  • A run-walk-run program helps prevent injuries and can speed injury recovery. Walking uses different muscles so your running muscles have a chance to rest and recover before tiring -- reducing the risk of pain and injury. Walking, like stretching, helps flush lactic acid that builds in our muscles, reducing muscle pain and soreness.  
  • Walking breaks help control fatigue, so you can run longer distances and improve your endurance capabilities while enjoying less aches and pains. Statistics show that marathon runners who use a run-walk-run program complete the race faster than when running continuously. They don't fatigue as quickly and finish the race feeling strong.
Walk Breaks While Running
  • A short break from running keeps runners motivated by breaking the long run into smaller, attainable goals. The positive reinforcement of achieving each goal keeps the runner highly motivated and more likely to complete a faster, stronger run.
  • A walking break is a great time to refuel with a sports drink or a nutritional snack.  It is so much easier to eat and drink while walking as opposed to running.
  • Running groups that use a run-walk-run program tend to be much more social and fun. Runners are relaxed and enjoying themselves and look forward to their next group run.

Jeff Galloway, who has been running for more than 50 years, is a firm believer in run-walk-run programs.

Walk Break Programs

A run-walk-run program is quite simple to incorporate into any run. Decide on a period of time or distance to run (see examples below) and then walk for a minute or two.  Continue this pattern for the entire duration of your run.

I was first introduced to running and walking breaks with the Running Room's Learn to Run Program in Canada.  

Initially, the beginner runs for one minute and then walks for two minutes.  This routine is repeated for 20 minutes a couple of times a week. Each week the program increases the running time until the beginner is running 10 minutes and walking for one minute.  

I have used the 10 and 1 program for many long runs and races, but it can be difficult to keep track on a regular watch.  Some runners do a slight modification of this program and do 9 minute runs followed by a one minute walk.

When I trained for my first marathon, I used a run-walk-run program of 15 minute intervals.  It was easy to track as I would take a one minute walk break at each quarter of the hour.

" In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” 

-- John Muir

Other run-walk-run programs include walking every two kilometers or whenever there is an incline. During a race, some runners prefer to take a short walk at each of the refueling or water stations.  This helps them ensure they are getting enough fluids as well as giving their muscles a short rest time. 

If you are just beginning to run, try doing shorter distances before taking a break. Increase the distance as you get stronger.  

These are just some of the run-walk-run programs that you can use to build endurance and reduce injuries.  Experiment to find one that feels right for you.  

Whatever program you decide to use, ensure that you start walking before you feel tired. You will not gain the full benefits of the walk break if you are already experiencing symptoms of fatigue.  

Do you take walk breaks?

I take walk breaks when I run by myself. Do you?

I used to do 10 & 1s or 15 & 1s, but now I have settled into doing a walk-run-program of 2kms and a 1 minute walk.

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