Perhaps one of the most humbling parts of running is the fact that our physical fitness is constantly changing. While we usually see our fitness increase as training progress, we often forget about those unexpected challenges that life throws our way.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself starting a running program from scratch.
Regardless of whether you’re starting to run for the very first time or have been a runner for years prior, starting from square one can feel like a challenge at times.
One of the best ways to begin running is to use run walk training.
Run/walk training methods are exactly like they sound: they involve intervals of running and intervals of walking. This type of run run-walk training is effective in helping establish a running base, gain running fitness, and increase overall distance.
In fact, run-walk-run programs have become so popular lately that many runners find them effective throughout their running careers – using them in various distance races, including half marathons and marathons.
After years of distance running, pregnancy left me struggling to run for even a mile at a time. What used to feel like an easy run pace quickly felt like a sprint, and running for more than a minute or two felt like an epic challenge.
The first trimester left me sidelined with nausea and fatigue more often than I’d like to admit – so much so, that by the time I was feeling better in the second trimester, I had lost nearly all of my running fitness.
Utilizing a run walk training method has been game-changing with my return to running.
Following a structured plan of run-walk intervals has helped keep both my mind and body strong, especially when things felt impossible. Run walk programs provide a perfect balance of challenge and recovery, providing your body with plenty of opportunities to increase fitness without causing strain or injury.
This run walk run training method has been so helpful to me, yet it felt incredibly foreign when I began. While many runners are aware that there are run/walk training plans, learning to actually use one is an entirely different story.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of run walk training, start running in the smartest way possible, and make the most out of any new training plan.
How to Use Run Walk Training Methods
Start out small.
It can be tempting to really push yourself and give it your all in the beginning of any training program. Between the motivation and excitement of starting something new, it’s hard to resist the urge to try it all at once.
However, starting the run-walk method with running intervals that are too long is a recipe for disaster. The key to success during this type of training is to start out small and gradually increase your running intervals over time.
For the first few workouts, try walking intervals that are longer in distance or time than your running intervals. Give your body plenty of time to get used to the activity, and remember that regardless of whether you walk or run the majority of the mile, you are still traveling a mile.
You can measure intervals in time or distance.
You might be surprised to find that intervals are measured differently depending on what run walk training plan you use. Many run walk 5k training plans structure each run using timed run-walk intervals, whereas longer distance training plans many structure intervals based on distance.
What’s important to remember is that both are effective. Regardless of whether your running program has you running for .25 miles or for 5 minutes at a time, the run-walk-run method is the same.
Experiment with time and distance to discover which method you prefer. If you’re struggling to find a run/walk training program that you like – create one yourself! Determine your current fitness level by running for as long as you can before stopping, and start your training plan using that distance or time.
Change up your interval length.
Once you continue to follow a run walk program, your fitness will begin to increase. Suddenly, running for 5 minutes at a time might no longer feel challenging, and before you know it you won’t even need that walk break.
Your running interval length should gradually increase over the course of your training program to reflect the increase in your fitness. Similarly, your walking interval length should gradually decrease and eventually occur less often.
The key to using run walk training to start a running program is to adjust your interval length throughout the course of training. Each week, change your run walk intervals to spend more time running and less time walking. You might be surprised by the progress you have made!
Get comfortable before increasing.
However, while it’s important to continuously increase your running interval length, it’s equally as important to get comfortable with your current run/walk intervals before increasing.
Spend at least two to three runs using the same run-walk interval structure before you adjust anything. By the time your interval length changes, your body and mind should feel comfortable maintaining your current run-walk structure.
Heading out for a run with .25 miles of running and .1 mile of walking shouldn’t leave you feeling out of breath and exhausted right before you add another .15 miles of running. Take your time letting your body adjust to this new activity, and don’t be afraid to spend a few days or weeks with the same run-walk intervals.
Ignore your overall pace.
Run/walk training methods can feel discouraging when you look at your overall pace. Those first few runs will likely involve more walking than running, so it’s important to remember that this is what your overall pace reflects.
Many people compare their overall pace during run-walk training to running paces and find that their pace is much slower than they would like. But remember – this is because it is not just your running pace, but an average of your running and walking pace.
If you are planning to evaluate your pace at any point during run walk training, make sure to keep track of your running pace only. Find a watch or running app that allows you to save different laps or pre-program your intervals. When recording your pace, check out your pace for the running laps or intervals without walking thrown in.
Don’t forget about rest and recovery.
Starting any training program from scratch involves a drastic lifestyle change. Whether you were pretty sedentary beforehand or already fairly active, having structured workouts to complete each day requires a bit of physical adjustment.
Although it may feel like training is relatively easy during the initial phases of run walk training, it’s important not to forget about rest and recovery. (Even though it may be tempting to skip those rest days or push yourself a bit more during recovery intervals because your body does not yet feel tired).
However, failing to incorporate adequate rest and recovery from the beginning will likely lead to physical or mental burnout. Remind yourself that the purpose of any run walk program is to help your body gradually adjust to increased physical activity – and in order for this to be effective, you’ll have to place value on rest as well as activity.
Keep track of your progress.
Sometimes it can be hard to see just how far you’ve come when you’ve been run-walking the same distance for many workouts in a row. And when progress feels stagnant, it’s easy to lose motivation.
Keeping track of your progress is vital throughout this process. Record each workout that you complete; write down your run walk interval lengths, your running pace, the time it took to complete the workout and how you felt doing it.
Reflecting on each workout is a great way to visualize your progress when things feel a bit slow. You might be surprised to discover that you are running at a faster pace this week than last, or to remember just how difficult those first few running intervals felt.
The run walk method is an incredible way for anyone to gain running fitness. Not only can it help you increase your running distance, but it will help you train for challenges without feeling worn down and discouraged.
More beginner running tips:
- How to Start Running: 6 Steps for Beginners
- 9 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Running
- Mistakes Beginner Runners Make – and How to Avoid Them