When you first start running, walk breaks seem designated purely for beginners—people who “can’t” run a set distance yet so they have to walk. However, run-walk training is actually one of the best ways to avoid injury, increase speed, reduce fatigue, recover faster, and, most of all, stay mentally motivated. Here are five benefits of incorporating walking intervals into each run, so you can push yourself on the cardio front no matter your running goals.
Once you learn all about the benefits of run-walk training, try it for yourself with the Aaptiv app.
Your chance of injury decreases.
“The run-walk method can help improve speed and recovery while decreasing the chances of injury,” explains Armen Ghazaraians, CEO of California-based Finish Fit. “When done correctly, the run-walk method can help improve running fitness, aerobic capacity, and overall recovery.”
Here’s how it works. After your warm-up, alternate short periods of both running and walking based on the best ratio for your body or current running goal. For those just starting out, make your intervals simple until you reach a certain distance or length of time. For example, run for one minute and then walk for two minutes, On the walk portions, be sure to intentionally keep up your heart rate rather than slowing down for a stroll.
Ghazaraians notes there are two specific ways run-walk training benefits both beginners and seasoned runners. It either helps you build endurance for longer runs without stopping, or it offers a smart way to run consistently while helping prevent injury. If a runner experiences pain or discomfort during a run, he or she may try to push through it. That’s why walking breaks are so effective. They prevent people from accidentally compensating for weaknesses with other muscle groups. For those returning to running after an injury or illness, run-walk training also keeps you from hurting the injured area a second time.
You may be able to run faster over time.
According to a 2016 study, a run-walk strategy could help the average runner perform just as well, in terms of finish time, as someone who runs more professionally. But with less muscle discomfort. By slowly increasing your running interval speeds, Ghazaraians says, it’s possible to get faster over time in general.
“By gradually increasing your fast interval speeds, you can increase your anaerobic threshold. [This] would, in turn, lead to faster overall speeds,” he says. “That is, your body will be able to counteract the effects of lactic acid buildup. [This will] allow you to run faster for longer periods of time.”
While run-walk training can help increase your run times, so can speed work. Check out the speed work running classes on Aaptiv.
Walking intervals reduce fatigue during a run.
Adding a bit of walking to your regular run leads to less wear and tear on your body. Even something as minimal as a one-minute break every mile can help. While you’re still working hard, each walk break gives your lungs and muscles a short rest. This can allow you to run farther or longer before fatigue sets in. Just don’t wait too long. It’s better to mix in the walk intervals from the get-go.
“When continuously running, you are using the same muscles over and over. [This] produces much more fatigue, aches, and pains than if you can mix it up with walk breaks,” says Meghan Kennihan, a certified personal trainer and running coach. “Walk breaks allow you to minimize some of the fatigue and keep your legs strong for the finish. Running takes work because you are lifting your body off the ground. And your muscles are absorbing shock when landing. Walking before your running muscles get tired helps you recover and extends the distance you are trying to cover.”
Run-walk training is extremely customizable.
“Some runners shy away from the run-walk method, as it is often associated with beginners rather than elite athletes,”Ghazaraians says. “The stigma associated with being a beginner discourages some runners from using it.”
But a huge benefit to adding walk breaks to your run is that you can customize them for exactly what your body and your workout routine need. This is helpful to both beginning and veteran runners. Ghazaraians recommends one minute of running at a fast pace followed by two minutes of walking at an easy pace. Then repeat. You get to decide how fast the running intervals need to be based on your goals and training plan. You also get to choose how many sets of intervals your workout may need. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down, too.
Mentally, it can help make running more tolerable.
We’ve all been there: a run that’s so hard, it feels like it will literally last forever, which makes you feel like you want to quit running for good. But Kennihan says walk breaks can serve as the perfect solution to the mental challenges of a race or workout. They help you concentrate on one section of running at a time.
Whether you’re set to tackle two miles or 20, use run-walk intervals as a way to stay focused and motivated. If you break up your run into five-minute sections, then it may feel much more doable or easier versus completely impossible. Before you know it, you’re all done.
So what are you waiting for? Head to the Aaptiv app to try run-walk training for yourself.