Many of us use the walk/run method when we start out, but seasoned runners can also benefit from taking frequent walk breaks for improved performance. We find out more about walking/running, AKA Jeffing…
Most of us start running by walking. Any beginner 5K training plan usually includes alternating intervals of running and walking. But many of us forget about walking/running once we can comfortably run 5K.
That could be a mistake. There are loads of benefits to the walk/run method, AKA Jeffing, that can benefit everyone from beginner runners to racing pros. We talk to Lisa Jackson, co-author of running made easyto find out more…
What is the walk/run method?
It’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin! It’s a type of interval training where you alternate between walking and running. How long the intervals are will depend on your running ability, and what type of training you are doing. It can be used by runners of any fitness level to improve performance and run enjoyment.
What are the benefits of the walk/run method?
First of all, let’s not forget that walking in itself can make you a better runner. It helps to build your cardiovascular strength without putting excessive strain on your body.
This is also true for walking/running. By adding in running intervals, you’ll strengthen your physical stamina and cardiovascular strength even more. This helps those of us who are starting to run for the first time or returning to running after a break, and can help to improve your breathing while running.
But you don’t have to be a beginner to enjoy the benefits of walking/running. It can actually help you to run faster over longer distances by allowing you to moderate your energy output through the run.
It can also help to prevent injury, especially if you’re adding a lot of extra running into your week while following a marathon or half marathon training plan.
Finally, it offers great benefits for the mental aspect of running longer distances. For many of us, running for more than an hour straight can feel quite daunting. Knowing that there are walking breaks built-in to your run makes it much more mentally manageable.
Why is the walk/run method called Jeffing?
Run/walking was first popularized in America by former Olympian Jeff Galloway, hence its nickname of ‘Jeffing’. Jeff’s run/walk method has helped millions of aspiring runners to achieve their goals.
Two years after competing in the 1972 Munich Olympics, Jeff started teaching beginner runners how to take up running and avoid injury by using the concept he’d devised.
After fine-tuning his walk-run ratios based on the results of over 500,000 runners who’ve tried out different combinations, Jeff found that, on average, marathon runners using the run/walk method slashed 13-plus minutes off their times, whereas half marathoners cut theirs by seven minutes.
How to do Jeffing
The most important thing to remember if you’re thinking about doing walk/running is that you should start taking walk breaks right from the get-go, rather than waiting until you can’t run any more. Early walk breaks will help you feel less tired later. If you wait until you’re fatigued, you may not enjoy as many benefits when it comes to performance and injury prevention.
If you’re a beginner runner, it’s best to follow a beginner 5K training plan, which will tell you what length of intervals you should take to help you make progress. Besides that, runners can use almost any intervals of walking and running, according to their goals.
How long should my walk breaks be?
Jeff says that it’s best to walk for only 30 seconds at a time, especially if you’re looking to improve your race pace. You can also ‘bank’ those 30 seconds into two- or three-minute intervals taken less frequently.
Some runners like to use heart rate training to inform how long they walk for: they will walk for as long as it takes for their heart rate to return to a certain training zone. You can even use distance to measure your walking, such as running for two miles and then walking for half a mile.
A good rule of thumb to bear in mind when starting to test out different intervals is this: the faster time you’re aiming for, the shorter your walks will be.
Example walk/run Jeffing intervals
You can use distance or time to measure your run and walk intervals, or a combination of both. Give these a try and see what works best for you.
- Run 2 minutes – walk 30 seconds
- Run 1km – walk 1 minute
- Run 4 minutes – walk 1 minute
- Run 400m – walk 100m
You can pre-programme the intervals into your running watch, or manually press the lap button each time you switch between walking and running.
Is it OK to walk/run during a race?
There’s no reason why you can’t walk during a race. Sometimes you’ll want to walk for practical reasons such as taking an energy gel or having a drink. Or your race plan may involve a walk/run strategy.
If your race involves hills, you might choose to walk the hills and run the rest. This can even end but being faster over the course of the race.
A walk/run strategy can help to break down a longer race such as a marathon. Even walking for one minute every time you hit a mile marker can give you a mental boost and help refresh your legs.
Just be aware of runners around you when you’re swapping from running to walking so that you don’t have anyone run into the back of you.