Whether you’re about to begin running with the start of the New Year or your goal is to work your way up to a marathon, a mix of walk intervals will be good for you. For beginners, walking before running is a gentle and progressive way to start. Depending on your age, overall health and current level of fitness, walking is a safe and productive activity choice. Think of a regular walking routine as pre-conditioning before embarking on a running program. For someone who has been sedentary, it is much less intimidating to walk than to jump straight to a continuous running program. Start with walking every other day for 20 minutes at a time.
Once you’ve done some pre-conditioning, you’ll be ready to run. The foundation of any sound athletic program involves periods of stress followed by a period of recovery or rest. Doing combinations of walking and running follows this principle. The first week, start by walking for two minutes and running for one minute, and repeat that cycle until your total activity time reaches 20 minutes. In week two, equalize things by walking for one minute and running for one minute, for a total of 20 minutes. In week three, move up to walking for one minute and running for two minutes. If you continue this pattern of increasing your run time by a minute per week, with one-minute walk breaks in between, by the end of 11 weeks you should be up to 10 minutes of running.
For those wanting to pursue a new distance goal, continue to do sets of 10 minutes of running and one minute of walking on your long run days. Slowly and progressively build up to about 80% of your race distance in those workouts. As you progress into the longer distances, hydration and nutrition become significant factors. A sip of water at every walk break and some nutrition (like a gel) every fourth walk break will address your nutritional and hydration requirements. Walk breaks are always optional during the week for the marathon and half marathon runner, but mandatory on your long run day.
Using a combination of walking and running is one of the easiest strategies to stay injury-free and enjoying running. The “stress and rest” training concept is valued by athletes in many sports. Weight lifters do sets, cyclists do intervals and soccer players do wind sprints. They all know that rest is a key component to any training program and to the success of the athlete.