The Galloway Method: Do Walking Breaks Help?

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img 5552 thumb   The Galloway Method: Do Walking Breaks Help?

For whatever reason, I always approached running with the mindset that walking equaled giving up. As soon as I could run continuously for x amount of miles, I decided there was no reason to stop and walk. This mindset didn’t start to change until I participated in my first two races.

During the races, I would pass by some runners who had stopped to walk. I remember thinking to myself that something must be wrong (injury??) or they had lost their steam. Well, was I ever surprised to see them blow right by me once they started running again! I started to wonder if walking breaks could help my own performance.

Recently, I started to look into the Galloway Method. Jeff Galloway is a former Olympian and has coached over 200,000 runners and walkers to improve their running performance.

The Galloway Method is based on the premise that regular walking breaks improve your performance.

Jeff says, “Most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of a long run.”

How does it work?

Walk breaks work because walking and running distributes the workload among a variety of muscles, rather than placing all the workload on the running muscles entirely.

He says, “Walk breaks will significantly speed up recovery because there is less damage to repair. The early walk breaks erase fatigue, and the later walk breaks will reduce or eliminate overuse muscle breakdown.”

img 5569 thumb   The Galloway Method: Do Walking Breaks Help?

When to take walk breaks?

Walk breaks will give you the most benefit during your long runs and he says that you may not need to take walk breaks during shorter runs (of course, depending upon your level). To receive the most benefit, you must take walk breaks before you even start to feel fatigued. He suggests taking your first walk break during the first mile.

Run-walk-run ratio should correspond to the training pace used:
8 min/mi—run 4 min/walk 35 seconds
9 min/mi— 4 min run-1 min walk
10 min/mi—-3:1
11 min/mi—2:30-1
12 min/mi—-2:1
13 min/mi—-1:1
14 min/mi—30 sec run/30 sec walk
15 min/mi—30 sec/45 sec
16 min/mi—30 sec/60 sec

For beginners, the 30 seconds of running with 60 seconds of walking might be a great place to start and then build your way up.

On my previous long runs, I typically run around a 9:30 min/mile pace, so my walk/run would look something like this:

  • 3:30 min. of running
  • 1 minute walk
  • 3:30 min. of running
  • 1 minute walk
  • etc

Coming from someone who never used to take walk breaks, this seems like it will be a hard challenge for me to do. Personally, I think I may adapt better to the Running Room’s 10:1 program.

My initial findings with walk breaks

Over the past week, I have been experimenting a bit with walking breaks. I haven’t started to follow any set method because I just wanted to get a feel for it and see if I could notice any changes to my overall time/pace.

On Wednesday, I ran a hilly 8 miles with an average pace of 9:43 min/mile. I took about 7 quick walk breaks (approx. 45 sec.) during the run.

Then yesterday I ran 7.25 miles (same hilly route) with hubby (on bike) and I took just 1 walk break (after murder hill). My average pace for the run was 9:54 min/mile. Which is even more surprising because 1) I had water and was hydrated (on Eric’s bike), 2) It was cooler/cloudy, and 3) The run was shorter.

It appears that Wednesday’s run, even with lots of walk breaks, seemed to improve my overall pace.

I am going to experiment some more with walking breaks and continue to monitor if my overall pace improves. It seems counterintuitive that walking could improve pace, but I have heard from a few people that they actually run much faster when they give their body a break.

Jeff offers this advice on figuring out the proper amount of walking:

“Don’t get too rigidly locked into a specific ratio of walk breaks, adjust as needed. Even if you run the same distance every day, you’ll find that you’ll need to vary the walk break frequency to adjust for speed, hills, heat, humidity, time off from training, etc. If you anticipate that your run will be more difficult or will produce a longer recovery, take more frequent walk breaks (or longer walks) and you may be surprised at how quickly you recover.”

How do you approach running? Do you like to take walking breaks? Or do you prefer to just run as long as you can without stopping? Have you ever changed up the way you run and how did it affect your performance?

angela signature thumb52   The Galloway Method: Do Walking Breaks Help?

Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time, to figure out whether you like it or not.

—Virgil Garnett Thomson

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{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan August 23, 2009

I am a HUGE advocate of walk breaks!! I’ve always been around the 10:00 mark on my “longer runs” (which for me, is still 4-6 miles). But now that I’m breaking that up with a minute of walking every 5 to 9 minutes, I run MUCH faster during my running intervals, and have brought my overall pace up to around 9:30. Plus, it breaks the run up mentally. Instead of running straight out for 60 minutes (which in my head, feels like a long time), six 9-minute intervals of running doesn’t feel so long and it just breezes by :)

I encourage you to continue experimenting with it! I’m doing my first 10k next month, and I’m thinking I’d like to be able to run for the whole race. But any longer races, I will definitely incorporate walking breaks :)

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Kristine August 23, 2009

I find this fascinating! I as well have always associated walking as weakness/injury, but it is so interesting how your overall pace was better for your 8 mile run! Even though my longest run to date is only 7 miles (and I regularly don’t run much further than 5 miles) this is definitely something to experience with, even with 4/5 mile runs! Can’t wait to hear about your experience in the future as well.

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Courtney August 23, 2009

Yep, I love this method. During my Saturday morning long runs with a partner we do the 3 minute run/2 minute walk intervals and we FLY through our run intervals. I was using this method because my partner had never done more than walk a mile before. This was about 6 weeks ago, yesterday we did 5 miles in 58 minutes. I think this method is great because there is less frustration with my running!

Courtney
Adventures in Tri-ing

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Carolyn August 23, 2009

I run the way the Running Room teaches – run for ten minutes, walk for one, repeat endlessly. We started with much different ratios (run for 5, walk for 4; run for 5, walk for 3, etc) until the walk breaks were reduced to one minute and the running segments were increased to 10 minutes, which is recommended for every run now regardless of the distance. I find the walk breaks HUGELY helpful, as it allows me to run much further than I ever dreamed possible, and keeps my muscles feeling good enough that I can finish every run with a sprint just for fun. It also REALLY helps on the those tougher run days, because I always know I’ll be able to stop every ten minutes to catch my breath and recharge. After trying to run without stopping my whole life, I will never go back to it because I love how my speed, distance, and stamina have all improved since incorporating the walks.

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Allie (Live Laugh Eat) August 23, 2009

I’ve seen this around and have never tried it before. I always think walking makes me lose my rhythm–running after a bout of walking is so much harder! I think this will have long term benefits though..thanks for putting the info in such an easy-to-read format!

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Jenny August 23, 2009

I’ve had a tough time breaking out of the rigid mindset of “walking=giving up”, but the last few runs I’ve done, I’ve incorporating walking, and not only did it make my workout more enjoyable, I felt more energized and stronger overall!

I’d love for you to keep us updated on your walk/run experimentations!

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Alexandra August 23, 2009

I’ve been running with the Running Room and following their program of 10 minutes running and 1 minute walking and have seen how well this works. It is so great for people who are learning to run as well. I’ve past people in races by following this method as well. You should really try it!

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Amy August 23, 2009

I’m a huge advocate of John Stantons (Running Room) 10:1 program.

Its very similar to the Galloway method, but I find I’m not ready for a walk break after only 3 mins… 10 mins is just a good number! :)

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gina (fitnessista) August 23, 2009

very interesting! i never take walk breaks because once i stop, it’s hard for me to get going again!
hope you have a great day!

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Bree August 23, 2009

I tried more frequent walking breaks yesterday on my run and I was able to improve my pace (I was actually running comfortably at 9:30 usually I am around 10 – 10:30). I covered 6 miles and found myself less fatigued at the end & most importantly, I am not as sore and my achilles is not bothering me as much as I thought it would. Coming back from/preventing injury is difficult, but I think I will keep exploring this method if it means I can keep running!

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Barbara August 23, 2009

Hey Angela~

I approach it two ways. when I do long runs at a consistant speed I won’t take walk breaks because I have the same issue as Gina, hard to get going again.

However, when I do sprint intervals I will take walk breaks. I’ll do 15 min if increases to my max speed and then back off and walk for 30 sec to a minute. After 15 min i’ll walk 10min and then repeat to my max again. Everyone is different but it works for me.

Have a great day~

Barb

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Kerri August 23, 2009

I don’t stick to hard numbers when it comes to walking/running but I absolutely include both on my distance runs.

When I did my marathon I walked through every water station (about every mile and a half)just long enough to take a swig of Gatorade or stretch for a second. Even despite my quads practically giving up on me the last four miles (note to self…do NOT go crazy on downhills…they WILL kill you!) My average pace was ~8:40. This was pretty close to my HALF marathon time the year before.

Even with doubling my mileage and walking MORE than I did the year before…I was able to keep (what i thought!) was a great pace – I felt good and had (relatively…what can you expect?!) high energy levels afterward.

I always think it’s best to go with what your body needs…even if the times/ratios don’t line up perfectly with your mind/body :)

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Alisa - Frugal Foodie August 23, 2009

Fascinating; this isn’t a method I had heard of, but it makes perfect sense. I used to run, but my body just likes hiking and sports better … jumping, side to side, and quick sprint kind of things :)

My husband was excellent at distance running, but found that 10 miles was the limit before his body really started to wear too much. I wonder if this would help.

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Valerie (College Girl Eats) August 23, 2009

Wow, this is really interesting! I ran cross country all through high school, and my coach always strongly discouraged walking breaks. I would NEVER walk and I definitely adopted the mindset of walking=weakness. I still have that a bit (and probably always will), but now that I am not running competitively, I do take walk breaks sometimes.

For me though, I’m not sure if it really affects my overall pace, or just the THOUGHT that I might be going faster after I get a little “break.” I’m interested to experiment more with this, too! Great topic, Angela

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Ami August 23, 2009

I ran my first marathon last year using a similar method. Up to mile 18 I ran for 9 minutes, walked for one. Then switched to running for 5, walking for one until the end! I finished strong and it works for me to take walking breaks.

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Sportsgirl August 23, 2009

I’ve always felt the same as you did in the past – having a break meant giving up or I wasn’t getting as good as a workout. Now, I like talking walk breaks…. I feel like I can actually complete the distance. Interesting topic and good to know I’m not a loser for taking breaks!! LOL

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Jackie August 23, 2009

I had the exact same mindset that equated walking in my runs with giving up. You mentioned this Galloway method a couple of weeks ago I believe. I decided to give it a try because I was becoming so exhausted at the end of my long runs and worried that I would burn myself out before my first half marathon.

I tried it for the first time a couple of days ago and wow, what a difference. I had to do a 5 mile run which would normally drain me with straight running. I decided to throw in walk breaks and while my time was only a couple of minutues faster, I felt way more energized to finish it instead of dragging my feet by the end like I normally do with no walk breaks. I’m definately sold on the idea of walk breaks, especially when it comes to myself as I am a novice long distance runner. Running should be challenging but enjoyable and I think walking breaks gives it that.

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Ellen @ Peace in Motion August 23, 2009

I’ve always had the mentality that walking=giving up as well. To me it always seemed like I was ‘cheating’ when I would walk during a run. The stats you posted are interesting… maybe I’ll have to give it another try!

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Shannon August 23, 2009

I’ve always had the same mindset you did. But I do need to be more forgiving of myself and less rigid. I fight the feeling of “I ran 9 miles without a break last week, I should be able to do it now.” But the fact that I am nursing an injured leg might be a sign that I need to loosen up a little bit. Especially if a short walk can help me finish faster, stronger, and without injury. I’ll be starting up again soon and I will experiment with this.

I am interested to know whether you find it hard to get going again once you slow down. I feel like I get in a rhythm and when I break it, it’s hard to get going again. A couple other people mentioned this, so I am interested to know what your experience is.

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MelissaNibbles August 23, 2009

I started using this method three months ago after a friend told me it would help prevent shin splints and knee pain. I’ve been almost pain free and seen my run times increase in these three months…I’m a believer!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) August 23, 2009

Yes I think I would prefer the RR 10:1 program as opposed to the Galloway 4:1… that seems so frequent to me. But maybe it works. It is worth experimenting! ~A

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Holly August 23, 2009

I started out as a run/walker, but always had the goal of running things straight. I was elated when I ran my first 10k straight!

However, I am seeing that honestly, any run longer than 8 miles, I end up having to walk a bit anyways and if I wait until I’m too fatigued to do it, it doesn’t help.

This week I tried a 9/1 pattern – much more running than Galloway suggests. I did 8 miles…. and it only took me 2 more minutes to do it than the 7 miler from the previous week! In fact, my pace was over a MINUTE FASTER per mile! (It was also cooler out, which was a factor).

I am training for my first full marathon, and I’m doing a half along the way. I’ve done two half marathons already, and I ended up having to take unplanned walk breaks and I was frustrated with myself. I am going to try this 9/1 pattern for both the upcoming half and the full — and I have to say, I am hoping for a half PR with the gas I’ll have left in the tank at the end!

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Niki August 23, 2009

I am glad you wrote about this Ang! I had the same mindset as you did training for my first half marathon this summer, but now right in the middle of my running rut I realize how important these breaks are to not burn me out and to make running more fun and to go faster!!

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whirrly August 23, 2009

this is interesting – i too ran cross country in high school (such a long time ago) and my coaches also discouraged walking, just like valerie’s experience. so i need to get over the walk=fail mindset as well. in fact, i am surprised at how long it has stayed with me. i think the run 10/walk 1 ratio seems like a pretty good one – otherwise i wold feel like i was losing my momentum by taking too frequent walk breaks.

thanks for the post!

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Susan August 23, 2009

I’ve never been big on walk breaks…the only walk breaks I purposely take during races are during water stops, when it is wayyyy more beneficial to walk through the aid stations and actually drink water versus having it splash down my shirt! It kind of makes the marathon Galloway-ish because aid stations are every two miles-ish, so I walk for about fifteen seconds every two miles. I like to get lost in running, and taking planned walk breaks would break up my momentum…I can get lost in my thoughts and miles will pass without me noticing.

I’m of the thought that running all the way is greater than run/walking…but that’s just my opinion. Whatever works for you won’t affect me, although I know some people will get in a tizzy about what others are doing.

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jessica August 23, 2009

I totally think walking breaks work.

In fact during the last 5k race I ran I noticed 2 things. First while I ran the entire thing a girl ahead of me kept taking short walking breaks. I kept thinking to myself ‘man I am gonna smoke her any second now!’ But no, we finished around the same time even though she did some walking… it was because of the heat my pace had slowed.
The second thing I noticed was that although I was running I was almost going the same speed as someone who was walking.
It really opened my eyes to how important walking breaks are. Even though it was a short race you can still fatigue yourself and not perform as well.

I totally burst out laughing @ ‘man I am gonna smoke her any second now!’ :D ~A

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Danielle August 23, 2009

Sure do– thats how i got through my marathon (and marathon training) in 2001. I’m a firm believe in it. BUt during my everyday running when I’m not training for something I only use them as needed, not every day.

Great topic, way to spread the word….I think there are a lot of people who, like you had, think that walking is giving up. Its SO not!

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N.D. August 23, 2009

I did this while I was preggers and it really helped! But then I just wanted to run and I stopped doing it. I think it is something I will try again, and it might help with my endurance and motivation. I think the time would pass by quicker!

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Sara August 23, 2009

I’m not a fast runner, nor do I run really long runs, but I walk as needed. I also have asthma and have issues with my ankle, so some days are harder than others. So if I need to take a walking break, I take it. I don’t see it as giving up. I see it as doing what’s necessary to prevent injury (and illness with the lung issue) and to get through the run without killing myself! Getting healthy doesn’t have to mean hurting yourself.

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Paige @ Running Around Normal August 23, 2009

That’s great you’re breaking out of your comfort zone. I, like you, equated stopping to walk as failure. I’m currently training for a 10k next month, so maybe one day/week I’ll do a galloway method run. I’ll let you know how it works out:)

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) August 23, 2009

I am not that old LOL but I would say I have been running for 20 years. Since I was about 13. I would say that over my life there have been times when I have been balls out, I Will Not Walk, that’s for wusses, and then there have been times I practice strict interval training/regularly scheduled walk breaks. Then there have been times like 8.5 mos pregnant where I could not run anymore, and could only walk, and my whole workout was one big Walk Break. But hey, I got out there and did it, right?! Also, since becoming a yoga teacher in 2001 I let yoga principles guide me; do no harm, listen to your body, respect yourself, try not to compete against yourself so much, ya know, all those nice things we should do anyway :) Final analysis: In races, I never walk. Not even in half marathons. In pleasure and training and day-to-day fitness, I walk if I feel like it, sometimes I walk 50% of the time, sometimes I walk 5% of the time, just listen to your body and your times will always be there….Sorry for the novel!

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The Running Yogini August 23, 2009

I used to like a 9:1 ratio of running to walking, but since I became injured I do between 3-4:1 ratios. I think it helps a lot, but its definately not for everyone. The stigma of it never botered me much :-)

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Laura @ Backstage Pass to Health & Happiness August 23, 2009

Great post!
I think that this method makes a lot of sense – right now I am training my body to run again, and the current week’s plan is to run 1 minute / walk 1.5 minutes. It’s slowwww going but I love that I can run 8 minutes out of 20!

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Majl August 23, 2009

I ran my fastest 5k doing 10 and 1′s (run 10 minutes and walk 1 minute), which totally surprised me. I haven’t tried it for longer runs though.

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Lauren August 23, 2009

I approach this the same as you did. I always feel that if I stop to walk, it’s a sign of weakness and I would feel as thought I’m giving up. But then I think, why is my running more of a challenge? I should be enjoying my runs, and not making them so serious. I mean, really, who am I competeing against other than myself? I love this post and it really gives me the inspiration I need to incorporate more walk breaks into my long runs.

Thanks for your inpsiring words of wisdom as always Angie!

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Kellie August 23, 2009

I think the walking breaks are great and really do help. I was pretty skeptical at first too. I am running a half marathon with team in training and my coach constantly tells us how important the interval training is. I usually run 10 and walk 1 minute. I think any less, and it would mess up my rhythm! So far, no injuries (used to have major hip probs) and just ran my longest distance yet this past Saturday!

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Meghan@traveleatlove August 23, 2009

I definitely take walking breaks. Its not only excellent for me mentally, but it changes the movement in my legs, stretches the muscles out, and gives me another burst of energy.

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Katy August 23, 2009

I always felt the same way about walking, until the Healthy Living Summit when Caitlin — the goddess of all things running — told us that she ALWAYS takes breaks on her long runs.

Hallelujah!

I actually recently wrote a post of my own, on the same topic — I call it “ralking” because it’s a cross between walking and running. Plus, it sounds like “rocking” and that’s how I feel when I’m pounding the pavement, no matter the distance!

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Jess August 23, 2009

thanks for the post! That was really interesting. It made me feel a LOT better about taking walking breaks early in the first race I ran. I had been kind of disappointed in myself for walking within the first mile, but I was probably better off because of it. It was extremely hilly and I pretty much walked up the steeper hills.

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Liz @ In The Skinny August 23, 2009

I did the walk breaks for my second marathon and ran 14 minutes faster (same course). It works!

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