Walking is Faster

by

 Dr. Jim Freim

Copyright © 2012 – All Rights Reserved

Excerpts of this article

Published in the AATRA Trail Times

and in

Walk the Walk,” article in Trail Runner Magazine, November 2003

 CONVINCING A “DYED IN THE WOOL” RUNNER TO WALK is as painful as a root canal.

Several years ago, I gave a talk, ‘The Secrets of Doing the Peak’, the day before the Pikes Peak Ascent in Colorado Springs. Apparently, inquiring minds wanted to know the secrets of getting up the mountain as fast as possible. The room was packed – standing room only. I discussed items unique to this race;- abrupt changes in the weather, elevation gain of almost 8000 feet, lack of oxygen, pacing, and finally I came to the most important secret — walking. The sparkle of attention was replaced with glazed-over-cadaver-stares. In all fairness to that crowd, most runners are negative when I talk about walking. Runners don’t walk and walkers don’t run. But humor me and read on!

 

ADVANTAGES OF WALKING

During a walking break, your heart rate drops, you breath easier, and your muscles get a brief rest. That relaxation is like a mini vacation for your muscles. That small rest pays big dividends later in the race / run. Other than medical problems, the main reason runners fall apart during a race and drag themselves to the finish is they are tired, fatigued, and pooped. Put a fork in them – they’re done!

Unless you have Kenyan bloodlines, putting a little walking into your workout (road or trail running) can make you faster, finish stronger, and achieve better results. I define faster as completing the course in less time than if you had run the entire way. Hard to believe, but very true. Since convincing runners to walk is my most difficult task, I give you several examples.

 

WALKING IS ADVANTAGEOUS — FOR DIFFICULT COURSES

Running a difficult course can quickly sap your energy – but walking parts of any tough course will help conserve energy for the easier portions. During my talk on the Secrets to the Peak, I told the audience that I alternate 2 minutes of running with one minute of walking. And repeat that sequence from the start to the top of the mountain.

(NOTE: The Ascent and Marathon are held the 3rd weekend of August. On Saturday, the Ascent follows Barr Trail from Manitou Springs to the summit of Pikes Peak; 13.1 miles with almost 8000 feet of climbing. On Sunday, the Marathon or round trip is held, i.e., run to the top and back down. To understand the difficulty of this race, your Ascent time is equivalent to your flat land marathon!!)

The audience’s looks were incredulous and unbelieving. During the race I do adapt the technique to the terrain. Where the course is flat, or just slightly uphill, I run more. Where the course is steeper than average, I walk more. Overall, I walked 33 percent of the time, finished in 2:49, and placed in the top 30 overall at the ripe old age of 44.

 

WALKING IS ADVANTAGEOUS –FOR LONG RUNS / RACES

A few years ago I did the Leadville 100 Mile Trail race, considered one of the tougher 100 milers because most of the race is above 10,000 feet! Given the length of the race, the number of hills to climb, and my knowledge / experience from weekend training runs on the course, I selected a 2 / 2 schedule. Walk 2 minutes, ran 2 minutes and repeat for 100 miles. (My friends didn’t call me crazy – at least to my face!) At the 4:00 am start, I ran only 2 minutes and then started to walk. I ignored the smirks on the runners’ faces and their unspoken howls of laughter. “He started a 100 mile race and he’s already walking – who let him in?” At the first aid station, I was probably in last place. But I was conserving energy and going at a moderate pace that I could sustain for the entire 100 miles. Through the rest of the day and night I continued my 2 / 2 pace. To make a 24-hour story short, I did the first 50 miles in 12:06. With minimal fatigue (well, okay, everyone has some fatigue after 50 miles!), I did the second 50 miles in 12:20. And snagged the Big Belt Buckle for going under 25 hours and was in the top 50 finishers.

 

In 1995, I wanted to QUALIFY FOR THE 100th (1996) BOSTON MARATHON. I was out of shape and needed run under 3:30 to qualify. My last shot was the December Dallas White Rock Marathon. What should I do? Run / walk, of course. I alternated running 8 minutes and walking 2 minutes for the entire marathon. I qualified with 3:27!

 

WALKING IS ADVANTAGEOUS – TO INCREASE YOUR LONG RUN

For a well trained runner, you can increase the distance of your long run by 50 to 100%. If you can run 10 miles continuously, you can log 15 to 20 miles by alternating running and walking. You’ll need to experiment, but start with a combination of 7 minute run with 3 minute walk and alternate throughout your run. Or try 6 and 4. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to cover 15 miles with little more effort than if you ran 10 miles continuously.

 

WALKING IS ADVANTAGEOUS – COMING BACK FROM AN INJURY

Use the technique when you are coming back from an injury or running sabbatical. Start by mostly walking and gradually increase the running time. You’ll feel great and the technique allows your body time to re-adapt to the rigors of training. Table 1 gives a suggested schedule.

Table 1: A Suggested Schedule for Coming Back From Injury / Layoff

Week

Run Segment (min.)

Walk Segment (min.)

1

1

9

2

2

8

3

3

7

4

4

6

5

5

5

6

6

4

7

7

3

8

8

2

9

9

1

The schedule is conservative and some trainees feel progress is too slow. But trainees who stick to the schedule arrive at running condition fully recovered from injury. You increase your running time by only 1 minute per week. Never go to the next week if you barely manged to complete the present week. Redo the present week until you complete the workouts and feel great. You use this run / walk schedule for every workout of your week.

 

WALKING IS ADVANTAGEOUS –FOR THE DAY (S) AFTER A HARD EFFORT

Use the technique for one or two days after a hard training / race effort – you’ll avoid overuse injuries that plague most runners. A Hard Effort could be a race, a long run, intervals, hill repeats, etc. You need a rest day or two (another of my articles discusses rest.) For a hard race of X miles, you may need X easy / rest / cross training days.

You’ll need to experiment to see what works for you, but here are some starting points. Using the total time of your hard effort and your mileage per week, check out Table 2. For example, assume you run 30 miles per week and did an hour hard effort. The next day I recommend you alternate running three minutes and walking one minute. For a 50 mile a week runner who did a 2 hour (120 minutes) long run, I recommend you alternate running 2 minutes and walking 3 minutes. As the hard effort lengthens, you increase the percentage of running.

Table 2: Recovery From A Hard Effort

Miles per Week

Total

Time

of

Hard

Workout

(Min)

30 45 60 75 90 120 135 150

Run

/

walk

sequence

for

recovery

20 3 / 1 3 / 1 2 / 2
25 3 / 1 3 / 1 2 / 2
30 4 / 1 3 / 1 3 / 1 2 / 2
35 4 / 1 4 / 1 3 / 1 3 / 1 2 / 2
40 5 / 1 5 / 1 4 / 1 3 / 1 2 / 2 2 / 3
45 5 / 1 5 / 1 4 / 1 3 / 1 2 / 2 2 / 3 2 / 3
50 5 / 1 5 / 1 4 / 1 3 / 1 2 / 2 2 / 3 2 / 3 2 / 4

 

 

GETTING STARTED – BUY A DUAL TIMER WATCH

I often hear, “I’LL GO CRAZY LOOKING AT MY WATCH.” Me too, but a dual timer watch solves that problem. With a dual timer, you set the time in minutes for the walk interval and then set the time in minutes for run interval. When you press start the watch counts down the time in interval one. When count down reaches zero, the watch beeps and begins a count down for the second interval. When the count down for interval two reaches zero, the watch beeps and begins the countdown for interval one. Etc., Etc., Etc. At the beep, you either switch to walking or running. My favorite dual timer is the Timex Ironman. The only Timex models with the dual timers say 100 laps on the case. The salesperson may not know what a dual timer is so punch through all of the functions until you find INTTMR (Interval Timer) If my brief explanation for setting the intervals is too much Greek, you can always read the owner’s manual!

 

Say I’m doing a training run of 20 miles using a 6/4 schedule. I set one timer for 6 minutes and the second timer for 4 minutes. The first timer counts down 6 minutes, beeps, switches to the second timer, counts down 4 minutes, beeps, switches to the 6-minute timer, countdown, beep, etc. And you can still use the chronograph! You never need to look at your watch. Just listen! Voila!

 

GETTING STARTED – RUN / WALK FROM THE BEGINNING IS KEY.

Start the run / walk schedule at the beginning of the training run or race. And continue alternating for the duration of the workout. Don’t wait until you are tired – the benefit is minimal when you are dragging or pooped. The goal is to maintain the same effort throughout the event or training run. (Even energy expenditure is another of my articles.)

 

GETTING STARTED – HOW FAST SHOULD I WALK?

Move your booty! The walk is more than a Sunday stroll in the park, and more than a walk-the-dog amble. Power walk briskly, smoothly, and aim for a pace of 15 minutes per mile or faster. Get your arms pumping to keep your legs moving. If you want to learn proper walking, visit racewalk.com. Locked knees, rotating hips, and a twitchy butt may look strange, but most runners can’t run as fast as racewalkers. Try keeping pace with a racewalker who covers 20K in 1:25 (under 7:00 per mile!!) or 50K in 3:50 (under 7:30 per mile!!) Whew!

 

For us mere mortals, 15 minutes per mile is brisk on the flats and quite taxing pace on a tough uphill. With practice, on the flats, you may improve to 12 minutes per mile.

 

GETTING STARTED – HOW FAST SHOULD I RUN?

During the run segment, run at your normal training pace. If you usually run at 8:00 mpm (minutes per mile), run that pace during your run segment. Running slower than your usual pace means you either shorten your stride or take less steps per minute. Either of these could result in more fatigue than if you just ran your normal pace.

 

GETTING STARTED – PRACTICE THIS TECHNIQUE DURING TRAINING. You probably have a familiar hilly training route of at least 6 miles or longer and you know your usual finishing time. Do the route by walking all the uphills and running the flats and downhills. Compare your run / walk completion time to your ‘run only’ time. My guess is that run / walk is a little slower, but not by much. Since you walk the steep sections and save your legs, you are fresher for the flats and downhills and run faster. Now complete the course using an 7 / 3 schedule, 8 / 2, then a 9 / 1. Compare the times. How did you feel? What was your fatigue level? Which combination gave you the fastest time? Determine what works best for you. As the severity of course and / or the distance increases, run / walk may be faster than running.

 

TRY THESE WORKOUTS

Hopefully, my examples have piqued your interest. Through my personal experience and through years of working with athletes, I have some general recommendations in Table 3. Chose a sequence based on your fitness level.

Table 3: SUGGESTED RUN / WALK WORKOUTS

Type of workout Suggested Run / Walk Time Intervals
To lengthen long run Try 6 / 4 or 7 / 3 or 8 / 2
For difficult terrain Try 2 / 2 or 3 / 2 or 4 / 2
For high elevations Try 3 / 2 or 4 / 2
For longer speed workouts Try 5 / 5 or 6 / 6
For shorter speed workouts Try 3 / 2 or 3 / 1

 

CONCLUSION

You’ll gain CONFIDENCE in this technique by practicing this in training. You’ll be going slower pace at the beginning to achieve a faster overall time at the end. Trainees who have adopted the run / walk technique marvel at the success that they have had. And as a bonus, they avoid overuse injuries.

TRY IT, YOU’LL LOVE IT.

Cheers,

Dr J

PS I’ve been training athletes for many years. If you have a question about this article or about training, please send me an email.

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