Ease Into Running with the Run-Walk Method

When starting from scratch, the run-walk method is one of the easiest strategies for staying healthy and enjoying running.

Kim asks: It’s a new year and I want to begin running, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been active. As I’ve been busy reading up on how to begin, information about walking keeps coming up. Is it really acceptable to walk when running? And if I walk during my run, am I still a “runner?”

Yes, it is fine to mix walking in with your running, and of course you would still be “runner”.Walking first, before running, is a great way for some beginners to start off their training. Whether one begins by walking first depends, in part, upon their current fitness level, age, weight and health history. Since you say you have been inactive for a long period of time, consider seeing your doctor before beginning your training.Information gleaned from this appointment could help you decide how best to begin your training and/or which type of training might be the most appropriate for you. 

The movements of running and walking are very similar, so walking before running can begin the conditioning process in a gentler manner. This allows a new exerciser to increase the duration and frequency of exercise while also reducing the risk of injury. Always a win-win.And getting through the conditioning process is key to success. Too often, over-enthusiastic beginners start out by doing too much, too soon. This can make exercising a miserable experience because of sore muscles and may even result in physical injury or mental burnout.Conditioning begins with improving your cardio and also means toughening up bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles, fascia and connective tissue.

Sometimes this conditioning process takes much longer than we realise, so be patient. And, to make this process even more challenging, different body parts have different time periods for adaptation. In general, the conditioning process can take up to six months, but, that said, you will see results and experience changes before that, especially if you are consistent with your training.Just remember: it’s a process that takes time. We don’t lose our fitness overnight, nor doe we regain it overnight.Some runners begin their training by walking purposefully (not strolling) for three to six weeks before taking a running step; others opt to mix walking and running in small increments.

So what’s an introductory walk-run plan? You may choose to begin with walking for three to five minutes, then run for one minute. Then you would return to your walking interval and repeat that for the duration of your allotted workout.

Alternating back and forth between walking and running eases the body into this new routine. As your conditioning progresses and this routine feels easier over the first several weeks, you can begin reducing your walking interval. One way to do this is to reduce your walking time by 30-second increments while increasing your running time by 30-second increments. And remember that walk-run increments are flexible so you can opt to change them up as your fitness improves.

The goal is to find a way to make running sustainable for you throughout the entire year, not just a few weeks, as so often happens to our New Year fitness goals. Make your routine fun and challenging, but also doable and realistic. Starting with the appropriate training plan for you will help you achieve those long-term fitness goals.


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