Everything you need to know about Jeffing

How walking can improve your running.

To become more efficient runners, it’s well known that we need to run regularly and consistently. But what’s lesser known is the positive impact of Jeffing on running performance.

But what the Jeff is this? No, Jeffing is not a typo, but the technique of mixing running and walking in a single workout. And while it may sound counterintuitive, this run-walk method has been found to help runners become better at their sport – and at walking, too.

What is Jeffing?

As mentioned, Jeffing is the combination of running and walking during a training session or race. While it is a commonplace method used by ultra runners, who often walk up hills to help conserve energy for the latter stages of a run, the run-walk technique can be used by runners of all levels, working toward any distance.

To first put Jeffing into practice, you would usually run for intervals of one or two minutes, then follow these with slightly longer walking intervals. You would initially repeat this cycle of run-walk, run-walk for a period of around 20 minutes, then, over time, lengthen the running intervals while shortening the walking ones.

Jeffing is in some ways similar to the fartlek run – a Swedish term for ‘speed play’ – where you play with your pace and complete unstructured periods of hard, moderate and easy running within a single, continuous run. Jeffing, however, focuses less on anaerobic surges and more on building up your aerobic endurance.

Why is it called Jeffing?

Although all runners are probably guilty of ‘effing and jeffing’ at some point, Jeffing has nothing to do with this slang phrase, which means to curse or swear. Rather, Jeffing is a far more affectionate term that recognises US Olympian and author Jeff Galloway, who is a firm advocate of the run-walk coaching technique.

How to start Jeffing

The key to getting the most out of Jeffing is to build up slowly and spend more time walking than running. If you’re new to running, following a couch to 5K plan is a great way to start your Jeffing journey and incorporate plenty of structured run-walking into your training routine.

But Jeffing isn’t just for new runners – seasoned runners can also benefit from carefully constructed run-walk intervals and even use Jeffing to achieve new PBs.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that Jeffing can get you to a marathon finish line in roughly the same time as continuous running. For the study, both male and female non-elite participants covered the marathon distance of 42.2 kilometres, either run-walking or just running. The run-walkers’ times ranged from 4:14-4:34, while the runners’ times ranged from 4:07-4:34 – meaning the difference is marginal. What’s more, of the runners studied, those who used the run-walk method during the marathon reported less muscle pain and fatigue in the aftermath.

How to use Jeffing in a race

If you plan to Jeff at an upcoming race, it’s worth studying the course details in advance and creating a strategy so you can align your walk breaks with water stations and hilly sections, for example.

‘Looking at the landscape when planning your run-walk is important,’ says run-walk ultramarathoner Marc Burget, who won the 2016 Daytona 100 in a time of 14 hours and 14 minutes – a course record at the time. ‘The idea that you should move from walking to running is the wrong framework. Instead, putting walks in my race plans allows me to go the whole 100 miles without becoming tired.’

This is seconded by Chris Twiggs, National Program Director at Galloway Training. ‘Walking hills is smart because we want to do what we can to conserve our energy so that when we expend our energy we get the most bang for our buck.’

And while running up hills during training will can help you to build leg strength, in a race it could decrease your pace (and your finish time) because it takes so much effort. As Twiggs says, if you don’t plan ahead, you might find yourself running up a hill – wasting effort – and then having to walk the descent to recover. By planning ahead, you could flip that run-walk scenario to maximise your energy and increase your speed.

How Jeffing helps your running performance

Jeffing is a great way for runners – especially newer runners – to gradually gain strength and fitness without putting too much strain on the body. The run-walk technique also helps runners to cover longer distances continously than they would by running alone, as it gives the muscles a better chance to recover.

‘By shifting back and forth between walking and running muscles, you distribute the workload among a variety of muscles, increasing your overall performance capacity,’ explains Galloway. ‘For veteran marathoners, this is often the difference between achieving a time goal or not.’

Walk breaks in a training run or race also help to speed up your post-run recovery because there is less muscular damage to repair. ‘The early walk breaks erase fatigue, and the later walk breaks will reduce or eliminate overuse muscle breakdown,’ says Galloway.

So, while it’s true that runners typically move faster than walkers, it’s also true that taking well-timed walk breaks during long races and training runs can help you to fight fatigue, perform at your best and reach your running goals.

Related Articles