Sunday, December 04, 2011

Galloway Run/Walk Method: Update on 5 Years Experience

In September, 2008, I wrote a summary post on my experience to that date using Jeff Galloway’s run/walk approach to distance running.  Recently, several folks have asked me to update my experience and it seemed useful to do so as a reference.  

Jeff Galloway has suggested for some time now most of us mere mortal runners can go longer and farther by interspersing walking with our running.  I’ve been doing this since January, 2007.

It works. And I'm still enthusiastic about this approach to running.  

I run/walk virtually every training run I do.  It is simply second nature for me now.  The mechanics just are part of how I run. I don't think its a coincidence I can’t recall a single injury in the nearly 5 years since I started which has caused me to stop training.  And, in that period of time, I’ve finished 20 marathons/ultras and a lot of shorter races.  Given that I’m not anticipating a spot on the US Olympic Team, that’s all I could ask be able to run, enjoyably, injury-free, year round.  

Why does this method seem to hold injuries at bay?  Jeff has long held breaking up a long run with regular walks is worth a lot.  I agree.  So many times, especially during marathons or long training runs, I’ve felt fatigue or discomfort start to set in.  Amazingly (and it still truly amazing to me), I’ll go to a regular walk break, collect my thoughts, perhaps extend it by 10-15 seconds, and the situation improves.  Often, after one or two more of the regular walk breaks, I’m back to normal.  It’s happend too many times to dismiss as mere coincidence.  The variation in pace/muscle/jostle/mental rhythm is restorative.  

In addition to this, I’ve come to appreciate other benefits of run/walk in the past few years.  

Run/Walk allows for real fine tuning during a race or run.  On several occassions, I’ve been deep into a race when weather or fatigue simply causes the run to start to head south.  If I was simply running, I’d be forced to slow down.  But, as the mind gets mushy during a long run, that can be hard to do.  It’s been much better to throttle back to a lower run/walk ratio.  The shift from a 4/1 (run 4 minutes/walk 1 minute) to a 2/1 is invigorating, as odd as that may sound.  It allows a much more precise improvisation as the need dictates. The associated precision builds confidence. And confidence is huge, mentally.

At a macro level, run/walk also allows specificity in training.  For example, last summer, as I planned out the race calendar for this fall, it became evident that the Veterans Marathon on November 12 might be a chance for a “quick” marathon for me.  As a result, I began to train towards running a 6/1 pattern for that race...doing most of my training at 6/1, mentally preparing for the running sequences longer than my base ratio of 4/1, constructing some intermediate time windows for this pace. And, in this case, it worked.  With that race under my belt, I’m now looking at a series of maintainance races during the long winter months.  Time is not a big concern in these events, so I’ve dialed much of the training back to a 4/1, content to simply get the miles in and keep running.  And I might even run two of them at a 3/1 or 2/1. Looking farther ahead though, I just signed up for a race in May which may led itself to a 6/1 or 7/1. I can mull the plan during the long cold runs in the next few months.

Yet, what about racing?  Can you ever go “fast”?  Are you doomed to slow running?  Here’s how I’ve made sense of this.

For half-marathons and shorter, in moderate temperatures, I usually run continually.  Over the past 13 months, I’ve set PRs at the 5K, 10K, 15K and half marathon distances.  How does this work??  Again, I’m not entirely sure, but I think part of it is the fact that using run/walk in all my training allows me to pack on more injury-free miles.  And the larger mileage base allows me to run the occasional race hard.   Put another way, it keeps my legs fresh enough to go hard.  Functionally, I set the pace for these races according to what I can comfortably hold through the run segments of my normal training--it’s not like I can suddenly do 6 minute miles.  Yet, with a decent training base, you can go hard for shorter races.  And it’s kind of amazing to me that I can even consider a half marathon a “shorter” race.  

How do I keep track of running and walking?  Do I stare at my watch all the time?  No way..that would be awful.  I simply use the Timex Ironman 100 lap watch.  It has an interval timer feature in which I can set up my walk and run breaks.  Geek note-- I always set my walk time as segment one, my run time as segment two and set the watch to loop back continuously.  Why?  Because at the end of segment one, it beeps for two seconds, whereas at the end of segment two, it beeps for 10 seconds.  When I’m running, I need a stronger reminder, as my mind often is off on some other topic.  While walking, usually for one minute, I don’t need much of a signal to begin to walk again.  End of geek note.  

Hope all of this is helpful for you.  If you have questions, feel free to get hold of me.  

Persevere.  Whether running, walking or both.



Wes said...

I am thinking I will go back to run/walk for all of my marathon efforts in the future. I did not know the 100 had a dual interval mechanism. I just checked my Timex 50 and it does not. I may have to upgrade :-)

Sarah said...

Great summary of the run/walk Joe! Nice that you've been able to run so long injury-free. And your times on the shorter races seem to be getting faster. Nice!