A Running Experiment

I think I've mentioned once or thirty times that I follow a run:walk interval pattern when I go for a run. It used to be a five minute run followed by a 1 minute walk, now it's morphed into 3:1 and I haven't challenged myself to increase my run interval lately. I'm kind of lazy like that.

The theory behind run:walk interval training/running for longer distances is that taking frequent walk breaks helps you reserve energy to finish strong. It's also a helpful method for beginner runners to build up endurance and stay injury free. I've always trained this way (even when I started running on the treadmill in 30 second intervals years ago) because for me, knowing I have a walk break coming helps me run (after all, running is 90% mental).

I set my Garmin to keep track of my intervals, but I've also used a Timex watch and now there are apps that will do that for you too.

I like my intervals. I really do. And I don't want to hurt their feelings but I sometimes wonder if I could ever be a straight run runner. I've always admired *those guys* (and gals), running mile after mile without taking a walk break and making it all look so easy and effortless (and truth be told I kind of hate them).

The other day I decided to give it a whirl. I set my Garmin to run one mile at a time with a 2 minute walk break in between miles (hey, baby steps y'all). The good news is, I can do it. In fact I managed to knock out four miles.

But I was more tired at the end.
And my knees were sore (more impact without breaks).
And running a mile straight seems sooooo much longer than my 3:1 intervals.

But I can do it.
At least for shorter distances.

(I can't imagine what running straight for 13.1 much less 26.2 would be like. Ay, yi, yi.)

I just don't know if it's the best thing for me.

Do you run straight miles or follow run:walk intervals?

P.S. Check out JeffGalloway.com for more information on the benefits of interval running (and training plans too).


  1. So, are we running NOLA non-stop? I better get hoppin' on my training. haha

    I totally agree with everything you said. My feelings exactly. Can I just copy and paste your blog post to mine. haha

  2. I do both. I get the interval idea and I see its value. But I like to push myself. So I run as long as I can without stopping and then do intervals of some sort after that. Usually lap intervals, since I'm on a treadmill most of the time. At my best (read: when I was training for a half) I could do six miles without stopping. Now I can do about 1.5. For some reason intervals feels like cheating, which is dumb I know.

    Good for you for pushing!

  3. I have done it both ways. If I am really trying to push myself, I will run the whole way or maybe run a mile, walk 45-60 seconds. I have done 2 marathons using the Galloway method. If I am remembering right, I did a 4:1. I can tell you my knees and my recovery time were amazingly different when I did the Galloway. As in really no knee pain at all. There truly is a difference, after most marathons or long runs my knees just throb and ache. Not with the Galloway method.

    It does take a bit away from your overall time (if that matters to you), theoretically the walk breaks allow you to run faster during your run intervals so it all comes out about the same in the end. It added about 30 minutes overall to my marathon time when I did the 4:1 but the "fresh" legs at the end made it worth it to me :)

  4. I think I'll stick with my intervals for now, definitely while training since that's how I'll run the half in March. For longer distances it does help your legs & energy stay fresh.

    That said, I might occasionally try to push myself to run straight from time to time--just for short distances though.

    Karen, you are so right, I definitely felt my knees just after running 4 miles---even with a walk break between miles. I'm okay with it adding to my time if it helps me finish feeling human. :)

  5. Jeff Galloway turned me into a wimp. When I first started running I was convinced that if I stopped to walk, that I wouldn't resume running again, so I didn't. It wasn't until several months later I read about Galloway's program and allowed myself to take walking breaks and I tell you, I've never been the same. I basically gave myself an out, so anytime I feel the slightest bit of discomfort I just stop and walk. Lame huh?

    But, I do recognize that in the right hands, it can be a really good way to run! Way to go on your non-stop mile. Sometimes it's good to push your limits and see exactly what you're capable of. You are awesome.

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  7. Intervals are where it's at....in any type of training. I not only do intervals within each individual run I do interval type training by varying my workout length and style from week to week. Right now I do one week of short intense interval cardio on the treadmill followed by one week of longer less intense runs. I do intervals for lots of reasons, but the major ones are reduced chance of injury and increased fat burning and oxygen uptake. I've run 3 marathons and several halfs and have always done run-walk intervals....walking 1 or 2 minutes at each water station.

  8. I never did the run/walk until training for the half that we did a couple of years ago. I am pretty much hooked now. It does make me feel better (though right now with my increased distances my knees still hurt pretty bad and my toes do too!) and it is supposed to be better overall for the reasons you stated. I pretty much use the method all the time. If I am doing a shorter run I will use the straight run but I do like the run/walk!


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