Updated: Jun 30, 2022
There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you are a runner; you go out for a run so you HAVE to run; walking is not an option.
Have you been made to feel like a failure if you stop for a 'breather'?
Who is watching you to check that you aren't walking?
What are you trying to prove?
This conversation is discussed with runners of all abilities and it amazes me every time. With the development and popularity of the Couch to 5k app; the recognition and research behind Matt Fitzgerald's 80/20 Running, and the principles behind Arthur Lydiard's Training methods; surely we need to be more accepting of 'Running Easy'.
Don't get me wrong; I understand the need to 'keep face' on running apps; to always want to show improvement and progression. It's all a natural part of striving to do better... it's what we aim for, otherwise, what's the point? However if the focus for you, as a runner, is for longevity and enjoyment - then taking short breaks would make the whole experience more fun and manageable.
Obviously, there's the competitive element in race situations where walking might not be conducive for achieving your new PB, but what if the training leading up to the PB was more sustainable? If you could train without putting yourself under excessive pressure. The overall aim for runners should primarily be to enjoy running, without injury, for the long-term.
What if you've just taken up running?
Running is a massive and continuous learning curve. Everyone has to start somewhere and the sky is the limit as to how far you can go. For those who are on a promise that after twelve weeks you will be able to run 5k without stopping, then consider it as a great goal. It is an achievement in itself to be able to cover the distance; regardless of whether you walk or run; what's the rush to have to do it in a certain time-frame? If you are new to running, or have had a long period of time off, then it's better to include a combination of running and walking to allow time for your muscles, tendons and ligaments to get stronger. It's not just about the 'breathing'; training needs to be about taking it steady so adaptation occurs sensibly. Injury is common in beginners as they get excited to go further and faster too soon.
What's the excuse for the long-term runners?
If you have been a runner for years and years, or maybe you run with a club - it is still okay to add walking breaks. It's a misconception that to be a better runner you just need to increase your mileage, actually it's the progression and variety of training that is more beneficial to helping you to become faster, stronger, better.
Training hard every session is a recipe for burnout. Structured training should include intervals, easy runs, long 'chatty' runs, tempos, hills, sprints as well as strength and conditioning work and rest days. All of these types of training methods have the opportunity for recovery in between reps, or the chance to keep heart-rate low on the easy runs.
These easy runs, still get you out running but without the stress, it therefore allows you to train again the following day. During interval sessions, the aim is to work as hard as you can for the tempos, hills, or sprints but there is the chance to rest in-between. These resting moments, or walking breaks are part and parcel to helping you improve overall. Save the hard work for the races.
If none of the above resonates with you, then here are a few more reasons why should you walk if you need to?
No-one will judge you for walking
You don't have to judge yourself
By taking a walk, you'll find a bit more energy and so will possibly run for longer
It's an opportunity to take in the scenery and check out your surroundings
It's a chance to stop and have a chat with people you meet
It's a good time to check out different routes
You'll enjoy the process more
You may even find that every runner you meet would like 'permission' to walk too
If you have ever seen fell runner's taking on the big mountains, or the ultra runner's tackling distances of 50 - 100km +; then you'll see that there is no way that they could complete their race or distance without some walking efforts. I'm pretty certain they would tell you the same.
So if you think about anything when you next go for a run - consider this. Give yourself a break - enjoy the walk, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Happy running (with a bit of walking)