Woman walking wearing running shoes and leggings

Running: can walking breaks while running make you a better runner?

Posted by for Workouts

With most running plans, the aim is to get beyond the walk-run stage of your journey. But these experts believe taking regular walking breaks while running actually makes you a better runner.

When starting a running journey, most apps  are designed to coach you into gradually building your momentum from a brisk walk, to a calculated walk-run, and finally a steady jog which, depending on your goals, might later develop into a faster run.

The general message to runners, both new and seasoned, seems to be that the overall goal is a steady-paced run that allows you to maintain the same momentum throughout without needing to take walking breaks.

This may have something to do with the reputation walking has for being one of the easier cardio workouts, and therefore less challenging than running. But as we know, walking has its benefits, which experts say include joint support and better circulation.

So, can magic happen when you combine the calm of walking with the explosive power of running? According to the following experts, walk-running shouldn’t just be a stepping stone to clocking your goal distance or beating a goal time. Doing it regularly can actually make you a better runner overall.

WHY WALKING BREAKS MAKE YOU A BETTER RUNNER

Walking is a great workout that boasts everything from improved joint, to mental health, as benefits. While running increases your endurance and strength. Combining the two can go a long way towards making you a better runner. Eastnine trainer Ania Gabb says it’s ok to take some time out: “Start recovering within those few minutes of walking. You’ll end up running better, especially if you struggle to run short distances. After a one or two-minute break of just walking, you’ll be able to carry on stronger.”

Running is great for cardiovascular and mental health, but it can take a toll on your joint health if you’re not warming up, cooling down or taking time to rest. Another reason why taking walking breaks is beneficial for runners is because “people who run a lot can push their bodies too hard and end injuring themselves, so implementing walking breaks is a good way to prevent injury mid-run,” says Gabb.

Taking the time for a thorough warm up before every run isn’t always realistic, especially if you’re fitting your runs in before it gets too dark. If you’re regularly shirking a warm up, this method of running may actually help to protect your body from injury. According to physiotherapist, Sammy Margo, you can build warm-ups into your runs because the combination of “walking and running helps to build cardiovascular fitness while protecting muscles and joints from damage.”

The physiotherapist advises the following: “Warm up by walking briskly for three or four minutes, keeping an upright posture with your core held in and arms swinging. Now break into a jog or run for five minutes before returning to walking for one minute. Continue with a five-minute run, one-minute walk until you’ve exercised for 30 minutes. Walk for three or four minutes to cool down.”

HOW TO IMPLEMENT WALKS DURING YOUR RUN

As a beginner runner, it can sometimes feel like every run has to be better than the last, especially if you have a goal in mind. Given the rush of endorphins you get from a great run, and the sense of accomplishment you feel after hitting a new personal best, of course you want the next run to be harder and faster than the last.

However, going from a new steady pace back to taking walking breaks isn’t the regression you might think it is.

Ania Gabb says “if you are a beginner and you’re hitting your 5ks consistently, sometimes your body will just hit a wall because it’s a bit too much too soon.” Taking time out to take your body back to a more comfortable pace that includes short walking breaks can help you avoid the dreaded workout burnout.

She suggests you think of “people who do marathon training and take recovery breaks,” insisting that no matter what level of runner you are “always have a break in between where you go back to the walk-run so that your body can recover from this new level.”

This is also true for seasoned runners, Gabb advises that although you may know the ins and outs of your running habits, walking is a great way to break up long runs, advising that “if you’re used to long runs, take a break after three miles and have a rest before the next phase.”

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

Image: Getty

Sign up for workouts, nutritious recipes and expert tips. You’ll also get a free Beginner’s Guide To Strength Training.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Share this article

Recommended by Florie Mwanza