Have you ever been out running and seen someone switch between running and walking and wondered what they were doing?

It’s not uncommon to come across runners using the run-walk method, and it might leave you curious about why they’re doing it. You might even think it’s just for beginners or not suitable for serious runners. 

The run-walk method is all about having a well-thought-out plan. Instead of randomly deciding when to walk during your run, you set specific times for walking intervals. 

This structured approach can be incredibly effective and is suitable for runners of all levels and for races of various distances, including the Amsterdam Marathon.

But there’s more to this run-walk approach than meets the eye, and it’s gained popularity for a reason, even among elite athletes. 

Let’s dive into what makes the run-walk method so intriguing.

Historical Colorful canal houses in vintage toning on Brouwersgracht in the grachtengordeal the UNESCO World Heritage site of Amsterdam

What Exactly Is the Run-Walk Method?

The run-walk method is pretty straightforward. You run for a set amount of time and then take a walking break. 

But here’s the catch: this “break” isn’t about lounging around; it’s a form of active recovery.

This method serves as a fantastic tool for beginners, helping them cover more distance and reap greater fitness benefits from their workouts. 

Interestingly, it’s not just for beginners; experienced runners can also benefit from it, as it enables longer periods of more intense effort.

The credit for developing the run-walk method goes to Jeff Galloway, who came up with this approach back in 1974. He introduced it to his class, which included both non-runners and novice runners. 

It turned out to be an excellent way to improve fitness while reducing the risk of injury.

The length of each interval in the run-walk method can vary. Typically, beginners tend to have shorter running intervals followed by longer walking intervals. 

On the other hand, more experienced runners often opt for longer running intervals and shorter walking intervals.

We’ll get into run-walk interval ratios in just a moment!

The Benefits Of Using The Run-Walk Method

Reduces Injuries

This approach is particularly helpful if you’ve experienced injuries in the past, are dealing with a minor injury, or want to minimize injury risk. 

During the walking intervals, your legs undergo less stress, reducing the chances of injury from repetitive motion.

Enhances Focus: 

For those who tend to worry about completing long runs, the Run-Walk method helps maintain focus on the present moment. 

You’ll pay attention to when you’re running and when you’re walking, keeping your mind engaged in the current segment rather than stressing about the remaining miles.

Improves Recovery: 

Walking breaks serve as brief rest periods within your run, preventing your body from becoming overly fatigued and aiding in the recovery of your running muscles. This allows you to run longer without feeling completely exhausted. 

Additionally, after your run, you’ll experience faster recovery with reduced muscle soreness.

Less Stressful

In addition to the physical advantages, incorporating walk breaks into your run can also alleviate the mental stress associated with running. 

This approach enhances your sense of control during workouts, making running feel less daunting and more manageable mentally.

Other Benefits Of Run-Walk Include

  • Lessens the impact on your body.
  • Helps prevent overheating.
  • Maintains the runner’s high.
  • Can lead to improved running speed.
  • Enhances endurance, making long-distance runs feel more manageable.
  • Reduces post-run soreness.
  • Maintains control over running form, especially during long distances.
  • Promotes efficient and economical running, conserving energy.

The Downside Of The Run-Walk Method 

One potential drawback that some runners may mention about the Run-Walk method is that during a major race when the atmosphere is exhilarating, and you’re fueled by the crowd’s energy and the camaraderie of fellow runners, it can be tough to adhere to your planned walking breaks.

Picture yourself in the midst of a race, surrounded by cheering spectators, feeling a surge of excitement and motivation. You might be completely immersed in the moment and eager to keep running rather than taking those scheduled walks.

However, resourceful runners often find ways to adapt. They might make on-the-spot adjustments to their plan, opting for shorter or fewer walking breaks to align with their race day enthusiasm. 

Others remain committed to their plan, recognizing that the walk breaks are crucial for finishing strong, even if it means missing out on some of the race-day excitement.

Despite the challenge of sticking to your run-walk strategy on race day, it’s evident that this method offers numerous benefits that outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Couple jogging on wooden walkway

Who Would Benefit The Most From Run-Walking

The run-walk method is not just for beginners; it’s a misconception. 

While it is beneficial for novice runners to build cardiovascular fitness and mental endurance for longer runs, experienced runners can also reap the advantages of incorporating run-walk intervals into their training.

Run Walking Will Also Help Beginners To:

  • Build a solid running foundation – You can begin with shorter runs like two miles a day.
  • Extend the duration of your runs – Gradually increase the time you spend running.
  • Help your body adapt to running – This method eases your body into the demands of running, reducing the risk of injury.

Experienced runners have also embraced the run-walk method during their training and races, proving that it’s not just for beginners. These seasoned athletes are no slouches when it comes to pace and performance!

The Run-Walk Method Can Be Beneficial If You:

  • Are susceptible to running injuries
  • Are recovering from a running injury
  • Are trying to build endurance
  • Are trying to build their fitness level
  • Want to focus on running for a certain duration or distance without stopping
  • Prefer a more relaxed approach to half marathon or marathon training
  • Wish to stay active during pregnancy or the post-partum phase, whether through running, walking, or other activities.

How To Find Your Ideal Run-Walk Interval Ratio

At Coach Parry, we’re enthusiastic supporters of the run-walk strategy.

You don’t need to use the run-walk method in every single training run. The best place to practice it is during your long runs, so you can establish a comfortable rhythm.

The key to the run-walk strategy isn’t necessarily the ratio of running to walking; it’s about finding a routine that suits you from the beginning. 

You might start with running for three minutes and walking for one minute, gradually increasing the distance up to about 10 km (6.2 miles).

If you’re further back in the field, you might find it even more effective to use this method more frequently. I would recommend incorporating 1 to 2 minutes of walking every 3 to 6 km ( 1.9 – 3.7 miles), with additional walking on hills.

Speaking of hills, they require a different approach. 

For very steep or long hills, consider sticking to a 1-minute run followed by a 1-minute walk or a 2-pole run and 1-pole walk. The goal is to choose a method that feels comfortable but still gives you the sensation that you’ve earned a walk break.

The purpose of these walk breaks is to keep you feeling fresh and maintain good leg condition for as long as possible, ultimately improving your average speed throughout the marathon.

The earlier you start practicing this method in your training cycle, the more comfortable you’ll become with it, making it easier to implement during the Amsterdam Marathon.

When it comes to different terrains, flexibility is key. For instance, if you encounter a hill just after a walk break, don’t push yourself to run the entire hill. Instead, break it up with extra walk breaks.

Conversely, when going downhill, don’t be overly concerned about preserving walk breaks. Breaking down the downhill section with walk intervals can do wonders for your muscles, preventing you from reaching the bottom with exhausted legs.

Remember, the crucial thing is to incorporate a short walk before you feel absolutely exhausted.

How To Use The Run-Walk Method If You’re A Beginner

For beginners and novice runners, using the work-to-rest ratio principle is a great approach, and you can adjust it as your fitness improves. 

This method is based on time and is ideal for those who are new to running.

To start, aim for a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio. This means you run for a certain amount of time and then walk for the same duration. 

If you’re just beginning, you can start with short time intervals like one minute of running followed by one minute of walking.

As you become more comfortable with running, you can modify the ratio to challenge yourself. You have the flexibility to change the ratio during your workout. For instance, you can try:

  • Running for 1 minute and walking for 5 minutes.
  • Running for 2 minutes and walking for 4 minutes.
  • Running for 3 minutes and walking for 3 minutes.
  • Running for 4 minutes and walking for 2 minutes.
  • Running for 5 minutes and walking for 1 minute.

This approach allows you to gradually build your running stamina and adjust the ratio according to your fitness level.

For Intermediate Runners

Intermediate athletes who have some experience with run-walk routines can slightly extend their running intervals. Consider running for 60-90 seconds during every 4-6 km (2.5-3.7 miles) of your workout. 

This adjustment allows you to challenge yourself as you progress in your training.

For Experienced Runners

Experienced runners who are well-acquainted with the run-walk strategy can opt for even longer running intervals. 

Aim for 60-90 seconds of running every 6-8 km (3.7-5 miles). This extended interval can provide a more demanding workout while maintaining the benefits of the run-walk approach.

A COMPLETE Guide to Amsterdam Marathon: Entry, Dates, Costs

In conclusion, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to running. The run-walk method can be a smart and effective way to achieve and maintain good fitness for many individuals. 

Regardless of the method you choose, the most important factor is consistency. 

Consistently following your chosen approach is the key to reaching your running goals and preventing injuries. 

So, give the run-walk method a try—it might just be the key to sustaining an enjoyable and healthy running routine.


Devlin Eyden has a passion for seeing his athletes grow and excel. From novice runners or cyclists across all disciplines to elite mountain bikers representing South Africa at World Championships. In addition to helping you ride faster, for longer, Devlin also has the personal touch when it comes to your bike setup, aiming at improving the overall rider experience. With his background as a Sport Scientist as well as a Strength & Conditioning specialist, performance is Devlin’s main priority, be it in the gym, the lab or out on the road or trails. Being a keen runner & cyclist and having completed the Cape Epic among others, Devlin has first hand experience in what it take to reach your goals. If you’re looking for a once-off training program or ongoing, high touch support Devlin has you covered.

Comments are closed.