How to Eliminate Walk Breaks During a Run

Walk breaks during a run? What’s next, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria?!

walking running

Sorry, I got ahead of myself there…

Walk breaks do serve a helpful purpose during training. If you’re new to running or just getting back into it after a long layoff, you might need walk breaks.

In fact, they’re a great bridge from being sedentary to a more active runner. When used strategically, they can help you:

For those runners, I’m an enthusiastic supporter of walk breaks.

But after awhile, they stop serving their purpose. They’re no longer helpful once you reach a certain fitness level.

I’ll modify my toddler’s favorite book Diapers Aren’t Forever and say: walk breaks are not forever.

And the fitness you need to eliminate walk breaks isn’t that substantial. In fact, you’ll be running all of your mileage sooner than you think.

Here’s how.

Q&A with Coach: Cutting Walk Breaks From Your Runs

In episode 30 of Q&A with Coach (watch previous episodes here), I’m answering an anonymous question about walk breaks:

I’ve been a ‘walk/run’ person for years. How can I advance to all running without hurting myself?

This is actually a two-part question: first, I tackle the assumption that doing more running and less walking will somehow cause an injury.

Next, I’ll explain how to make the transition away from walk breaks. Let’s start the show:

Show Notes:

0:40 – How do you transition away from walk breaks to more running?
1:00 – Do walk breaks help prevent injuries?
2:00 – Why do runners take walk breaks?
2:30 – The secret sauce of running revealed! (Again)
3:15 – Progressive approach to replace walking with running
4:45 – When and how you can eliminate walking breaks altogether

I’ve been hinting at new, comprehensive resource for beginner runners for a few months. And good news! It’s almost ready.

This is a different program than I’ve ever put together before. It will cover many issues that new runners struggle with:

  • Is there a way to control my breathing when I run?
  • How do I stay motivated (long-term!)?
  • What’s the best way to improve my consistency?
  • How do I find the time to run in the first place?!

I’m really excited about this. If you’re a beginner, make sure you’re on my email list here and you’ll be the first to hear about it.

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Comments

  1. Jason,
    Thank you for the helpful information regarding run/walk.

    Jeff Galloway has a program using time intervals and ratios. That frustrated me. My approach is based on my body and heart rate (HR). I run till a switch in my head shuts the system down; usually about 160-170 hr; if I am running a race, it is in the 150 to 175 hr range. Walks are used to bring the hr down and get strength in legs to run again, as well as rest of my body to get rested to move fast again. My trainer tries to get me to run a slower, steady pace but I find that very difficult: either run or walk; no compromise. Have been doing strength training. Getting there, but slow; just like my running/walk.

    At 62 years and literally just started two years ago from a coach potato, I have lost 35 pounds and completed over 30+ races; including 5 half marathons and a 50k (last 8 miles were a death march at 94 degrees and high humidity of Virginia). Marine Corps Marathon is coming up this Sunday, Oct 30.

    Any comments appreciated.
    Best,
    Alex

    • This is a tough situation. First, it sounds like you’re having a lot of success with and enjoying walking breaks. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

      But to say “either run or walk; no compromise” assumes that all running is the same. It’s not. Sometimes you should run slow, sometimes you should run hard (heart rate be damned).

      Moreover, always stopping to walk once your HR hits a certain point is going to limit your performance. If you’re at mile 2.8 of a 5k and your heart rate is 171, do you stop? As a coach, I’m going to tell you to push hard until the finish line.

      • Alex Long says:

        Jason,

        GREAT blog, books, and training. Generally, towards the end of a race, I will walk to store up energy for the joy of flying across the finish line at about a 5:30 to 6:00 pace – flying; and I am a big guy and it is like Mosses parting the Red Sea as people move out of the way. Last 2 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon was tough at about 80 degrees. I told the legs to move and legs said hell-no. Got the energy to run the last 100 yards but it was more like about a 9-10 minute pace. Not just me, folks in the trail of sweat in the time slot were doing about the same. Checking out of the hotel, it was easy to spot the runners with their zombie shuffle and limp.

    • If you prefer straight running, good for you. I on the other hand enjoy my run/walk and it is not a compromise. I’m still a runner!!!

  2. Mike Lindsay says:

    I’m training for a full and I’m on week 10 and I’m running 18 miles this weekend.
    I’ve had an IT Band issue on 2 different occasions. Both of them occurred last year at different times, but both injuries seemed to have occurred at the end of long runs. I’ve made it a point this year to stop and stretch my hamstring and quads around every 4 – 5 miles because it just seems to get tight in the lower outer hamstring area.
    Am I just too nervous about this or is it a good idea. So far, no injuries. BTW, last year the injuries occurred around 10 miles. I’ve already done a 10, 11, 13, 15 and 16.
    What’s your thoughts on stopping and stretching. Thanks

    • If it makes you feel better, then that’s fine.

      What I’m more concerned about is how your long run progression increases very quickly. That’s asking for more injuries!

  3. Anna Wagner Schliep says:

    Appreciate the info. I’m a run/walker and, partially because of my asthma, I only just started running regularly over a year ago. I’ve now done several 5ks and am training for a Turkey Trot 10k – not long distances for most but definitely for me.

    All that said, I can run for 10 minutes but I never been able to run at an “easy, conversational pace” and am still slow (11-12 minute mile slow) – thus the walk breaks. Not sure how much of that inability to have a convo while running is my asthma vs going too fast, really. I get that so much of running is mental and I probably can take less walk breaks than I currently do (I usually take one for a block or less every 5-10 minutes) but I wonder if I’m just not fit enough to be able to eliminate them altogether. I’ll keep pushing to take less walk breaks though.

  4. It is interesting that you say it won’t prevent injury. I have hip trouble and I started incorporating walk breaks to postpone when my hip starts to hurt. The walking feels like I’m resetting my body. I’ve been off the road due to a foot injury (separate problem from a race) but have been working on hip strength. I’m hoping that makes a difference.

    • I’m sure it can make you feel better temporarily if you’re currently injured (which it sounds like you are with “hip trouble”), but that’s different than using walking breaks as a tool to prevent injuries.

  5. Perhaps I was brainwashed by Jeff Galloway over 20 years ago, but I still enjoy walking for 30 seconds after each mile during a run.

    Mentally, during a one-hour run, it’s much easier to continue if I know I’m going to get a “break” in less than 10 minutes (instead of having to wait 60 minutes).

    Physically, during long training runs, I do believe that walking every mile will aid in both recuperation and injury prevention.

    • If you enjoy walk breaks, then keep doing them! Just realize there’s no evidence for walk breaks preventing injuries. And if you need walk breaks to make a one-hour run seem easier, then as a coach I encourage you to work on your mental toughness.

  6. I agree with your view for those doing 5k or 10k runs. But what about those us slower runners on longer distances? As a 5 hour plus marathoner, there is no way I could run continuously. With 20 halfs under my belt, I have continuously run only one of those races and it was not my fastest.

    By telling people to eliminate all walking does us slower runners a disservice.

    • My job is to push you to be a better runner. Therefore, I will encourage you to abandon walk breaks *when you’re ready.*

      For longer distances, you may have to confront the reality that you’re either a) not ready (and that’s why you need walk breaks) or b) not training properly. This may not be what you want to hear, but it’s my responsibility to push you toward achieving more.

  7. Esko Brummel says:

    Hi Jason,

    I appreciate the topic of your video but I feel that my typical cause for having to stop and walk was not mentioned. During my runs, I sometimes start to feel a dull but unnerving pain throughout my quads – nothing to indicate injury, just annoying as pain often can be.

    As far as I can tell, this pain doesn’t come from hills or sudden bursts of speed, but is simply a gradual onset starting about halfway through my run to full bore by mile 6 (of 8, usually). SO, by mile 6 I tend to walk for a bit just to relieve some of the pain so I can get through the final stretch.

    What do you think is going on? Is it diet, or just a mental barrier to push through, something else?

    Appreciate the thoughts, I’ll stand-by to provide any clarifications if needed.
    Thanks again!
    Esko