When I suggest an athlete walk for cross training or an injured runner walk in lieu of a run, they typically respond with a furrowed brow and the stink eye. I get it. For most runners, walking is akin to quitting; it feels like a failure. It certainly doesn’t come with the same post workout Serotonin high, but hear me out. Walking is running’s first cousin. The mechanics are very similar with two major differences: at least one foot stays on the ground and there is no jump. These two factors considerably minimize the strain on the joints.
Walking Benefits for Runners:
Recovery during and between workouts and races.
Adding volume safely for new runners.
Alternative for injured runners.
Cross training for healthy runners.
I didn’t personally experience the benefits of walking during my training season until recently. Last year, whilst training for my first half Ironman triathlon, I bought a puppy. Everyone told me, “It’s never a good time to buy a puppy.” At the time I was thinking this was especially dumb. Or was it? Walking the dog is important to their well-being, especially for a working breed like my Aussie.
It turns out walking also became beneficial for my well-being! I enjoyed meeting new neighbors and noticing details in nature, landscaping and architecture in a way I don’t when running by at twice the speed. Even better, I noticed a significant improvement in post workout soreness and enhanced recovery between workouts (which were sometimes two per day). With improved recovery, one minimizes injury but also enhances performance by being ready for the next workout!
There are lots of ways to add walking to your training regimen. Be sure to wear supportive footwear and use good form. Vary the terrain for maximum strength benefits. To add this to a current training regimen, consider walking a distance or time equivalent to twice that of a run distance or time (see below). Consult your coach if you need help. If you are injured, be sure to check with your physical therapist for how best to add walking to your “return to run” program.
How to Boost your Run with a Walk:
10 min of walking = 5 min of running.
Vary terrain for added strength benefits: steps, hills, technical trail.
Avoid over striding.
Wear run shoes e.g. not flip flops (you’d think I wouldn’t have to say this, but if I made that mistake, then someone else probably will).
Consult your coach if you are a new runner using walking to increase fitness.
Consult a physical therapist if you are injured and using walking as an alternative to running or as a strategy to return to sport.
Walking is highly beneficial for use in recovery, injury prevention and run strength, because it is similar to running yet less stressful on the joints. Take advantage of the “power of the walk” not just for your run health, but for your mind and soul.