50 by 50: The value in taking walk breaks

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Ramona Oaks Road (which starts at San Vicente Road in the San Diego Country Estates) to the end and back is about 6.08 miles, and takes me about 49 to 53 minutes, depending on my pace that day. The “sidewalk” is well-groomed dirt, and wide in most places. The first three miles from San Vicente to the top of Ramona Oaks is almost all uphill, and often against the wind. The three miles back are a nice reprieve, being mostly downhill and with the wind. It’s one of my regular runs each week.

Last Saturday I ran two loops of Ramona Oaks, about 12.16 miles. I had actually planned on running three loops (18 miles) but at noon, when I ran, it was 86 degrees compared to all of my other runs during the past few months which have been between 35 and 65 degrees. At about the nine-mile mark, I felt like I was getting heat exhaustion despite the fact that I brought two bottles of water and took a walk break for about one minute every mile. So I shut it down early.

Many runners don’t believe in taking walk breaks, believing that the run only “counts” if it is run continuously. I can understand that sentiment. A run can feel like more of an accomplishment if no walk breaks are taken.

Despite that, almost every run that I do involves walk breaks. I started incorporating walk breaks into each of my runs while training for the San Diego Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon in 2003 after reading Jeff Galloway’s book “Marathon!” (I highly recommend it to anyone who is training for a half marathon or longer.)

Many runners are familiar with Jeff Galloway as a contributing editor to “Runner’s World” magazine, but are not aware of his accomplishments as a runner. Galloway was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team along with Frank Shorter. In high school, he ran a 4:28 mile, and 9:28 two-mile. (RHS track members — there’s something to shoot for!) His personal bests include a 28:29 10K, a 47:49 10-mile (U.S. record, 1973), and a 2:16:35 marathon. So call me a wimp for walking, but at least I’m in good company.

I was recently asked by another runner training for a marathon how to get past the 13-mile mark. I believe at least half of the answer lies in the walk breaks that Galloway endorses. (The other half is in the long, easy run, which I will address in the future.)

There are many reasons why walk breaks are beneficial. During a walk break, the running muscles get a chance to recover, erasing almost all accumulated fatigue.

As a result, the legs are stronger during the entire run, which decreases the damage to the legs and the risk of injury. Recovery time is greatly reduced, which allows me to engage in other activities immediately after a run (like run a baseball practice, or go to work) and also allows me to run again on less days rest.

If you have never incorporated walk-breaks into your running, I highly recommend trying it. You may be surprised.

Now get out and run.

   
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