Is it bad to stop and walk during a run?
Walking while running is a training method that helps beginners increase fitness and allows them to participate in longer races. Pre-planned walk breaks have a positive effect on training and races, even for experienced runners. Otherwise, they can have certain negative consequences.
Research has shown that a combined run/walk strategy does not reduce the load on the cardiovascular system. However, it allows non-elite runners to achieve similar finish times with less (muscle) discomfort.
It is important to know when it is better to stop and walk, and when to endure discomfort and run without stopping. First of all, take care of your health and listen to your body. Sometimes it is better to stop and finish a race or training earlier than to run through an injury and further worsen your health.
Below you will find all the advantages and disadvantages of taking walk breaks during training or races.
Is it bad to take walk breaks during training?
The answer depends on whether you are a beginner or an advanced runner.
If you are a beginner, walk breaks are a useful training method that helps you increase your fitness. Over time, you will build enough stamina and will not need to use walk breaks anymore.
However, if you are a more advanced runner and you need to train at race pace, then walk breaks are not desirable.
Walk breaks during training are useful for beginners. But over time, when beginners reach a certain level of fitness, walk breaks lose their purpose. They are a path to continuous running and not something you should use all of the time.
Why is it good to take walk breaks during training?
Walk breaks during training have their positive sides.
You will avoid overexertion
Slowing down to a walk gives your heart a much-needed rest, preventing you from exerting yourself excessively. Beginners often do not know how to assess their capabilities. Because of that, they often start running too fast. You will avoid this with pre-planned walk breaks. Just a few seconds of rest can do wonders.
There is less chance of injury
There is no hard evidence to suggest that walk breaks prevent injuries during runs. But when you have a hard time, your running technique breaks down and you are more likely to get injured. In this case, it is better to stop and walk until you are able to concentrate on proper running technique again.
Training is not boring
By taking walk breaks during runs, you will break the monotony of your workout. Instead of running continuously, add walking intervals and your workout will be more interesting.
Training is less mentally demanding
By inserting walk breaks, a workout is divided into smaller parts. Apart from the fact that training will be more interesting to you, it will also be less mentally demanding. By concentrating on a particular segment, training will be easier to endure. An example of that kind of training would be a 20-minute workout of alternating between running for a minute and walking for a minute.
Why is it not good to take walk breaks during training?
Walk breaks during training have their purpose, but should they become a regular part of an advanced runner’s repertoire?
You should think of walk breaks as an analogy to learning how to ride a bike using training wheels. There will come a time when you will outgrow them and not need them anymore. When you reach a certain level of fitness, walk breaks cease to serve their purpose.
Training takes longer
To cover a certain distance, by stopping and walking during a workout you will need to spend more training time.
It leads to a loss of motivation
Besides making your training last much longer, it can negatively affect your motivation. I often hear from runners that they felt bad because they stopped and walked during workout, since they had failed to run at the planned pace.
You adopt the wrong mental patterns
It is important to recognize when it is necessary to stop and walk. During training, you learn mentally and physically how to run through pain and raise your tolerance for discomfort. If you stop and walk every time a workout becomes hard, you train yourself to adopt that mental pattern.
In the future, you are likely to repeat this pattern in moments of discomfort. Our bodies learn patterns and have amazing muscular memory. You need to train your body to keep going, even when you are having a hard time and when your thoughts are telling you to stop.
You will not find your pace
If you train by combining walking and running, it might happen that you do not even really know at what pace you are able to run continuously. When you find your pace, one that is slow enough that you can run continuously for at least 15 minutes, gradually increase the mileage. Over time, that pace will increase and you will be able to run longer. You should add speed to your training only when you build enough aerobic base.
Is it bad to take walk breaks during a race?
It all depends on your goals. Without a doubt, continuous running is the optimal way to participate in races. However, this can be very hard for beginners.
If you decide to walk for most of the race, or your running pace is slower, be careful when choosing a race. In the race schedule, see if the race has a time limit, that is to say, a limit within which all participants must complete the race. Otherwise, your finishing time will not be taken into account and you will be left without a finishing medal.
To make sure you finish the race on time, use my running pace calculator and calculate the slowest pace you can walk/run to finish the race.
Read more: Running Pace Calculator
Why is it good to take walk breaks during a race?
Walk breaks during a race have certain advantages.
It is an opportunity for your body to rest and reset
As you get tired, your proper running technique breaks down. Stopping and walking can be an easy method of resetting your running technique and your rhythm. That way, you give your muscles and joints a chance to rest and recover.
If you feel you can no longer run due to muscle fatigue, a shorter walk break is better than stopping or quitting the race altogether.
There will always be good and bad days. It is perfectly normal not to feel good sometimes. But in those moments, remember that you still tried to finish the race and did not give up.
When it gets hard, try to slow down at first. It is good to know that walk breaks are available when you need them, and if you feel the need always choose to do them; there is no shame in that.
It raises morale
Challenging races will not look be as intimidating. By dividing a race into smaller parts, the race will not seem so demanding for you. Decide on tactics in advance and follow your plan.
You have decided to run your first half marathon. Your race plan might look like this: every 15 minutes of running continuously, I will walk for 2 minutes.
You will be able to participate in longer races
It allows beginners to participate in longer races, which they would not be able to finish if they run continuously.
It breaks the monotony
Walk breaks can break the monotony during a race, which will help you cope with the mental challenges and the discomfort that you feel. This is especially useful for all runners who are running longer races for the first time (such as a half marathon or a marathon).
Helps with refreshment
During a race, hydration and refueling are important to maintain energy, especially in the heat. Less experienced runners find it challenging to take refreshments while running and that can lead to awkward situations. In that case, it is better to stop and walk while taking refreshments.
Not only do walk breaks allow your body to rest during a race, but they also make it easier to take refreshments without having to stop completely.
Do not stop right at a refreshment station, be careful not to disturb other runners. Try to take refreshments while moving. Squeeze the top of the cup so that water or some other beverage does not spill while running. When you move away from a refreshment station, consume refreshments while walking.
Why is it not good to take walk breaks during a race?
Walk breaks during a race also have downsides. Think about them before you decide to stop and walk.
They extend the duration of a race
Whenever you stop and walk, be prepared for a longer race. Every running pace is faster than the fastest walking face.
They reduce motivation
For someone taking a walk break during a race feels like a defeat and can reduce their motivation.
If you set a goal time for a race, it is likely that taking walk breaks during the race will stand in way of reaching that goal. This is one more way that walking may mess with your race motivation. It can be hard to keep going when you know that you will not reach your goal.
Walk breaks during a race can reduce your motivation. However, finishing the event is (almost) always better than not finishing and if you need to walk in order to finish, then taking a break makes sense.
Use my race time predictor so you can be able to set realistic goals.
Read more: Race Time Predictor
How to stop taking walk breaks during runs?
Over time, as you gain fitness, you will need fewer walk breaks during runs. So how do you stop taking walk breaks?
Set a goal
Set a target time or distance you want to run. Slow down if necessary, but keep running until you reach the finish line. After that, take a short walk break. This way, you build up your mental strength, because you endure running in continuity as much as you set out to do.
Focus on shorter distances
You want to run a marathon, but you have never run that kind of a distance before. The idea sounds impressive, but the body may not be ready for such a challenge.
To avoid taking walk breaks during a race, choose the appropriate distance. Start first with a 5K race to progress to a 10K race. Only when you have gained enough experience and miles in your legs, try yourself in a half marathon. Listen to your body and gradually progress to the marathon.
Gradually reduce the walking segments
To stop taking walk breaks during runs, gradually reduce your walking segments and increase your running time.
What exactly does that mean?
If your workout consisted of alternating 3 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking, the first step is to reduce the walking segments by 30 seconds. Then the workout will consist of 3 minutes of running and 2.5 minutes of walking. In the next step, increase your running time, so your workout consists of 3.5 minutes of running and 2.5 minutes of walking.
This gradual reduction of time spent walking and the increase in running time will help you prepare for running longer distances. It is important to listen to your body and, over time, you will improve your fitness level. There are multiple benefits to that approach:
- It prevents an athlete from biting off more than he can chew and shocking his body with too much intensity.
- It acts as a mental stopping point, breaking a race down into more manageable sections.
- It can be a morale boost, as the runner notices the improvement. It is common for sports to become addictive because of the huge dopamine rush that you get when you can see measurable progress.
When you manage to run for about 10 minutes continuously, without stopping, get ready for the next step. Take walk breaks only when needed. This way, you give yourself the opportunity to walk without the feeling of guilt, and on the other hand, you still adapt to running longer distances. Walk only when you feel your pulse becoming too high or your breathing difficult. Continuous running should be comfortable and controlled.
Over time, you will no longer need walk breaks and you will be able to run your entire planned mileage without stopping.
Take more time to train. Some marathon training plans predict three months of training or even less. But you may need more time. It takes several months to build a good base.
Slow down the pace of the run
When you feel tired and your body is sending you signals to stop, try not to stop, but slow down. By reducing running pace, your body will get the rest necessary to move on and achieve its goal.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” says an old saying.
The main mistake most beginners make is that they go too fast in the first part of the race or during training. This is not surprising as it is the beginning of the journey, and you are full of energy and adrenaline. In the beginning, you run faster, but you also get tired faster and use unplanned walk breaks. To avoid this, start slower and maintain a steady running pace.
The transition from walking to continuous running is usually more psychologically than physically demanding. It takes a firm mental determination to overcome the need to walk.
Distract thoughts from the need to walk
When you are having a hard time and want to take a walk break, focus on working your arms, breathing, relaxing your shoulders, and on your running technique. Resist negative thoughts in your head. When your inner voice tells you to stop, ignore it, and when it gets louder, you get even louder. The pain and discomfort you feel will pass. Over time, you will become more resilient and find it easier to go through pain and discomfort.
Leave the watch at home
Don’t bother with your pulse and your running pace. Get out and just enjoy the run. Listen to yourself and the nature around you.
One of the best ways to run on feeling is fartlek training. Play with speed and break the monotony of your training.
Read more: What is Fartlek? [12 Fartlek Training Examples].