Reader to Reader: Moving on from run/walk

Just how does a beginner break through from run/walk to run/run? Here's what you thought


Posted: 14 May 2007
by Jane Hoskyn


This week's reader completed the London Marathon using a run/walk strategy – but she now wants to cut out the walks altogether, and it's not proving too easy. Can you offer any advice?

"I'm getting really annoyed with myself. I trained for FLM using the run-walk method and successfully completed it in 6 hours. I would now like to run without the walking breaks, but I can't seem to phase them out. I can run for about 17 minutes in one go, but then I feel an overwhelming urge to walk. Can anyone please offer some advice?"nat3wills

Your best answers

  • Try a go-slow
    Try slowing down to a r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w pace when you get the urge to walk, even if the pace you are "running" at is slower than walking. Mentally, that's better than "stopping and walking", but you do get a bit of recovery. Once your body gets used to it, the slow bits won't need to be so slow to get some recovery. – Nessie
  • Start running shorter distances
    Ditching the walk break is a mental step rather than a physical one. You have trained to walk/run, so when you want to walk your head says "ok". THAT needs changing. Start building smaller runs, with the aim of running all the way. Next week, aim to run a 3-miler, running ALL the way. Slow down, concentrate on your breathing and just keep going – forget pace and speed. Once you can run 3 miles, build one run up to 4 miles running all the way... once you start getting your head to see you're not going to walk you'll soon get results. – Egglett
  • Slowing down can work as a break
    It took me a year to finally lose the walk break. Better to slow right down and sort of bounce along gently for a while, which fools your brain into thinking you've had a break. I wouldn't worry at all about your speed until you have your stamina sorted. Once you've built your stamina up you may find your speed picks up a bit naturally anyway. – Doncon

  • Sheer determination will beat the urge to walk
    It takes sheer mental determination to get past that point of needing to walk. I also struggle a lot with this, but more in my training when I am on my own; less so in races. When I ran my 2nd half last month (I ran all the way) I so wanted to walk from miles 7-9 when it was really windy and slightly uphill, but I was determined to get a PB – and also what works for me is thinking of my mum and dad who have both passed away. I can hear my dad telling me in his own stubborn way, keep going, you can do it, and that works for me. – bungee
  • Run/walk training can be counter-productive
    I think this shows the problem with run/walk strategies for getting started. The trouble is that sometimes people get used to taking their walk breaks, and never learn to find a pace slow enough to be sustainable for long periods. In effect, they're running interval sessions whenever they go out. Without a good aerobic base, this is counter-productive. Once you find that sustainable pace, and get used to stretching out the distance, you'll find that your 'base pace' gradually speeds up. Forget about speed work entirely for the moment, slow down, find that base pace and keep working it until you start to feel the improvement (note how your resting hear rate drops over the weeks as you do this). Then you can start introducing some quicker runs and/or intervals. – Chocolate Moose
  • Distract your brain from the need to walk
    How about trying to distract yourself when you want to walk? One technique I use is to count paces (left leg only), and tell myself I will just do 100 more before stopping. By the time I get to 100, the walking urge has frequently gone away and I can continue. – LauraF
  • Tune into your heart
    The thing that worked for me was putting on a heart rate monitor for the first time. Straight away it told me I was putting too much effort into my long runs. There were times when I was running slower than I could walk up a hill, but I kept running. If you want to overcome the mental battle, leave your watch at home and tackle a new route and listen to music, bird song anything – just enjoy being a runner. Also, make sure you're warmed up properly. The first 10 mins of any run is a struggle. Walking in the warm up period is allowed cos you're warming up not running. – XB
  • Break the distance into chunks
    A technique I used on my first duathlon to stop myself from taking a walk break was to break the distance down into smaller sections. The last run in a duathlon is tough on the legs, and I hadn't practised the whole bike to run transition, so my legs felt like dead weights. I talked to myself through the whole 5K circuit, promising myself I could take a walk break when I made it to "that tree" or "up that hill". I congratulated myself each time I made it to a marker (quietly of course!) and then set a new marker. I managed to run the whole way! – KayVee
  • Too much risk-avoidance can be tedious
    I don't think the desire to stop and walk ever goes away. You just kind of forget about it. A lot of negative thoughts can occur whilst running. Make a list of positive rebuttals to thoughts you usually have. For example, "I'm so tired I want to stop" could be rebutted with: it's good that I'm tired because I'm stretching out of my comfort zone. "My legs are really tired" gets the rebuttal: The muscle fibres in my legs are being slowly torn apart so that when I rest they will grow bigger and stronger. I will then run faster and more easily. Whilst you run have a debate with your mind and persuade it of the reasons why you are running. This is what works for me. – Tenderheart Bear
  • A mental trick
    When you get the urge to walk, let yourself, but turn around and walk in the wrong direction. Mentally you'll resent it and want to turn back the right way and start running again. – lp

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I'm getting really annoyed with myself. I have trained in the run walking method and successfully completed the FLM in 6 hours. I would now like to train to run faster and without the walking breaks. But I can't seem to phaze them out. I can run for about 17 minutes a go but then I feel an overwhelming urge to walk. I don't even know if it's because I'm tired I just need to walk for a minute and then can continue. I have run for 45 mins and even an hour on a couple of occasions without stopping but it's rare and it's when I'm running at a snails pace.
Can anyone please offer some advice?
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 10:47

Try slowing down to a r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w pace when you get the urge to walk - even if the pace you are "running" at is slower than walking. Mentally, that's better than "stopping and walking", but you do get a bit of recovery. Once your body gets used to it, the slow bits won't need to be so slow to get some recovery.

Works for me anyway.
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 10:58

That sounds like a good idea I see the logic... do you think it will work when I am trying to improve my speed as well? As in should I consentrate on running for 30 mins without stopping until I have cracked it... or should I work on running faster as well with slower running breaks in between?
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:01

I wonder whether letting yourself walk, but walking in the wrong direction would work?
So when you really need a break you'll take it.- but your head will resent it and get you running again quicker?
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:10

Interesting idea... I think it's a metal thing more than a physical thing.... because if I can get 26 miles surley my body is capable of running 30 mins without stopping!
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:16

yeah, its mental

it took me years to get over it
i still have struggle points at 8 and 12 miles
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:17

How did you get over it PH?
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:19

still have trouble now nat

but you have to talk yourself out of it

its very very hard

you sort of feel"entitled" to the walk break

you know, ive only ever run four half marathons all the way-and never a full marathon
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:21

Re the speed thing:

Keep your speed work and your long runs separate. The long runs should be slow, and build endurance. Speed work should be short - repetitions with recovery breaks (walk or jog) or something similar.

Doing it that way, you will find over time that your long runs get faster for the same effort, and you can run longer reps at the faster speed.


Yes, the walking thing is mental - you just have to learn to shout over the voices.

Funny Hipps - 8 and 12 are my weak points too.
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:26

Hi all,
hope you don't mind me joining in. Feel like a bit of a voyeur as I always read but never join in!
It took me a year to finally lose the walk break. I would agree with Nessie, better to s-l-o-w right down and sort of bounce along gently and fool your brain into thinking you've had a break. I fyou can break then continue to run for that length of time then you definitely don't need it physically.
But also, I wouldn't worry at all about your speed until you have your stamina sorted. If you try to run faster on a long run you'll become more tired and you brain will say 'i told you so!' Once you've built your stamina up you may find your speed picks up a bit naturally anyway.
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:30

You can definately get over this, it is sheer mental determination to get past that point of needing to walk. I also struggle a lot with this but its more in my training when I am on my own rather than in races. When I ran my 2nd half last month (I ran all the way) I SOOO wanted to walk from miles 7-9 when it was really windy and slightly uphill but I was determined to get a PB and also what works for me is thinking of my mum and dad who have both passed away. I can hear my dad telling me in his own stubborn way, keep going, you can do it and that works for me. So I stuck in behind a couple running in front of me and followed them up to the mile 9 point where I got some water and then it had passed and I was ok.

Keep at it, once you know you have done it once before, in the mind it becomes easier to accept doing it again.

Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:34


Only skim read the replies so I might repeat what everyone has said!

In my view it's probably mental.. you have trained to walk/run.. that means when you want to walk your head says "ok"

THAT needs changing

Probable the first thing to do is drop the baggage of self beating about it

(I've just had to do that because after 7 years of running I realised I am alot slower than people who've been running 1 year and it naffed me off big time, but I realised that my personal battle will scupper me up if I am trying to push too hard too soon)

Dropped it yet? Good

Next thing is to start building smaller runs with the aim of running all of it

Next week aim to run a 3mile running ALL the way, think someone said slow right down if you feel the urge to walk.. slow down, concentrate on your breathing and just keep going - forget pace and speed... your aiming to run all the way worry about anything else later

Once you can run 3 miles running all the way build one run up to 4 miles running all the way... once you start getting your head to see your not going to walk you'll soon get results

My sis told me "If I dont run it all the way then it doesnt count" just before she did FLM - can you imagine being left with that bloody thought!! LOL.. I ran all my first and second marathon because I cant face telling her I had to walk.. and that's what stops me walking
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:38

i also used to have a progressive time goal in a race(sometimes miles are too hard to cope with)
so, get the first 20 minutes over with
next time do 21 minutes, and so on


Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:43

Hi there.

I think this shows the problem with run/walk strategies for getting started. The trouble is that sometimes people get used to taking their walk breaks and never learn to find a pace slow enough to be sustainable for long periods. In effect, they're running interval sessions whenever they go out. Without a good aerobic base, this is counter-productive.

Once you find that sustainable pace, and get used to stretching out the distance, you'll find that your 'base pace' gradually speeds up.

But I'm with Doncon in thinking that you should forget about speed work entirely for the moment.

I'd say slow down, find that base pace and keep working it until you start to feel the improvement (note how your resting hear rate drops over the weeks as you do this). Then you can start introducing some quicker runs and/or intervals.

Good luck!
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 11:48

Steady pace is best - always more elbow room at the back!!
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 12:07

mmmmmm

very, very true
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 12:09

Doh! "Resting hear rate" - Resting heart rate, of course.
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 12:09

I agree CM I always worried when I started run/ walking that if I trained that way I would get used to it.... turns out I have!! But at the time I was 2 stone heavier and there was no other way of doing it as I struggled too much. I think your right about the speed session I suppose there's no point going any faster if it's not sustainable. I think it's a habit I have got myself into and like anything else you just have to learn a new behaviour pattern. Do you think that if I started reducing my runs to say 30 mins in the week and didn't stop at all (which I think I could manage if I put my mind to it and ran slow enough) what do I do for my long run on the weekend? Should I start say trying to push it by an extra 10 mins each week? i.e doing 40 mins... As opposed going straight out to run for an hour but having to stop again after 30 mins?
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 14:32

Hi nat
Echo what Hipps says about running to time rather than miles.
To keep going for another minute...then another one and so on, can be less soul destroying (I would often mentally berate myself if I ended up with a walk break) than thinking you've got another point of a mile to go. The minutes soon add up.

Good luck, and congrats on your marathon.

Posted: 04/05/2007 at 14:50

I too started out 2 stone heavier so had the same problem.
I'm no expert, can only report on what I did but think you're on the right track.

Start with the distance you know is sustainable for you, then build up in manageable steps, e.g. 10 mins or 1 mile, whatever your preferred medium. You could still complete a slightly longer weekend run, rather than your usual long one. As you know yourself it's a mental rather than physical block, once I could manage 4 miles without a break I never walked again and the distance came easily after that.
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 14:53


I get what your saying Hipps - probably more that started out by just going out the door and running till I couldnt run anymore and then turning back.. I did try and run with a watch some time ago but hated it - made the run seem longer.. I prefer to drive the mileage (my run's are all main road as I am city based) and then aim to run all of that

It's true too - speed is a sod.. I think as people are saying it's far far better to dump speed.. I've sent myself mad this year worrying I am too slow.. it's better for maarthon to get strong and steady first

Speed does come - even I have to accept that - but is better to be stronger and have the stamina for the miles first

I just meant if you start at a level that's just outside what you can do at the mo and add a bit every week mabey

17mins I think you said - so the first task might be to run fo 20.. just take it teeny and then you'll soon get going
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 15:25

I'm going to try that... I'm in the position now where I don't have to add large distances onto my run every week as I haven't got a marathon looming. When I orginally started running it was for this purpose so it was more important to get the distance in by hook or by crook...I think it's going to be good to get back to the basics and start with 20 - 30 mins sessions but not stopping at all. I could run every day then until I crack it!
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 15:47

If you are going to run every day, then make sure you make those runs easy, really easy
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 15:48


nat... DEFINATLEY.. I've realised that actually going back to basic's sometimes in yoru running career is exactly what you need to do and now is a great time to do it. If you start off now and spend say two months (yeah I know that sounds like ages!! lol) building up slowly you watch - you'll reap rewards

I WISH I listened to my own advice sometimes.. bet the other's agree though... your body will appreciate the shorter distances after marathon training and it will start to give you a boost that you can actually run the full run's that your doing
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 15:50

PH they will be!! I have to run so slowly not to stop it's hardly worth doing! Will probably have Friday's off though because it's just wrong not to go to the pub for one or two cheeky ones after work! and as the old saying goes all work and no play.....

Thank you all for your advice I don't feel like such a lost cause now!! I will certainly follow all your suggestions!
Posted: 04/05/2007 at 16:14

How about trying to distract yourself when you want to walk. One technique I use is to count paces (left leg only), and tell myself I will just do 100 more before stopping. By the time I get to 100, the walking urge has frequently gone away and I can continue.

Also, as everyone else says, make sure you are running slow enough to sustain the pace.
Posted: 07/05/2007 at 20:49


XB
Some good advice here, Nat.

The thing that worked for me was putting on an HRM for the firsttime. Straight away it told me I was putting too much effort into my long runs. There were times when I was running slower than I could walk up a hill but I kept running.

If you want to overcome the mental battle, leave your watch at home and tackle a new route and listen to music, bird song anything - just enjoy being a runner.
Posted: 07/05/2007 at 21:20


XB
Nice idea, Laura. That works for me too. In fact I have loads of counting games.

10 on the left; 10 on the right, then 20 on each. All the way to 100. And back.

10 on the left; 100 on the right. 20 on left; 90 on right.

Saddo? Me? Never;-)
Posted: 07/05/2007 at 21:24

Nothing sad about counting - Paula Radcliffe does it to get through tough sections of the mara!!

A technique I used on my first Duathlon to stop myself from taking a walk break was to break the distance down into smaller sections. The last run in a duathlon is tough on the legs and I hadn't practised the whole bike to run transition - my legs felt like dead weights. I talked to myself through the whole 5km circuit - promising myself I could take a walk break when I made it to "that tree" or "up that hill". I congratulated myself each time I made it to a marker (quietly of course!!) and then set a new marker. I managed to run the whole way!!
Posted: 08/05/2007 at 10:17

Hi Nat3wills

I did the this year's London Marathon on the run/walk method and did it in 5:57 and I am so pleased that I did it!

I too want to move on from run/walk to running and I thought I might tackle it by increasing the run section from 5 mins to 10 then walk for a minute. I think I'll do this for a 30 or 40 mins run in total, then each week continue increasing the run section by 5-10 minutes until I have phased out the walking altogether, then move on to increasing my running.

I'm sure I can do it as last year I was able to run upto an hour, but then had injury probs and to cut a long story short, had to use the run/walk to make my dream of doing the marathon come true.

So, don't worry, I'm sure you will be able to reach your target of dropping the walking and as others have said, tackle speed later once you're "running".

All the best
Stephan
Posted: 08/05/2007 at 11:41

When I started running just over 4 years ago, I used to very slow jog a mile, walk a minute or two then jog the other.

To move on a bit, instead of slowing to a walk, I'd go a little bit slower on the running bit, then instead of slowing down to a walk, I'd drop the pace a couple of minutes to a trot.

As I upped the distance to 3 miles, I'd have 2 "trot breaks" then eventually phase it down to 1, then none.

When I got to 5 miles, I didn't go back down to "trot breaks", I just dropped the overall pace so I could comfortably get to the end. Then in time, things got easier and my pace got better.

It didn't happen overnight though, for the first year and a half of running I didn't particularly enjoy it. The only reason I stuck at it was because of the weight loss. (I lost a stone in the 1st year, another half over the next year, and half again this year.) Eventually, over time, I became addicted and now I love running, my life revolves around it! And I've also got a 3:38 at FLM.

So don't get annoyed if it doesn't come quickly to you, it didn't to me. A mate of mine's only been running a year after me encouraging her and she's just done 4.30 at Stratford. Good on her, but there's no way I could have done that. I had to be patient. But, damn, was it worth it! Oh yes!


Posted: 08/05/2007 at 12:46

For my money, Little Lizard's got it dead right - slow down, slow down, go a bit slower, and be patient.

That way, she's built a great base to her fitness, which has helped her to some very impressive performances - 3:38 at FLM - awesome babe!
Posted: 09/05/2007 at 08:53

I went out last night, and I followed everyones advice. I did a 3 mile route as I knew that would take me about 30 - 35 mins. I didn't take any notice of time, cranked up the i-pod up and slowly shuffled my way around the block.
At times I felt really odd because I was jogging so slowly felt like I was going in slow motion I'm sure there were people looking at me!... but onwards I went... Suprisingly not only did I finish only 3 mins slower then normal (walking and running)but I really felt like I could have gone on for ages after. I did stop as the aim was to complete the 30 min run with no stopping but I was really pleased that it wasn't that difficult as it had been previously. I'm not jumping for joy yet as it was my first time out, my enthusium was high and it was a very short run but it was a good start... so thanks all! I'm going to do this for a few weeks and then start adding time on bit by bit.


Posted: 09/05/2007 at 09:51

Thank you so much for this thread, there have been some really useful ideas on here, and as an ex-runner contemplating a comeback after a year-long injury it's been good to see other stories of persistence and patience. Well done nat, liitle lizard et al, and I look forward to seeing more of your progress.
Posted: 09/05/2007 at 11:47

Aw thanks ChoccieM and WobbHel, yes it was hard work but worth the patience. And good for you Nat, "slowly slowly catchy monkey" as they say!
Posted: 09/05/2007 at 12:36

there is nothing wrong with walking. i stop when body tells me not head and then power walk which is pretty fast anyway. i pick my time in a race to walk so i have something to aim for i.e. the hill because power walking is often faster than a lot of the runners there, its a reward system thing that works for me. all that aside ... you completed a marathon!!!! that is fantastic and you now have a personal best to do something about.
Posted: 09/05/2007 at 14:10

running with a partner helps too - neither of you wants to be the first to break - so as long as the pace is managable you'll spur each other on to keep going much longer than if you were on your own.
Posted: 09/05/2007 at 17:27

hi im new to the forum but not new to running, like every 1 says its all mental, some good ways too avoid it, go running with someone fitter than u that is willing to slow right down and help you along, this is a very good way of overcoming it, try not to go on very long distances, set urself a goal like ok today i will do 4 mile without stopping but do it as long as i takes, do not even time it just complete the four miles, then gradually after 2 weeks like this turn it to 5 miles and up and up, i promise if you do this you will not be walking on a 10k race in 4-5 months.

i hope lol
Posted: 09/05/2007 at 17:54

Hi, Norrie williamson's book "Distance Running" is worth a read on this subject, he recommends walking in nearly all distances (and for most standards of runner), the book gives good reasons as to why a bit of walking is good.
Posted: 09/05/2007 at 20:33

Hi,thanks for the great advice in this forum!Did the FLM recently in 6:30....my first ever marathon, and while I was glad to finish, I was disappointed with my time. After finishing, my first words were "never again" but now I want to run/plod next year but with a lot more serious training! Finding it difficult to sustain a jogging pace at the moment....keep wanting to walk....but will persevere!
Posted: 09/05/2007 at 21:17

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