Alternating between Running and Walking

Alternating between Running and Walking

It is time to get that body moving and back in shape! Running is a great cardiovascular exercise – which means it is great for your heart and lungs. Also, running is great for burning calories. We all want that right? But, how do you return to running when it’s been months or years since you have run consistently? Or, if you have never tried running before in your life? The answer is alternating between running and walking. Be sure to click here to download our free Alternating between Running and Walking program that you can print and put on your fridge! 

Alternating between Running and Walking

When I was in my early 30’s, I had gotten busy with work and raising a family.  I used to run for exercise when I was younger, but had stopped.  At some point, I realized that I was out of shape.  I wanted to get back into running, but getting back into it  again seemed so far out of reach.  And I am serious – I don’t think I could even run a mile at that point.   

I mentioned that I wanted to get back in shape to a friend of mine who runs.  He told me to come with him one day and he could help me get going.  I was a little nervous, not knowing how he was going to help “get me going”.  Anyway, we met and he had me walk some then run just a little bit.  He had me repeat the alternating between running and walking a few times that day.  It really wasn’t hard.  We did that each day for a number of weeks and before long, I was running more than I was walking. 

Years later, after having run 5 full marathons and countless half marathons, I believe alternating between running and walking is the best way to get back into running or if you have never run before.  I want you to know that you can do it – I am proof of that!  


There are a number of benefits that come from alternating between running and walking.  Your overall cardiovascular health will improve. Your endurance will also improve, allowing you to exercise for longer periods of time.  Your body will be burning fat.  During walking, you are giving your body short recovery periods, which means you will be able to run longer distances.  You also have less chance of injury than running without walking.  Alternating between running and walking makes running totally achievable as well as enjoyable.


Alternating Between Running and Walking

Safety really should be your first consideration when you return to running. Start your training on a local track before jumping out onto the city pavement to fight traffic. There are many benefits – if you get tired, you are close to your car. Another benefit is that the track is a controlled, flat, traffic free area to walk and run.

Before starting any training program, be sure to see your doctor if you have health issues.  Examples might be heart problems, asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Be Patient

The first step in a return to running is to realize that it will take both time and patience. More than likely, depending on your fitness level, you won’t be able to go run 5 miles without having trained recently. If you try something like that, you are more than likely setting yourself up for injury.

You should start slow and realize that it is going to take time to achieve whatever goal you have set for yourself. The last thing you want is to push yourself and end up getting injured or to just plain give up. By pacing yourself and being patient, you are setting yourself up for success.

Walk Before You Run

Alternating Between Running and Walking

You should be able to walk for at least 30-45 minutes – with no pain if returning from an injury. If you cannot, put off running for now. Being able to walk for 30-45 minutes should be your first goal. Walking helps to prepare your tendons, ligaments and muscles ready for the demanding conditions of running. So, being able to walk before you run helps to wake your muscles up and gets them ready for the rigors of running.

Run Walk Method for Beginners

Alternating Between Running and Walking

Once you are able to walk for 30-45 minutes, it is time to start alternating between running and walking. The run walk method for beginners was made popular by Olympian and running coach Jeff Galloway.

  • Warm-up with a brisk five minute walk. Then, do some leg – calf and hamstring stretches. After that, begin running and run for 1 minute and then walk for 2 minutes. This is a ratio of 1:2. If you feel that ratio is too much, decrease it to 1:3, run one minute then walk 3 minutes.
  • Repeat the above cycle until you have completed your goal distance or time. For example, if you want to run/walk for 18 minutes, you would cycle through the 1:2 walk-run ratio six times.
  • Be sure to start your walk part of the cycle on time. By starting the walk part on time, your body and muscles will recover quickly, enabling you to be able to cover a longer distance. If you wait too long to walk, your body will become fatigued and won’t feel like starting to run again at the end of your walk time.

As time passes and running becomes easier, increase the amount of running time while decreasing the amount of walking time. You might like changing your run walk method ratio to 3:2 (run 3 minutes – walk 2). Your goal should be (as you feel up to it) to continue to increase your running time and decrease your walking time. Of course, you should pace yourself and not increase your running time too quickly to keep from getting injured.

If you keep it up and are patient, before you know it, you will be alternating between running and walking less. But, don’t view walking as a bad thing.  Many experienced runners know that stopping to walk for short distances eases the impact on your body and aids in muscle recovery. Alternating between running and walking is an invaluable training method for both new and seasoned runners.

Cross & Strength Training

Alternating Between Running and Walking

Cross training is a great way to speed up your cardiovascular training – without the impact of running. Add in cross training on the days of the week that you don’t run. Try walking, cycling (spin classes are great), swimming laps, training on an elliptical trainer or treadmill. Cross training is a great way to help get back in shape for running!

Strength training is also important in returning to running program. Core and leg strength are important factors in running, providing stability and speed. Even though it might take time to gain strength you have lost, be sure to make time to work in core and leg strength training exercises. Doing so will pay off in the form of making sure you don’t get sidelined with injuries during your return to running. Examples include planks, leg raises, stability ball back extensions, dumbbell lunges, dumbbell squats.

The below youtube video is a ten minute strength training workout specifically for runners that you could implement.  

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Pat Gould

I'm an avid runner having completed 5 full marathons and countless half's. I love everything about the outdoors and doing my best to stay active!

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