I have been asked this question several times by new runners: “If I don’t run the whole time, am I still considered a runner?” And my answer is always: "Yes, you are."
I am a big fan of the run/walk approach to training. Starting a specific run/walk interval at the beginning of my run ensures that I will have a successful run. The intervals of the run/walk vary depending on my distance and how I am feeling. My favorite interval is 4/1 (run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute) but I have also timed the interval in a race with aid stations at every mile, to run the mile and walk thru the aid station. I find that I look forward to the walk break because I can get my heart rate back down, take a sip of water and eat my nutrition. Drinking and eating is a whole lot easier when you are walking than when you are running. And the run/walk approach may mean that you can go further than trying to run alone, plus it will keep your heart rate from getting sky-high.
If you are an ultra-runner, learning how to power walk is essential. The longer the ultra, the more imperative it is to practice power walking. Running utilizes different muscles than walking and the way your feet hit the ground is also different. There may be hills that you need to hike up or you may have some gastrointestinal issues that prevent you from running and walking may be your only option to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I found that my ultras that had me running through the woods in the dark, even with a bright head lamp, I was more comfortable with power walking until the break of dawn.
Taking long walks is a great way to smell the roses. Sometimes we get so caught up in all the different metrics that are out there…pace, time, distance, heart rate, cadence, etc. that we forget to enjoy the fresh air and smell the roses. It is also a great way to get your kids moving, take the dog out, or catch up with a friend. Back before my running days, I walked several miles five nights a week with a good friend. During the years that we walked together, we had four kids between the two of us! We enjoyed meeting in the evening when the kids went to bed and catching up on our day.
For some folks, running is simply not an option. Regardless of the circumstances of why you can’t run, most of the time you can walk. I have friends that walk the entire half marathon or walk the “run” leg of a triathlon. I have seen some really fast walkers at my races that have blown right by me while I was running.
When I was going thru a rough patch health-wise, I was struggling with any kind of workout that involved speed and distance. So, basically any workout. It finally got to the point that I wouldn’t even get out of bed because I couldn’t do the workouts. As I was lamenting to my coach, the fantastic Coach MarkT, he in all his wisdom told me to get out of bed and go for a 30 minute walk first thing in the morning. I promise you that I rolled my eyes at the thought. I asked myself what the point of the 30 minutes was because I used to run/walk for hours before my health issues derailed me. But, he didn’t care how fast or how slow the walk was, he just wanted me to get out there. The fresh air did wonders to my mental state and it got me moving. I was super slow, but I was out there.
Walk on my friends!