Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Runner Moms: Why run/walk system is working for me

Posted April 9, 2013

I've always walked a bit during my runs - as a high school field hockey player, as a college kid trying to keep off the freshman 15 and, now, as a mom.

I'd walk a bit to catch my breath or when I got to a big hill. I've never been one to focus on speed. For me, running is all about fitness, getting outside and doing something for me. The walking was just a part of it, though I tried not to do it too often.

And when I joined the small running group of moms in my neighborhood, they walked too. But instead of slowing down at hills or just to catch their breath at random times, they used stopwatches on their smartphones to exactly time the run/walk intervals. First we ran for three minutes and walked for one minute. Now it's four minutes of running and one minute of walking.

It was a completely new concept for me, but I love it. As one of my running partners says, "I can do anything for four minutes." And it's true. If we know a big hill is coming, we might speed up to make sure that we hit it when we're supposed to walk. Or, if we're running up a big hill, we'll check the time and know there's only a minute or so left to go.

And even though walking is part of our system, we're not going slow (at least as far as I'm concerned). We run/walk about 10 minute miles.

Most runners know that this is hardly a new concept. Thousands have followed running expert and writer Jeff Galloway's run-walk-run training schedule.

So I checked in with Paula Smith, a local Galloway trainer, mom and personal trainer. She runs her own personal training business called Paula Smith Fitness, helping clients lose weight, tone their muscles, increase flexibility, train for marathons and live a healthy lifestyle.

Smith's own mother set the example for eating right and exercising. She wrote down everything she ate, counted the calories and walked every day for two hours - rain or shine, Smith tells me. When Smith's first child was born in 2002, she decided to follow her own mom's lead to stay fit and not make excuses about being too tired or too busy. 

"I believe so strongly that we all would be much happier moms if we just take a little time out of the day for ourselves and by exercising you will have more energy and feel better," she tells me.

Smith, who has run six half marathons and two full marathons since 2008, rattled off a number of reasons why the run/walk system works so well for runners, especially for beginners. Here's what she told me:

  • Great for beginners because you will find a pace that is comfortable for you. You can set your own pace.
  • Safer than continuous running. It's safer on the ligaments and it helps muscles relax a bit between intervals, which prevents injuries.
  • Allows for longevity with running and a strong body for many years to come, even into your 80s!
  • Better type of exercise for fat burning because you are doing intervals and your body burns fat when your heart rate is around 60 percent to 70 percent, not 85 percent, which is the case when you run at a faster pace continuously, which is for cardiovascular endurance.
  • Strong finish at the end of a race when you take walk breaks. You're using different muscles and not overusing the weak areas, which helps you increase your overall performance.

For me, I'm just glad to be out there using whatever works for me. And, after getting lapped by a runner several decades my senior the other day during a 12-mile run, longevity is something that I'm definitely looking forward to.

This is the latest in our Runner Moms series.

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