Having lived in New York City, where walking a ton is par for the course, I know firsthand the benefits of adding walking. Weight loss, a sense of calmness, and the added benefit of enjoying and really soaking in your surroundings. Trust me, you really don't realize how much you DON'T notice your surroundings until you go for a walk. There are many benefits that runners can gain from adding walking into their routine. Here are a few:
Walk Breaks During Runs
Anyone who has ever tried running knows how amazing a quick walk break feels. In fact, walk breaks are so beneficial there are entire marathon training programs built around the idea of scheduled walk breaks. Most notable of these is the Jeff Galloway method. Here is a plan for a marathon, which basically incorporates timed walk breaks (i.e. one minute) every few minutes. A common way of doing it is to run 10 minutes, then walk 1. The benefits of doing this are:
Mental - yay! a break is coming up! I can run a couple more minutes till I get to that walk break!
Joints/Skeletal - allows frequent breaks enabling less pounding on the joints.
Many, like this guy, even notice that incorporating walk breaks helps improve their overall times and paces. What's not to like?
Injury Recovery or Rest
Everyone knows how important rest days are. Except, rest doesn't necessarily have to be rest. Rest days can be low impact exercise...like...you guessed it- walking. Walking on rest days is a great way to get the kinks out without doing a full fledged workout, and it still allows you to reap the benefits of a rest day- recovering and rebuilding. That's how we get stronger, after all.
Here's another tip- ever suddenly feel a twinge and freak out because you just know its an injury and you just know its going to mean you have to stop running? Stop running for a day or two, or three. And walk instead. You'll keep your cardio up while allowing your body to heal. Ya know, the thing its SUPPOSED to do, but that most runners never really ALLOW it to do. Allow it. Even if you aren't feeling a twinge or pain- a random walk day here and there in your routine will do wonders for your running life's longevity.
Walking Instead of Running a Couple of Days
I used to run almost every day. (Yes, I now know that this is insane). I was injured all the time and mentally and physically frustrated and exhausted. So I took a look at my workout schedule. I replaced a few days of my lighter jogs with walking. For example, on strength days, I used to run 20-30 minutes as a warmup. Now on some of my strength days, instead of running 20-30 minutes, I'll walk 20-30 minutes. Sometimes more.
I know what you are thinking- walking doesn't burn as many calories!!! But walking DOES help you burn fat over carbs. When I first began heart rate training (see tab above), I learned to start each run at a slow pace to get my body burning fat as energy instead of tapping into my carbohydrate stores. We have a gazillion calories of fat stored up, but only have a limited amount of carbohydrates. When you need fast energy, and need it quickly (i.e. running fast) your body reaches for its carbohydrate stores. When you don't need a lot of energy very quickly, your body knows its OK to tap into the fat stores instead. Teaching your body to tap into the fat stores allows you to go farther, longer. No, you don't burn as many calories walking as you do running. But in my plan, I only swapped out one or two days a week. The calorie difference is negligible and I more than make up for it in my strength workouts - where I can work harder because I'm not zonked out from using all my carbohydrate stores on a 20 minute run before.
Most runners know LSD stands for 'long, slow, distance' runs- typically the types of training runs we do on weekend mornings when training for a marathon. Since I am currently not training for anything, my LSD runs were falling by the wayside. I could not seem to get the motivation to go run 12 miles just for the sake of running 12 miles. But going for a long walk never seems to have the mental block that going for a long run does. I find that on days that I schedule a walk, I look forward to it- I can't wait to go out and walk. Granted, it helps that I live here:
And can stop to take pictures with my iPhone like these:
If I were running, I wouldn't have stopped to take a photo. And I probably would not have enjoyed the view as much.
One of the main things you'll discover when you start walking more is the time you can take to soak in your surroundings. There is so much that we literally rush by on our runs (and in life), sometimes, it can be beneficial- and fun- to slow down a bit.
Have you ever incorporated walking into your routine?