Run/walk intervals are all the rage right now, and with good reason. Taking this approach is easier on your body (especially for overweight runners) and allows you to go farther with less chance of injury. It doesn’t require a lot of special equipment and is easy to modify as you build endurance.
But there are a few mistakes people make that can negate all the awesome benefits – which means you’re likely to quit because running seems too hard. Fortunately, the fixes are super-simple!
#1 – Not warming up
This is one of the easiest things to improve your run/walk interval performance, and one of the most often overlooked.
Think of it this way – you wouldn’t hop in your car first thing in the morning, turn the key and then immediately hit the gas, barreling out of your driveway, would you? No – you’d let it idle for a bit, then slowly accelerate before moving into traffic.
Warming up is the same thing. Spend 5 minutes transitioning yourself from a slow walk to a brisk walk before you start your first run interval, to allow your heart, lungs and muscles to get ready for the added stress of running. This will help your breathing, and cut down on aches and pains such as shin splints and side stitches.
#2 – Not using a proper timer
Another common mistake is skipping the timer in favor of either counting off the seconds in your head, or using a watch that isn’t designed to keep track of intervals.
In the first case, you run the risk of being inconsistent with your timing. You might count faster or slower depending on the day (or how you’re feeling), and if you are running intervals longer than 20 seconds, you’ll probably lose count at some point.
In the second example, using a regular digital watch means you’ll constantly be glancing at your wrist to see when it’s time to switch. When your eyes are focused on your arm instead of what’s in front of you, you’re asking to trip and fall (I know – I’ve done it).
Get yourself set up with a timer that is designed to vibrate or beep when it’s time to switch. You can use a smartphone app such as RunKeeper, a GPS watch such as the Garmin 220, or a clip-on timer like the GymBoss. Whatever you use, make sure it clearly alerts you to your intervals so you can pay attention to more important things – like enjoying your run!
#3 – Running too fast
This is a big one, and I know it might take a little convincing. If your goal is to get faster, it’s counter-intuitive to run slower, right?
Pushing your pace too much on the run wears you out quickly and doesn’t allow you to recover properly on the walk portion. And about that walk – you should keep up a brisk pace until it’s time to run again, or you’ll slow yourself down overall.
This means that your running pace should be slow enough that you can catch your breath in about 5 seconds and keep up a fast walk until the next beep.
Following this advice will not only make your runs feel better – breathing, muscles, everything – but it will make you faster overall.
Don’t believe me? Check out this testimonial from one of the Not Your Average Runner Facebook group members:
I know, right? Who wouldn’t want to go faster and farther with less effort!