Is it Okay to Walk? Alternating Running and Walking During Your “Run”

Is it Okay to Walk? Alternating Running and Walking During Your “Run”

I just ran a 10k two weekends ago. This was the fourth year I’ve participated in the Brewers Mini 10k & Half (I’ve done the 10k every year). Sam and I both ran it, along with my bestie. Sam did it at his own pace and finished…oh about an hour ahead of me.

I’ve often grappled with the fact that I alternate running and walking. Does that still make me a legitimate “runner?” Can I say, “I ran a 10k” when I actually walked at least half? When you’re doing a race, is it okay to walk?

This year, I’ve finally become comfortable with the idea that yes, it’s okay to walk part of my race.

Here’s the deal, I’m not going to be in the top range for my age group. Sam was 12th in his age group. Not I.

But six years ago, if you had told me that I would be running in a 10k–running in any sort of public space at all–I would have never believed you. You see, I literally, never EVER ran.

I played on a kickball league with friends from a local bar. Occasionally kickball would involve a little base running. Generally, I just avoided kicking the ball, so I wouldn’t have to run the bases. When I happened to get a kick, I’d try, but I always felt so self-conscious. I remember my teammates even joked, they’d never seen someone run in slow motion before.

Back in school I never ran either. I hated running, in fact. I actually hated gym all together. Which is funny now that I’m married to a gym teacher. I was far from athletic. I was pretty scrawny, especially in elementary school. Running was something I just never did.

What changed–Why it’s okay to alternate running and walking

On the other hand, when I decided to start to try running a few years back, I started with the Couch to 5k (C25K) app. The app alternates running and walking in a totally manageable pace. When I started, I’ll admit, I struggled to even run for the one-minute intervals that it was called for. I ran at about 4.5 miles/hour (newsflash: very very slow).

BUT, once I started running with the app, I got better and better. I am still not fast, but even the other day when I was running with Sam, he pointed out to me that I may want to slow down a little because I seem to alternate sprint and walk. No one has ever suggested that I was sprinting. Ever.

I am a runner now, because I enjoy walking and built up to it..

Walking helps me recover. It helps me get in my steps. Walking gives me the breaks I need to catch my breath so I can finish a 10k with my BFF.

I think sometimes runners feel guilty if they walk. We feel like it makes us imposters, or means we’re not really runners.

The way I look at it, is sort of like anything else–there’s no rules that say you have to do X to be a runner (and if anyone claims there are, it’s just silly). Just do what you can and work up to a pace you’re comfortable with.

Even with alternating running and walking, my friend and I still PR’d in our last run. We have improved our time by at least a minute each year, which is pretty cool (in about 60 years I’ll be as fast as Sam, ha).

There’s no shame in walking.

Walking’s good for your health

Walking is still a great way to get exercise. In fact, recent studies show that walking is just as good as running when it comes to lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol and other health benefits. The difference of course is that walking takes longer (so you’ll need to walk for 45-60 minutes as opposed to running for 20-30.

There’s an idea that running is tough on your joints and harder on your body, which I don’t necessarily find to be the case (there are also other studies now that say running is actually good for building up your joints and strengthening your bones).

I think it really comes down to a matter of preference. Sam and I go for a walk together almost every evening. It’s great! It gives us time to catch up about the day and talk and swap stories.

On the other hand, when I run it’s usually in the morning and alone. I actually enjoy listening to music on my run or just spending the time alone with my thoughts. It gives me a chance to work through stress, prepare for the day ahead and get my brain going. It’s a totally different experience.

Even on those morning runs, I still alternate with walking. They’re more intense and faster, but there’s never a time when I could run more than two miles straight. That’s just where my endurance seems to plateau. It’s much longer and further than it used to be, but I can’t fathom running 5-10 miles straight. Maybe some day.

The idea whether you’re running or walking is to simply move more! Get out and go for a run, a job or just a brisk walk. Try to do it 3-5 times a week to enjoy health benefits.

Moving is the goal

No matter which you prefer, don’t feel bad about include walking or alternating in your routine. It makes it more interesting, less strenuous and it’s much better than pushing yourself to the point of injury. Remember there’s no rule that says you need to run a certain way or speed. Just do what you can! Pat yourself on the back for getting moving.

No matter where you are with your running routine, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch!


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