When I started running with my first learn to run program 3 years ago, I was introduced to the walk/run interval method. In running circles, it’s often referred to as the Jeff Galloway method. There are many reasons to use it, including conservation of resources, quicker recovery and improving overall time. For me, it was a great way to start; I couldn’t run more than a minute at a time in the beginning anyway, so it allowed me to build up a base.
I stuck with the walk/run method throughout the next 2 years, never going past 9 minutes of running before taking my one minute walk break. I found an app that I could set and it would beep a horn when it was time to run and a group of people would sigh when it was time to walk (and they even cheered for me at the very end of the run!)
When I started back to running this year, I went back to what I knew, dialing my running time back to 4 minute intervals, knowing that I had lost a lot of my endurance over the months of inactivity. I found that I was a slave to the timer, regardless of what my body was saying. I was hesitant to set the intervals past 4 minutes, because in my head I didn’t think I could do it. 4 minutes seemed hard, so how could I ever do 5 minutes?
This year’s learn to run program took a very different approach. We weren’t doing group runs or using an interval method. Instead we did drills, learned to listen to our body and understand how individual muscles worked and affected our running. Last week our trainer was unable to make the session, so a small group of us did a 5k run around the neighbourhood. There was some discussion of doing a set walk/run method, but ultimately we decided to simply listen to our bodies – run till we needed to walk, walk till we recovered and then run again. What I found was that I was running a lot longer than 4 minutes. At one point I made it well past the 12 minute mark before I needed to walk, and even then, my walking break wasn’t a full minute long.
That was when I realized that I had become too dependent on the timer and that I needed to make a change.
Last night I headed out for an easy 4.5 k run. I set a timer on my watch so that I could see my overall time, but I didn’t turn on the interval timer. I cranked the tunes and headed out, with the plan to run as much as I could. During the 40 minutes that I ran, I only walked twice – 30 seconds at the 15 minute mark and another 30 seconds at the 30 minute mark. In hindsight, I probably could have easily skipped those 2 walking breaks; they both coincided with finishing a full lap around the park where I was running. I let my head take over and talked myself into needing or deserving a break when I passed the starting point. I bet if I had been doing a straight line course that I would not have walked at all.
Surprisingly my overall pace was exactly the same for this route as when I did it last week with 4 and 1 intervals. The big difference was how I felt. I felt great! I wasn’t as tired or out of breath as I had been last week. My legs also felt better after the run. And just knowing that I could do it, really elevated my mood and how I felt about myself overall.
Going forward I’m going to run without an interval timer. I will listen to my body, knowing that I can push myself farther and harder than I thought I could. And maybe as my overall fitness level improves, so will my pace. But even if it doesn’t, I’m still happy with my running overall.