Walk-running is a great way to participate in races without having to run the whole thing straight. By breaking up the total distance into increments of running and walking, you can customize your goals, avoid injury, and conquer the race. If you’ve never run a race before—or the thought of jogging for more than a few minutes makes you want to barf—signing up for a for a fun run, 5-K, or 10-K, might be pretty daunting…until you meet your new BFF, walk-running.
These tips from Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and founder of Body by Mark Wellness, will help you walk-run your next race and love every minute.
Start Training Well Ahead of Time
Just because you plan on walking some of your race doesn’t mean you can skimp out on training, especially if you’re not a regular runner. “Start training at least two months in advance,” says Langowski. (Need a 10-K walk-run training plan? Glad you asked!)
Don’t Just Run (and Walk)
If you’re not a hardcore runner, the thought of running several times a week for months in order to train for a race might sound, well, absolutely awful. Luckily, your training plan can—and should—incorporate other types of exercise.
“Ginger is preparing with a ton of cross-training,” says Langowski. She may jog on the treadmill on Monday, walk at an incline Tuesday, go to an indoor-cycling class Wednesday, and use an elliptical on Thursday. All of these forms of exercise boost your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular fitness, which ultimately help your running. Plus, if you have an injury, cross training helps you avoid any trouble that the high impact of running might trigger.
Strength training is also essential for protecting all of the joints that may take a beating from pounding pavement. Try these strength-training workouts for runners.
Track Your Progress
Keep close tabs on your performance throughout the training period. Start with the distance you can jog or run before having to walk, but also pay attention to how long that distance typically takes you and what your heart rate is during that time. Say you can run a half-mile before walking. You should also know that it takes you around five minutes to run that far and that your heart rate usually hovers around 130, says Langowski. This information will help you pace yourself on the course.
Cross the Starting Line with a Plan
Regardless of your endurance level or the total distance you’ll be walk-running, have a set plan for race day. Choose a goal distance to run before each walking break, says Langowski. “Don’t go into the race saying you’ll just run until your legs hurt,” he says.
Use the metrics you tracked leading up to your run to decide how long you’ll go between walking breaks. Then, after you’ve broken the race down into manageable segments, that 5-K or 10-K won’t seem so daunting.
Resist the Race-Day Hype
It’s easy to get caught up in the energy that buzzes in the air before a race. People are getting pumped and warming up, and suddenly you’re itching to cheetah it off the starting line.
In this moment, it’s extremely important to chill out and focus on yourself, says Langowski. He recommends wearing a sports watch or a fitness monitor during your race so that you can make sure you’re moving at your usual pace and keeping your heart rate in the proper range.
“If my heart rate is supposed to be around 140 beats per minute at that first half-mile mark and I’m up close to 160 on race day, I know I need to step it down a notch,” says Langowski.
Feel Out the End of the Race
Stick to your plan for the first three-quarters of the race, but play it by ear for the home stretch. “You may find that you can run longer and even faster that last 25 percent of the race,” says Langowski. You can thank adrenaline and endorphins for that one.
If you’re feeling good toward the end of the race, embrace it and go for it! Even if you don’t, we can guarantee you’ll feel great when you cross that finish line.