The power of walk breaks

Three. That’s how many walk breaks I took during my 10 mile long run this morning. They were all one-tenth of a mile in length and they happened at 2.9 miles, 4 miles, and 7 miles.

I am usually not a fan of walk breaks. When I have to take one I feel like I am a failure and I also feel like I’m cheating in some way. However, when I am running with someone else and they want to take a walk break I always welcome the break. That makes no sense. I also know it makes no sense that I feel like I have failed when I have to take a walk break. But that’s exactly how I felt when I looked down at my watch at 2.9 miles, hung my head in defeat, and took my first break. But here’s the thing. After my watch beeped for 3 miles, I started running again and I felt 100 times better than I had 2 minutes ago.

When I got to 4 miles I chose to take another 0.1 mile walk break. I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed one, but I thought it might help me mentally. And it did. I started running again and hit the halfway point feeling strong. I took a double latte flavored Power Gel (more liquid than the Gu, so it was easier to get down) and headed back down the trail.

I chose to take a third and final walk break when I hit mile 7. Again, I felt like it gave me the mental break that I needed. After one-tenth of a mile I started running again and finished up the last 2.9 miles of my long run. And guess what? When I finished I didn’t have any negative feelings about having taken 3 walk breaks during my run. I felt strong and accomplished, and I think my run went a lot better because of the breaks.

I don’t plan on taking scheduled walk breaks during the marathon in November, but if I have to take them every now and again to get through a long run in training I am okay with that. 

Other random things about today’s run:
1. It was a glorious 52 degrees when I started out. It was still 100% humidity, but with a temperature in the low 50’s it didn’t feel muggy at all.
2. I am convinced I saw a baby black bear in a tree just after mile 3, and it scared the heck out of me. I heard a heavy scuffling up in the trees and I looked over and I swear it was a black bear, about the size of our puppy (who is 90 lbs.), that was crawling down from the top of a tree. I haven’t heard of any bear sightings near the trail, but this did freak me out and it stayed with me for the next 2 miles. The thing I was most concerned about is if it was a baby, there’s a good chance mamma was somewhere close by. (Note: After telling Barry about my possible bear sighting, he says that’s probably exactly what it was)
3. I got that song ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ stuck in my head for the last 3 miles of my run. Except the only line I know is “there’s nothing I can say, it’s a total eclipse of the heart.” So I had just that one line repeating in my head over and over again for three miles.

Do you take walk breaks during training runs? Anyone use the Galloway Method for racing?

Have you ever seen a bear up close (zoo’s don’t count)?

How is the weather this weekend where you are?

20 thoughts on “The power of walk breaks”

  1. I’ve never done it – but have some friends who SWEAR by marathon walk breaks. I think they usually walk the water stops. Many have PR’ed this way.And when I start my new runners, we take LOTS of scheduled walking breaks (OK, so at first, i’ts Run 30 sec/ Walk 5 min, so it’s more like a run break). Walking definitely uses muscles differently, so provides a physical break for your legs – and a mental break. And it sounds like you actually just “Chunked” with walk breaks. 🙂 I love chunking!

  2. Funny you should write about this because I took a walk break in the middle of my 10-miler last weekend. I was like you–I felt it was “cheating” but my running buddy wanted a break and I was glad to take it. I need to remember that walking is still moving forward and little walk breaks here and there won’t sabotage a good run.Funny about the bear! I would be terrified!

    1. Isn’t it nice when your running buddy wants to take a walk break and you’re happy because you secretly were kind of wishing for one? 🙂

  3. This is just what I needed to run today! Yesterday I didn’t have a great run and took some walking breaks and I was feeling down about it. But you’re so right, if they help you with the next leg of your run then it’s okay!

    1. I’m glad it was good timing. It’s crazy how one week you can have one of those “OMG I can run forever!” runs and the next week you have to take a walk break to get through it. It is what it is.

  4. I don’t take walk breaks myself, but I DO think they can be really valuable. Hal Higdon always says that his son walks through aid stations and has a ridiculous marathon PR. He seems to think they help. I say, do whatever you think is necessary! If the alternative to walking a bit is quitting the run, I’d definitely go for walking!I’ve seen a bear or two in my day. I’ve seen a few this summer (all small black bears, though). They’ve never really worried me that much, though, because they’re pretty small and scare easily. Brown bears, on the other hand, are huge and terrifying.RAIN! Not so bad yesterday, but gross today.

    1. I think if I had pushed through I probably would have had a terrible run, because it was just one of those days, but I’m glad the walk break ended up kind of giving my run the breath of fresh air it needed (so to speak). How about that for a run on sentence? I bet you have seen a bear… or two. I’m glad we don’t have brown bears around here, because they look fierce!

  5. I have surprisingly never seen a wild bear. It’s about the only wild animal in Colorado I haven’t seen (mountain goats, moose, cougars). I take walking breaks if I need them. Usually it’s 99% mental. I’m sure my legs could keep going, but for some reason I need a mental break and it almost always helps. I don’t take them as often when I am running on pavement, but when I am running on dirt trails, particularly when I was ultra training, I usually walked up the really steep hills. I swear they saved my legs in the 50k.

  6. I have been walking on my long runs this training cycle more than others and I swear it helps! I think it is both the heat and the mental boring-ness that have been getting to me lately. I have seen quite a few black bears, and they all seem content where they are-up in trees. There was a mama and 3 cubs in a tree in my neighborhood a few summers ago. The park rangers sat with them on patrol all day until dusk when they followed them up a trail back to the mountains to make sure they got home without causing trouble!

    1. The heat definitely has to do with it. I am hoping that as it gets cooler this fall I won’t feel the need for walk breaks anymore. I think I must have startled the bear I saw, which is why he was scrambling the way he was. That’s so cool about the mama with the 3 cubs! That would be neat to see (and I would feel a bit safer with the park rangers around, for whatever reason).

  7. I take occasional walk breaks, so I hope you don’t mind a few when we run together this fall on the Huckleberry Trail. If you’d rather not, please tell me and I can skip them. I coached using the Galloway Run/Walk Method when I coached for The National Aides Marathon program so I’m used to it, but I no longer take structured ones when I’m running like he teaches. I just take a walk break when I feel like I need it.I’ve never seen a bear except at the zoo. I missed seeing one by about two minutes when one ran by our gym windows a few years ago. It was a cub… so there was probably a momma near by.It rained most of the weekend down in Virginia Beach. Bummer!

    1. I absolutely don’t mind! Honestly my mindset for long runs is getting in the mileage and getting time on my feet. If I really don’t want to stop, I promise I will speak up :)My senior year of college there was a bobcat on the Huckleberry Trail. Let’s hope we don’t see him this fall!

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