Running Tips – Using Walk Breaks to Run Faster

When I first started running races, I never walked. I mean, never. Not through water stations, not on hills, not at all. I thought it was cheating, or that it meant I wasn’t cut out for racing. Then one day, I overheard a running coach and a fellow trainer at the gym I was working at, recommending Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method to one of his clients. I knew his client was in great cardiovascular shape and wasn’t new to running or racing, so I was curious why he would suggest using the walk run method – something I had considered a beginner’s method. Turns out, there are a LOT of positives to utilizing walk breaks when you’re racing.

How to use walk breaks to run faster - great running tips on using the walk run method!

Why Include Walk Breaks?

Walking intervals break up the distance. Especially for longer distances, using walk breaks can help you mentally, by making a distance sound less daunting. Rather than thinking, “I’m going to run 13.1 miles,” you can mentally say, “I’m going to run 4 miles, then walk, three times, then run 1.1 miles at the end.” Even if you don’t have a set race plan where you break it up quite so neatly, it can still give you a mental boost.  Your reply to your inner panicked voice saying, “How am I going to run 26.2 miles? The longest I’ve run is 20!” would be, “Yes, but I’ll be taking walk breaks, so I know I’ll be able to handle it.”

It reminds you of intervals – and you know how hard you can push in those workouts. Most runners who race eventually begin some form of interval training, or speed work, during training. (If you haven’t been doing speed work or intervals during training, I can’t recommend it enough). Reflecting on how you feel in those workouts will give you the confidence to know you can hit your paces even with walk breaks. If you’re afraid that walking in a race will make you sluggish when you start running again, remember how much the walk/rest recovery periods in an intervals workout refresh you and how hard you can push after each rest period.  If it works in training, you know you can nail it in the big event.

No need to fear the hills. If hills aren’t your best friend, then think about using walk breaks strategically on a hilly course. If you know you’re going to be slower and fatigued running the hill, why not take your walk break in the middle of the hill? It will give you the speed to crest the hill and you may even find you get over it at a faster all over pace than if you’d tried to run the whole time.

Aid stations can actually aid you. Water stations along a course are a perfect time to take a walk break. If you haven’t mastered running while trying to drink out of a paper cup without choking and spluttering, then just walk. Even better, you won’t be tempted to extend your walk break too long – either walk for the distance of the aid station itself, or walk until you’ve finished the water (those cups are small!), or if you take a cup at one of the last tables, walk until you see the last trash can past the station.

Your form will improve, your fatigue will lessen. This is KEY. If you’re really tired in a race, your form begins to suffer, your mental focus dulls and your pace slows down. By trying this method, you’ll actually be using walk breaks to run faster. No, really. Keeping your break within 30 to 45 seconds and focusing on your pace for the running portion will usually mean a faster all over mile than if you’ve been running the whole time and are trying to battle through, clinging as close as you can to your target pace. 

How to use walk breaks to run faster - great running tips on using the walk run method!


Using the Walk Run Method to Run Faster

Try it out in training. Just like you shouldn’t try a new fuel, or wear a pair of shorts you’ve just bought when you run a race, don’t try walk breaks without testing it out during training. It will give you the confidence to know it works for you and you can also experiment with how many breaks per distance you should include.

Keep them short and sweet. We’re not talking about walking for half a mile, or even a quarter of a mile. Try to keep your breaks between 30 and 45 seconds, just enough time to refresh you and improve your running pace without negatively impacting your overall pace.

Use the break to refocus mentally. 30 seconds is just enough time to check in on your form, your overall goal, where you are in the race and be ready to run again feeling focused and refreshed. If you have a mantra that helps you out when you’re struggling in a race, use it now and assure yourself you’re about to run strong.

Ready to try it out? Check out Jeff Galloway’s method – he’s the master when it comes to using walk breaks to run faster.

Do you take walk breaks during races?

Can you drink from one of those cups while running and not choke?


  1. Always a smart choice to ease into running and also prevent injury!
    Kat recently posted…Taking it to Savannah – Fitbloggin 2014My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Great point! Bad form & fatigue = potential for injury, so walk breaks are a good way to prevent pain as well!

  2. I absolutely cannot drink from those darn cups without drowning myself. So, I do take just a few seconds of a walk break to get through the aid stations and actually drink the water vs choke on it. And just those few seconds of rest can do wonders for your legs and your mentality.

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I have spent a quarter of a mile coughing after a failed cup drink before!! And that is NO fun. I think just knowing there are certain points where you’ll be able to walk for 20 seconds or so is a big mental boost, too.

  3. This is so on time Carly! Now that I am training for a 10k, I am realizing that I don’t have to run the entire way. Its almost a relief! Since I really am just starting out, I am learning that it is okay to walk and when I do, I feel more confident when I restart!! I had the chance to meet Jeff Galloway at Fitbloggin, we didn’t get to chat but I did some research on his methods and it is definitely something I can get behind.
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…A Bestie Trip To Coney Island BeachMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I can’t even explain how jealous I am that you guys met JG!! But jealous in a good way, because I love you all so I’m glad you got to experience it! πŸ™‚ Definitely email me if you want any training advice. xo

  4. Great tips! Thank you for sharing! I want to see if walking during my runs helps me speed up overall.
    Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie recently posted…5 Creative Paper Gift Ideas for Your First Wedding AnniversaryMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Definitely try it! I think you’ll be surprised. Let me know how it goes!

  5. Oh boy. I’m not sure I could ever do this. I totally get it and see how it can be beneficial, but I just can’t!!..unless I’m injured, and then I should just walk off the course!
    As for the water, I’ve pretty much mastered the art of drinking out of those stupid things. Maybe I should do a class on THAT! We’ll line up a water station and just practice over and over again… πŸ™‚
    PS – You know I met Jeff Galloway at FitBloggin’! He’s awesome.
    Allie recently posted…What Motivates You? How About A Giveaway?My Profile

  6. I don’t ever do walk breaks by myself but I did them with Hunter when he was training. On all the long runs we did a 5/1 pattern – it helped break up the long chunks of time and he decided to do it during the half so we did!!!
    Kim recently posted…We Aren’t Guaranteed Another Day – We Should Cherish Every Second We HaveMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      That was smart to do them with Hunter! It makes a big first-time distance like a half seem so much more manageable. And it seems like maybe you were forced into using them during the race, given how crazy the trail was!

  7. I use short walk breaks they help me mentally focus, but sometimes I notice I loose my momentum when I take the walk breaks. And then I want more walk breaks. So I’ve been phasing them out of my training unless I’m running longer than 6 miles.
    Renee @ Bendiful Blog recently posted…Thinking Out Loud Thursday {7/3}My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I think they’re definitely more suited to doing a long run, too. Focus is a funny thing, isn’t it? Sometimes taking a quick break helps and sometimes you can lose momentum. I definitely think training with the breaks helps keep you on track during the race itself, though.

  8. I felt the exact same way about walking before! Walking was always a sign of failure or weakness but with my new running plan I’m trying this summer I have planned walking intervals and it really does all the things you say! If you feel burned out or frustrated by runningm you really should try walking!!
    Alison @ Anchor in the Stratosphere recently posted…My First Anniversary VowsMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      It’s a smart strategy during summer, so you’re paying attention to your body in the heat, and the bonus is when it comes time for Fall racing, you know the technique works!

  9. I used JG when training for my first marathon and loved it! I incorporate some walk breaks now and then, but not too often (I guess it would be for longer intervals then πŸ˜‰ But I def feel more pep in my step when using it (especially for steep hills).
    Jennifer recently posted…Friday Five – Fourth of July EditionMy Profile

  10. Great post! I can’t drink from any cup and not choke. Whenever I start to feel super thirsty or dehydrated I take a sip and I walk while I’m doing it. I never really considered it a walk break or thought that it was doing much for my running but maybe it is. I just do what I have to do to keep moving forward.
    Carla recently posted…Running 101: A Beginner Q&AMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      See!!?? You are doing running right! You had this technique down already and you weren’t even trying. πŸ˜‰

  11. You know what my problem is with running breaks? I find it a LOT harder to start up again after taking a break. I did train for one marathon using Galloway and it was a mental relief knowing that I just had to run 1-2 miles and then could take a break. Much easier for my brain to process!!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Friday Round-Up: Freelance Writing ResourcesMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I find I have to be really careful about how long the walk break lasts. I have to do it by time and not by landmark, or I feel like it stretches on a little too long, in which case it does suck when you start running again. Also, making sure you’re not restarting the run portion at the beginning of a hill would be a good addendum tip!!

  12. It’s hard for me to take walking breaks for long runs… I did my first [& only] half back in April and once I hit the 5 mile mark I couldn’t stop or I’d never start again, haha. This summer I’m trying to do hill/spring work twice a week… I’m hoping to improve my 5k time by the end of the summer. I’ll have to check out that program you suggested because I’m just kinda wingin it!
    Caroline recently posted…Joggin’ Strollin’ Mommas Get It!My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Yes, try the Jeff Galloway method for sure! He’s an awesome coach. I bet you’ll be surprised with how fast you can be with walk breaks.


  1. […] with time, or if I was running on adrenaline on Tuesday. I ran walked the entire thing, I read this amazing post by Carly from Fine Fit Day and she basically encourages the run/walk method–and I respect ALL […]

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