by Marcia Mangum Cronin
In the intervening decades, I've tried many forms of exercise: biking, swimming, weight lifting, tennis, rowing, dancing, yoga, walking. My fitness level during those years has varied, but I've never wavered in my belief in the importance of exercise. And I've never given up trying.
I have a pretty good routine now. I do a circuit at a women's gym three to five days a week and take walks of one or two miles most days, with a long walk once a week or so.
But this morning I ran. Why? I had to drop my car off at the service station and get myself home in a hurry. It was really, really cold, and walking would take too long.
So, I remembered my good friend Deb telling me about a drill her personal trainer had taught her. Deb is not a runner, has never been a runner and has sworn she would never run unless someone was chasing her. Still, if you're paying a trainer good money and getting good results, I guess you listen. The trainer instructed Deb to run for 30 seconds and walk for 60 seconds, eventually covering four miles using this routine.
Not long after Deb told me this, I saw a feature in our local newspaper about the Jeff Galloway injury-free running method. Galloway was a famous runner from back in the days when I ran, so if he's still running, he must be on to something. Turns out, it's all about walk breaks!
Unlike my friend who is primarily a walker and inserts "run bursts," he is primarily a runner who insists that you can improve your run times by taking "walk breaks." The secret is that the walk breaks give you a physical and mental boost so you don't slow down at the end. The longer the race, the more beneficial the walk breaks can be.
Galloway maintains that even serious marathoners benefit from these breaks. I never plan to run a marathon, but I can appreciate the philosophy: Instead of concentrating on how far you have to go to the finish, you think only of how far till the next break. Even non-runners like me believe they can run for 30 seconds.
It was 20-something degrees this morning, and I had a mile and a half to go, but all I thought about was jogging while I counted off 30 seconds, and then walking rapidly while I counted the next 60. Once I got the hang of it, I sometimes extended the jog to the next corner or the next driveway or something a bit farther, but I knew that I could stop once I reached 30! I quickly realized that it wasn't difficult, and I was staying warm and getting home in a hurry. Yea, me!
In addition to the mental lift, Galloway's site (www.jeffgalloway.com) explains why alternating walking and running works physically. By alternating, you use different sets of muscles so you don't tire as quickly and are less likely to slow down or risk overuse injury.
Galloway offers a complete marathon training schedule at his site. For first-time marathoners, he suggests one minute of walking for every three to four minutes of running. If you walk fast, he says you'll only lose about 15 seconds off of your running time, and you'll make up for it with renewed energy.
If you're more a walker than a runner and aren't interested in times, the benefit of the walk/run method is that you get your heart rate up quickly and can cover more distance (and therefore burn more calories) in less time.
But don't give short shrift to the mental benefit. At 55, I was really excited to find that I could still run, even if only in 30-second bursts.
Those endorphins got me home in a hurry and will carry me through the day!