Run Injury-Free and Improve Until You’re 100

By Olympian Jeff Galloway

Running turns on brain circuits better than other activities: better attitude, more energy, personal empowerment, better mental activity, etc. So those who train for and finish an event make many positive changes in body, mind and spirit—and want to continue. With the right plan, most runners can continue to enjoy the benefits without pain or burnout.

Research: Running does not harm Orthopedic Units

Research reveals that runners have healthier joints, etc., over several decades. One study out of Stanford University showed that runners over 50 who had been running for 20 years or more, had less than 25% of the orthopedic complaints compared with non-runners.

Becoming the “Captain of your Running Ship”:

Most runners just run—without thinking too much about pace, weather, or what they have run during the last few weeks. Because they don’t organize their workouts, paces, recovery periods, etc., most push too hard, get sore, lose motivation or experience at least one injury during a 6-12 month season. By following the method below, most of my runners who have experienced setbacks, have been able to enjoy the benefits of running without further problems. The Galloway Method allows you to take control over your running.

Principles of the Galloway Method:

Those who have a strategy tend to accomplish a lot more and avoid the problems faced by those who “just run”. Follow the steps below and you can manage your fatigue, chart your progress and make changes when needed.

  1. Magic Mile:This 1600 meter time trial accurately predicts current potential and sets a long run pace slow enough to avoid injury. At the end of the program it can predict the pace to run in your race.
  2. Run/walk/run:This strategy, described below, will erase significant fatigue, reduce aggravation of “weak links”, improve race times, promote better fat burning, improve mental focus, and more.
  3. Long runs build the endurance needed by increasing to the race distance or above. These must be run at least 1:30 per km slower than current marathon finish potential (identified by the magic mile)
  4. Two other runs during the week will maintain adaptations. These will include fun drills and hills for added strength.
  5. Running drills improve running form. Listed below, these help runners run smoother and faster.
  6. Hill workouts, every 7-14 days can improve leg strength and prepare you for hilly courses.

Run/Walk/Run before you get tired or sore:

Most of us, even when untrained, can walk for several miles before fatigue sets in, because walking is an activity that we are bio-engineered to do for hours. Running is more work, because you have to lift your body off the ground and then absorb the shock of the landing, over and over. Anthropologists tell me that our ancient ancestors normally ran in short segments—probably no more than 200 meters at a time. We can adapt to non-stop running but will pay for this with dramatically increased fatigue, quicker depletion of energy, and much more stress on our orthopedic “weak links”. Insert walk breaks into a run from the beginning, as noted below, and your running muscles can recover and adapt, allowing one to be strong to the end of the run. This reduces the risk of next day soreness and injury.

The beginner will primarily walk at first. By inserting short segments of running, followed by longer walk breaks, the muscles adapt to running, without getting overwhelmed. As you improve your running ability and conditioning, you will reach a point where you can set the ratio of running and walking for that day. Even elite runners find that walk breaks on long runs allow them to recover faster and run faster in races. A side benefit is not being “out of commission” after long runs or races. There is no need to be exhausted at the end of a run. If you insert enough walk breaks, for you, on that day, you will be able to manage your energy levels, carry on your life, play with the kids, play golf, and do whatever it is you enjoy doing.

Walk Break Rules:

1.It’s better to start with more frequent walk breaks

2.You cannot take too many walk breaks on long runs

3.If you start to struggle in the middle or end of a race, take the walks more frequently

4.Many runners find that shorter segments work better (90/30 seconds walk vs 3/1 minutes)

5.In the race, you may cut some or all of the walk breaks during the last third

6.Whether running or walking, avoid a long stride—run and walk gently

7.The goal is not to eliminate walk breaks but to find the right strategy each day

The frequency of walk breaks is tied to your pace per kilometer. The following table is based upon my experience in working with tens of thousands of walk-break-takers, but many runners thrive when they walk even more often than the ratio recommended by the table.

PACE per kilometerRatio of running to walking
5 min/km5:1 or 2min/24 sec
5:30/km4:1 or 2min/30 sec or 80/20
6 min/km3:1 or 90/30 or 60/20 or 45/15
7min/km2:1 or 60/30 or 40/20 or 30/15
8-9min/km1:1 or 30/30 or 20/20 or 15/15
10 min/km10sec run/20 sec walk or 15/30 or 40/20

How to Keep Track of the Walk Breaks:

There is a run/walk/run timer that beeps and/or vibrates according to the times you wish for running and walking. Check our website or a good running store for advice in this area.

How to use Walk Breaks:

  1. If you feel good during and after the run, continue with this ratio. If not, run less/walk more until you feel good.

2.On one of your short runs during the week, practice several strategies that are similar to what you are using. Example: 3 minutes running/1 minute walking could be compared to 90 seconds/30 seconds or 60 seconds/20 seconds.

3.On any given day, when you need more walking, do it. Don’t ever be afraid to drop back to make the run more fun and less tiring.

Form Drills and Hills:

  • On one of the short runs each week do the following fun drills after an easy five minute warm-up. Walk and jog for 30 seconds between each. Do 4-8 cadence drills each time.
  • Cadence Drill: Time yourself for 30 seconds and count the touches on either the left or the right foot. On each successive one, strive for an additional touch.
  • Acceleration-Glider Drill: This helps you gradually move from a walk to a slow jog, then a jog, then a very gradual acceleration followed by a gentle glide back to a walk—seamlessly.
  • HILLS—On the other short run day, after an easy five minute warm-up, run up a 40-60 meter hill and walk down. As you go up, pick up the turnover of your feet and shorten your stride. Do 2-6 of these.

Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached over a million runners through his training programs (100 cities), running schools, beach retreats, seminars and books.

Happy Global Running Day!