Many people whose regular form of exercise is running consider walking during a workout to be a sign of failure. The benefits of breaking up a run with walk breaks, call it wogging, is becoming increasingly accepted as a way to help beginning joggers work up to a higher level of intensity without as much threat of injury, and even help seasoned marathoners increase speed and distance.
An Olympic marathoner is not likely to be seen taking a walk break, but the average rank-and-file runner, pounding out the miles every week to train for the next local 10k or marathon, may benefit from wogging here and there. As former novices move into longer distances and continue to take walk breaks, their times improve and many surpass the participants who run straight through the race.
Jeff Galloway, Olympic 10,000 meter runner who trained with the likes of Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers, is the founder of the Run Walk Run method that opened up jogging to millions of former couch potatoes. Galloway discovered during a beginning running class in 1974 that most of the participants were unable to complete a traditional workout without walk breaks, and started adjusting the ratio of walk to run as their ability increased. Over the next two years he experimented with various combinations of running and walk breaks and found that wogging could benefit all levels of runners by nearly eliminating injuries.
Exercise physiologist Michael Hewitt says wogging is a “catchword for what we all do.” Kids know this right from the start, running while they play and walking when they get tired. The same system works for adults trying to transition from walking to jogging but do not have the muscular strength to accomplish it.
Julie Isphoding is a former Olympic marathoner who hosts popular health and fitness radio shows for National Public Radio. She says whenever a person decides they want to start running they should start by walking. Then start adding a little bit of jogging to the walking, eventually reducing the amount of walking and increasing the jogging until most of the workout is run, but still interspersing walk breaks.
Those familiar with the concept of wogging have helped spawn a whole new category of runner who are out on the roads for camaraderie and fitness rather than with the goal of winning races. Dave Sellers of Runner’s World magazine says “these folks have helped to spur the tremendous growth in running (slowly) for fitness among late-blooming recreational exercisers.”
Reebok master trainer Kathy Stevens says it offers a way for an exerciser to increase intensity without so much musculoskeletal joint stress. It also offers a little variety in a workout and also some challenge, as walk breaks get shorter and run breaks get longer. Galloway’s wogging method involves taking walk breaks right from the start of the workout or race, to delay the point where fatigue and potential injury set in. He says a 30-60 second walk break at the end of every mile can help even serious runners go longer and faster.
Galloway’s suggestions for how much running and walking one should do depends on the exerciser’s pace. Typically beginners are slower, so they get more frequent walk breaks, even to the point of jogging for 30 seconds and walking for 60. Galloway encourages joggers and runners alike to get over the lessons of earlier years that have taught the notion that walking is unacceptable. It takes training and practice to accept that wogging can be a benefit, and that walk breaks while running are actually smart and not failure.
By Beth A. Balen