Can Recreational Walking Help Your Running?

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As the weather warms up we all want to be outside as much as possible.  It’s the time of year taking a post work walk or after dinner stroll is a regular occurrence. As runners, unlike those who do not have an exercise or running regimen in place, we are not trying to “get our steps in” or trying to counteract the rest of our sedentary day. We are simply out and about for our own enjoyment.

But does this additional walking affect our running? Can adding recreational walking benefit you as a runner?

Benefits of Walking

The most obvious of all benefits of walking is the low impact it has on your body in general compared to running. And like running, walking helps your nervous system and can help decrease stress and help decrease negative feelings and emotions. In a situation where you’ve logged your miles and need some stress relief, walking can help. And while running is also a social sport, not everyone can join you on a run, but a lot more people can join you on a walk: injured friends, your kids (on foot or on their bike) or neighbors.

Studies show that walking can also prevent varicose veins by strengthening the venous system. If you are already dealing with varicose veins, walking will help reduce any discomfort or swelling varicose veins can cause which can be exacerbated by running.

Walking can also reduce joint pain caused by arthritis since it helps protect joints. Walking, like running, assists in lubricating joints. It targets hips and knees which are the most susceptible to osteoarthritis but does so a little more lightly on the body.

Why It Helps Running

According to research 80% of your aerobic fitness is obtained when you run at a “conversational pace.” This is why simply going out and logging the miles in your training plan, without any type speed work, will prepare you to complete your targeted race distance. This is also why beginner programs are simply “time on your feet”.  Walking at a conversational but rapid pace will assist in that aerobic activity.

Walking can help with overall endurance and will allow your body to adapt to very similar, but different, movements. Even the slight changes of activity will strengthen muscles you use to run. And if you tend to sit a lot in the car or behind a desk at work, walking is proven to help reduce lower back pain that could be a problem for you while you run.

Walking also aids in running recovery by preventing stiffness, promoting blood flow and aiding in keeping a healthy mental outlook on your training. Walking is known as “active recovery.”

Benefits for Beginners or Injured Runners

Should you be in a situation where running is not going to happen, because you are injured or simply can’t run, and you want to duplicate the fitness of running, you can get close by just walking. You will need double the duration of time or distance you’d run and walk that amount.

On light mileage days or after a longer midweek run, adding in 15-20 minutes of walking can help with total time on your feet. If you are building your mileage and are nervous about the increase in mileage each week, the addition of total time on your feet post run will help build stamina.

How Advanced or Competitive Runners Can Benefit

Some trainers suggest that adding weight will help with the intensity of a walk. Take a walk with a weighted vest if you have one, choose a route that is going to be rolling hills or set the treadmill to a steep incline if you want to really aid your training.

Exclusively run on the road? Take your planned walk off-road. Not only will the change of scenery be good for you but so will the uneven trail terrain. It will strengthen the muscles in your feet and calves. (It is important to wear appropriate shoes and not choose a strenuous level trail if you are a beginner.)

Most marathoners do not log over 20 or 22 miles on their longest run of training. Planning an immediate post-run walk can aid in two things: it can help with recovery immediately and helps add to total time on your feet. Often runners wish there was a way to train for the back 10k of a marathon without the risk of injuring ourselves. Adding just a few minutes of walking to the longest run can assist with the mental confidence needed for those last miles.

Item to Note

Stride for stride, running burns 2.5 more calories that walking. Studies point out that running can control appetite through the release of a hormone. This means that when you add recreational walking into your routine to be mindful that the calorie burn is not equal to running.

Walking is something we can easily incorporate more of into our daily life or add into our training plan. The good news is that it can be done last minute and doesn’t really require much preparation. Plus, it can be done anywhere. You can easily take a lap around a terminal while waiting on an airplane much easier than you break out into plyometric work or do core work at the gate.

Walking can be an extremely simple and time effective way to add extra endurance and lower body strengthening into your already very busy life.

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