If you’re a runner then you know that training for and taking part in a marathon, half or full, is no easy task. It takes months of commitment to making sure your body is in tip-top shape in order to handle the workload your asking of it. That being said, it also means in the beginning of your training to run those 26.2 miles you’re going to need to pull back on the continuous running and slow it down to a walk once in a while. After all, your trying to condition your body, not drive it into the ground, right? Walking is essential to running especially if you are training for a marathon type event, even more so if you’re going a step further and looking to take part in a triathlon event!

Walking to take a break or keep fresh during a run is part of a much bigger picture. Dialing it down to a walk as your approaching a water station during a 5k or an ultra helps slow down your heart rate and you can better absorb the fluids and fuel you are taking on. Or maybe a walk is all you’ve got time and energy for today. Walking is not taking the easy way out or even a cop-out. Walking can take your physical and mental game to new heights. Don’t be intimidated by other runners as they may pass you by as your doing a walking stint, remember, your maintaining a steady pace and you’re still providing your body with movement, that will, in the long run, help you to finish in reasonably good shape as you cross that finish line at the end of running event. Your heart is still working whether you are walking, cycling or swimming. Point is if you can get outside and walk you are training your cardiovascular system. These cardiovascular benefits are not limited only to when you walk. They show up in your daily life and in your other sports.

In order to monitor just how well you are doing, either walking or running as you train for your specific running event, it’s important to know how well you are doing now, against how you did, yesterday, last week, maybe last month! The best way to do this is to use an activity tracker, for a runner, one with both a GPS and a good heart rate monitor is great way to make sure your not overtaxing your cardiovascular system and a good way to let you know when you should be switching over from running to a walking mode. One that comes with high marks from a merchant that we love to test out products for is the Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Multi-Sports Watch On your wrist, Elevate wrist heart rate technology lets you monitor your Heart Rate without wearing a chest strap. While providing you with key stats at your fingertips with the performance widget that shows your training status, training load and more! In addition to counting steps and monitoring sleep, the watch uses heart rate to provide calories burned information and quantify the intensity of your fitness activities.

The Garmin Fenix 5 provides you with easy to view enhanced readouts for Training Status and Training Effect show aerobic and anaerobic benefits of your workout – so you can see how your workouts are paying off and even compare results with your peers. The VO2 max estimator crunches data, including your running speed, beats per minute and heart rate variability, to estimate the maximum volume of oxygen you can consume per minute. And other fitness metrics include recovery advisor with a recovery timer and recovery check, plus a race predictor that estimates your ideal finish time based on your current VO2 max number.

Keep in mind as you train that a short walk can help you recover faster, from a hard grinding push as you run, especially over a hilly course. Cortisol is a marker of stress. If you are threatened or challenged physically or emotionally your adrenal glands release more cortisol to help you respond to this stimulus. In the past, it was essential to survival in the chase for food and to avoid danger. Today we have many stressors, some that can be avoided and others that are necessary for adaptation and growth. Much of our training for sports is a deliberate stressor, one that is necessary for growth in fitness and performance. This combined with so many of life’s other stressors can easily overwhelm us and prevent us from moving forward.

This idea has been around for several years now, so don’t let the uninformed make you feel like your copping out when you slip into your walking mode during a marathon event. Jeff Galloway, the running coach, and Olympian runner pioneered the run-walk-run method in the mid-1970s. He added walks to his beginner students’ training because he saw that it helped them run farther and for longer periods of time than if they tried to plow through the distance just running, with fewer injuries. “It allows each person to gain control over their running,” he says. “They get to set the amount of running and the amount of walking, and they can feel good on every single running segment.”

More than 300,000 people have used the Galloway Run Walk Run Method, he says, with the fastest marathon time reported back to him from a 30-something male student who dropped his marathon time to 2 hours 28 minutes, from 2 hours 33 minutes, by adding walking breaks.

Another study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that including regular walking breaks in your race can bring you to the finish line at the same pace as if you ran the entire way — while doing a lot less damage to your body!

The study looked at 42 runners who trained 12 weeks for their first marathons. A week before the event, the runners were split evenly into two groups: those who would run the entire way and those who would take 60-second walking breaks every 2.5 kilometers.

The walk breakers performed well. Runners in both groups finished the marathon at similar times, and the group that took walking breaks experienced less muscle pain and fatigue after the race than their running-only counterparts.

“Most people think that if you walk in a marathon race, you will need much more time to finish,” said Kuno Hottenrott, a professor of sports science at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany and lead author of the study. Even he was surprised by the results.

But the benefits of intermittent walking goes beyond the physical, he says. “Since running a marathon is as much of physical as well as a mental challenge, it is for a runner mentally easier to break the marathon distance down into smaller parts and focus on one segment at a time, instead of looking at the whole marathon distance.”

If you are an endurance athlete, then you know the importance of training your body for the long haul. Our hearts are working at a quicker pace, our metabolism is working to supply energy and our bodies are taking the impact. Walking counts as part of your overall daily activity. It’s time on your feet and time well spent.

Get out for a walk as often as you like and enjoy all the benefits.  You may just be surprised at how easier your runs seem to go after a few enjoyable walks!