The answer is a resounding yes. It is absolutely okay to take breaks when you're running if you feel out of breath, you have a cramp, you're suffering from nausea, or something hurts a lot more than it should, for example. It's always important to listen to your body, slow it down, and take stock if something doesn't feel right. The last thing you want is an injury that's going to impede your progress.
This is especially important when you first begin training. The thing is, if you're trying to improve, you need to view short periods of walking as part of a larger plan for success. If you're a seasoned runner that is still taking extensive walking breaks throughout your runs because you've pushed too hard, you're doing something wrong.
When training, either for an upcoming race or simply to improve distance, endurance, and overall performance, one of your goals should be to master form and pacing. When you do these things, you should be able to eliminate walking eventually, or at least greatly reduce your need for these breaks.
What benefits do you get from short breaks? How can you utilize walking as a tool in the training process? Here are a few things to consider if you find yourself frustrated by the amount of time you spend walking when you run.
There are a few things that happen when you slow your run to a walk. First and foremost, your heart rate and breathing slow, but since you're still moving, this could be considered a form of active recovery, and it's a lot better than simply stopping and sitting down.
In most cases, you're going to stop running when you feel short of breath, fatigued, or pained in some way. Walking gives you a chance to recover, catch your breath, and reduce the impact on your body that is part and parcel of running.
This, in turn, allows you to take stock of your body and make sure nothing is seriously wrong, as well as stretch a bit. Your walking breaks should not be longer than 1-2 minutes before you ramp up again and return to a faster pace.
You'll find that planning for walking breaks every few minutes or after a certain distance can break your run into manageable chunks, which can help with motivation. If a 5K seems insurmountable in the beginning, for example, walking breaks can get you through early in the training process by creating smaller goals to accomplish and giving you the boost of confidence you need to carry on. Over time, as you learn to pace yourself accordingly and your fitness level improves, you'll reduce your reliance on these break periods, both physically and mentally.
At the very least, you need to walk before and after running to warm up and cool down your body. This helps to prevent injury and it can reduce the soreness and stiffness that may set in after running. You could also walk the day after a run for true active recovery.
As for breaks during running, use them any time you feel like you need them. Pushing yourself is an important part of improving when you run, but when you're still learning to pace yourself, master form, and listen to your body, walking is essential to avoid pushing too hard and causing injury.
Many runners view walking as some kind of failure, but the truth is, it can be a valuable tool for improving performance, especially early in the training process. Learning pacing is something that many runners struggle with, even those who have been running consistently for years.
At the beginning of a session, when you're excited and full of energy, it's all too easy to start fast and run out of steam. When you add planned walking breaks at intervals, you can recover, reset your pace, refine your form, and continue, improving as you go.
Some seasoned runners are even beginning to used calculated breaks during races to achieve specific goals. You may find that short breaks, when used appropriately, reenergize you without significantly reducing overall time, and you may suffer fewer symptoms of fatigue after a session. Some runners scoff at walking, but if it works for you, you can gloat at the finish line.