Posted by: thehungryrunner | February 26, 2010

The Winter Walk/”Mini-run”: When you want to take a walk but it’s really too cold to do so

It’s funny how circumstances and conditions can help to dictate one’s training, perhaps even pushing a person beyond what she might normally have chosen to do.  As much as I enjoy running, my hyper-flexible joints and muscles — great for my contortions, not so great at generating sustained explosive power — remind me on a regular basis that I need to temper my running workouts with alternate forms of cardio.  When my week is comprised of a mix of running, indoor cardio equipment, and long recovery walks, my body retains better lean muscle mass, I have more energy, I’m less sore, and oddly enough, I tend to run better!  On the other hand, I can always tell when I’m running too intensivelyor too frequently, as I start to struggle to retain my extreme flexibility (even with thorough stretch sessions), and I will be achier upon arising in the morning.  This makes me craaaaaanky.

But I also enjoy my long outdoor walks just as a relaxing and invigorating activity.  My mindset is decidedly different when I’m out for a walk vs. out for a run, and I’ve learned that I need the soulful nurturing that this provides just as much as the physical exercise.  Which is why I sometimes get frustrated in these “doldrum” months of winter; it’s often just a tad too cold to be able to go out and walk for long periods, especially given my predilection towards Raynaud’s attacks in my fingers and toes.

But I had found a solution to the dilemma in recent years, and have been pulling it out of the hat these last few weeks:  the “walk/mini-run.”  As you might guess, it’s a workout comprised of a walk/run mix, so nothing terribly revolutionary there.  What separates this one from other routines, however, is the PATTERN.  Since the purpose of this workout is to make taking a WALK more doable, it doesn’t have the same run interval length that a more ambitious workout might entail.  Instead, the idea is to sprinkle in very short-duration run intervals in what is otherwise your standard-issue outdoor walk, to help get/keep the core temp up.   The key is to run often enough, especially in the early stages of the workout, to generate body heat, but not so much to break a sweat.  This allows for longer walk intervals, which for me allows me to sustain the “Zen” I seek and enjoy from walking.

For me, this means dressing a tad warmer than I might for a run:  a warm (if still lightweight) coat over layers that include a thicker sweatshirt, plus the usual players of ski socks under my running shoes, hand warmers already cracked open in my mittens, a gaiter over my face and of course a hat on my head.  My run intervals may last a minute or two, or they may last 10 seconds, or they may be counted — i.e. I’ll periodically throw in a segment of 100 strides of running.  I then let myself slow down to a brisk but relaxed walk, until I sense the need for another “run warm-up.”  There may come a point in the workout in which I can let go of the run intervals altogether and just walk the rest of the way (for me the goal is usually 5-8 miles total) — remember, the intent of this workout is to retain a more recovery-oriented purpose, not to advance my running fitness.

So, if you’re a runner or at least managed to build up any amount  of short-duration (or more) running in recent months, I urge you to give this a try, it can give you access to getting outside and fighting the winter blah’s and keep the momentum going in your fitness program!


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