by Sam Allsopp

I was always picked last for team sports at school and would try to avoid anything resembling running. I’d particularly dread netball and track running lessons. I always felt that walking was just much better for all sorts of reasons, mainly that I didn’t have to run!

When I eventually started running at around 20 years old, I was surprised to find that it felt easy! I fell out of love with it but embarked on a running adventure again aged 30, only to find it did not feel quite so easy anymore. I quickly gave up again.

Easing my way back into running

This sort of on-again, off-again relationship with running seems quite common amongst my peers as it’s very easy to overdo it and suffer injuries and bruised pride.

Sam takes a selfie while holding up her #activedales medal.

Some running groups have adapted their offerings accordingly. When my local group advertised a ‘Sofa to 3k’ course aimed at people who felt even a 5k run was too much, it seemed like the perfect moment for me to try again.

The course ran for around 10 weeks, and by the end of it, I could run continuously for 3k.

If running seems out of reach to you and a running group near you offers a course like this, I’d highly recommend you get involved. Running can seem very intimidating from the outside, but as a general rule, runners are just excited that someone else is trying to run.

A different approach: Jeffing

I met some incredibly inspiring people on my ‘Sofa to 3K’ course. When I first heard them talking about Jeffing, I assumed it was a euphemism for a particularly hilly run that had you ‘effing and jeffing’ all the way up. I thought it sounded far too difficult for me and largely ignored it.

It turns out Jeffing is an affectionate nickname given to the ‘Galloway Method’ popularised by Jeff Galloway, an American Olympian who continues to run marathons well into his 70s. It’s a structured combination of running and walking intervals.

Runners follow a tarmac path alongside a body of water.

I like a 30:30 split — 30 seconds of running followed by 30 seconds of walking — and I repeat this for whatever distance or time I want to achieve.

You can organise these time splits however you like, though. Jeff Galloway has a ‘magic mile’ calculator which you can use to work out what walk/run times will minimise your overall finish time. Someone with a 7-minute mile pace might try running for 6 minutes and walking for 30 seconds, for example.

Why try Jeffing?

I find Jeffing to be a really unintimidating way to get more active, as the run intervals can be as short or long as you like. The technique also allows more seasoned runners to extend their distances beyond what they thought they were capable of.

A yellow sign in the grassy verge of a running trail reads YOUR ONLY LIMIT IS YOU.

Importantly, Jeffing allows participants to build up their fitness without the impact that running is associated with. It all sounds a bit counterintuitive, but adding in the walking sections with Jeffing makes a run a lot easier on your joints — great if you are getting older, heavier, returning from injury, or enjoying all three.

It’s a really great alternative for anyone wanting to avoid injury. Continuous use of muscles results in quicker fatigue, but breaking up your running with frequent walking sections means your muscles recover more quickly.

I’d urge anyone to try it out.

Combining an interval program with group runs

I was initially worried about the effect all the stopping and starting would have on the people running around me at an event like Parkrun. I didn’t want to annoy people or trip anyone up!

I usually set my watch to run/walk mode and it quietly beeps when I need to change pace so anyone close by tends to pick up on that. Various phone apps are available for all sorts of interval trainings. Another option is to purchase a dedicated beeper. Something like a Gymboss is good and useful if you are with a group.

A sign reading CAUTION RUNNERS set up at a Parkrun event, with neatly mowed lawn and pretty trees in the background.

Alternatively, just pop your hand up in the air. A bit like a car indicator, it alerts the people around you that you’re going to do something unexpected!

I’ve found that once you get going, you’ll fall into a rhythm with those around you, but definitely think about how you will alert people to your movements to avoid any collisions.

My new running routine

When I was trying to run continuously, I never made it over 5k. Now that I use Jeffing, my longest distance so far is 10 miles, and I felt pretty proud of myself when I came to the end of that.

I find I can happily complete longer routes this way, and I don’t have the usual achy legs the morning after, which is always a welcome relief. Jeffing has allowed me to cover greater distances whilst still having a chat, and I generally feel much better for it.

Sam poses with her latest medal achieved by Jeffing.
The view over calm blue water on a sunshiny day that Sam enjoys while Jeffing.

My favourite local route goes around the reservoir, over the old steam train tracks and back up into town via an old coach road. The changing scenery is lovely and Jeffing means I get to appreciate the views along the way.

I’ve never been a competitive person. If I’m out running, it’s for the joy of it — I’m not chasing a PB. Jeffing means I can get out on the trails and enjoy the views as much as I would on a walk.

If you are of the competitive persuasion, though, Jeffing can take minutes off your PB. Give it a try and let me know how you get on!

Finding the right technique

I really think anything that makes access to exercise easier is an important thing. Anybody can still push themselves to go further and faster within the run-walk-run framework. They just might find it more enjoyable, and after all, we won’t keep heading out to exercise if it makes us feel miserable.

Sam Allsopp, booker at Contours Holidays, stands outside in beautiful weather.

Sam Allsopp

Tour Operations Team Manager

Sam looks after the lovely Contours booking team and spends her weekends wandering in Derbyshire villages looking for books and cheese.

Read more blogs by Sam

Originally published 29/05/24

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