How the “Jeffing” technique can make running easier 

The run-walking-run method known as Jeffing can help make running more manageable and enjoyable – here’s how

“Jeffing” is a running method that combines running and walking intervals. The term comes from the first name of American Olympian Jeff Galloway, who used the technique in the 1970s with a group of runners with varying abilities that he was coaching.   

Running can be demanding on our bodies, so breaking it up with walking makes it feel easier and more enjoyable. If you’ve been running for a while and used couch to 5k when you started, the approach is similar. 

A woman running through greeneryCredit: Shutterstock / 9nong
Jeffing can make running more enjoyable

Physical activity guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that adults should aim to be active every day. However,  almost half of women and one in three men are not active enough for good health.

There are barriers, such as health conditions, which can affect what activities we can do. But there are adaptations that can help us move more – and Jeffing is one such example. 

So, whether you’re looking to get started with running or simply incorporate more activity into your daily life, here’s how the Jeffing method can help. 

What is Jeffing?

Jeffing is simply running for a time, then walking briskly, and repeating. For example, you might run for one minute and then walk for 30 seconds and alternate for as long as you choose. For that reason, it’s also called the run-walk-run method. 

It’s a form of interval training, where you alternate between activities of differing intensity for varying amounts of time. The higher intensity activity aims to raise the heart rate, while the period of lower intensity activity allows time for recovery. 

Giving yourself these breaks can be a lot less daunting than telling yourself you have to run for 30 minutes continuously, which can feel overwhelming for some people.  

Galloway developed the method while working with a group of inexperienced runners in 1974. A key basis was his so-called “huff and puff” rule – if you hear yourself huffing and puffing, take more frequent walk breaks and slow the pace. 

After ten weeks of his students following the technique, Galloway set them the challenge of completing a 5k or 10k race – and all of them successfully finished. He then spent the next two years refining the technique.

Speaking to Exceptional, Galloway explained: “My mission in life has been to help people improve the quality of life through running and exercise.

“I receive hundreds of emails every week from Jeffing athletes who are doing amazing things because of my technique.  This empowers me to keep telling more people about it.”

What is a good walk-run ratio for beginners?

To help people work out their Jeffing intervals, Galloway has devised a “magic mile” calculator. He advises running a mile a few times over a couple of weeks to work out the average time it takes you to run the distance. You can then input the times into the calculator to generate your walk/run routine.

He also has a book, The Run Walk Run Method (from £12.95, Amazon), and an app, Jeff Galloway Run Walk Run (available on both iOs and Android).

However, if you’d just like to get going, you can create your own Jeffing routine. All you need is a watch or phone to time yourself, the right kit (check out our running gear essentials guide), and a plan.  

The most common run/walk ratios are: 

  • 30/30 — run for 30 seconds, brisk walk for 30 seconds and repeat  
  • 60/30 — run for 60 seconds, brisk walk for 30 seconds and repeat  

Decide how long you want your run to be, or how many miles you want to cover, and work out your routine from there. Make sure you’re not slowing down too much on your walking sections. You want the recovery to be active enough that your heart rate doesn’t drop to your resting rate to ensure you’re improving your fitness.  

The British Heart Foundation advises your heart rate during exercise should be between 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. We’ve written a guide on heart rate zones in exercise that explains more about this.

Once you’ve settled on your Jeffing routine, next you need to implement it.

Make a plan and think about how many times a week you’d like to Jeff, then put it in your diary to give yourself accountability. It’s also an idea to check the weather for the week, as you’re less likely to want to go out when it’s raining. 

Claire Jenkin, senior lecturer in sports development for older adults at University of Hertfordshire, also advises finding out what works best for you, so you can get the benefits.

“Think about whether you’d like to do it alone or with friends, what time of day works best for you, and that it’s within your capabilities,” she says. 

What are the benefits of Jeffing?

Incorporating Jeffing into your routine is a great way to do something positive for your mind and body. 

Running and walking are both classed as cardio exercise, which helps your body become stronger, while improving blood and oxygen flow. Being physically active can also help delay the onset of 40 chronic conditions or diseases, including dementia and cancer.  

If you’re new to running or are returning to it after a break, using Jeffing to build yourself up can help reduce the risk of injury, compared to going straight into non-stop running. Indeed, Galloway reports that none of his initial run-walk-run students suffered an injury during his ten week training programme. 

The front cover of Jeff Galloway's book The Run Walk Run Method, featuring two runnersCredit: Jeff Galloway
Galloway’s method is detailed in his book The Run Walk Run Method
Buy The Run Walk Run Method from £12.95 at Amazon

Some sceptics might think walking is “cheating”, but having a running strategy and planning walk breaks means you’re in control of your fitness routine. You’re a runner whether you choose to run continuously or use walk/run intervals. And you’ll probably find you enjoy running more as it’s not as much of a strain as running non-stop, which may in turn increase the likelihood of you sticking with it. 

Employing the run-walk-run method can also help make running a more social event, which may help you stick with the habit. Studies have shown working out with buddies could keep us physically active in the long term, compared to exercising alone. If you Jeff with friends, you can use the walking intervals to have a quick catch-up. I’ve used it while running races, and have made friends by chatting to fellow competitors. 

On his website, Galloway even claims that Jeffing has helped established runners achieve faster times – “an average of seven minutes faster in a 13.1 mile race when non-stop runners shift to the correct Run Walk Run ratio, and more than 13 minutes faster in the marathon.” However, it’s unclear what the evidence for this claim is.

Do I have to Jeff every run?

As with anything to do with your fitness regime, it’s up to you. Ultra-runners commonly use Jeffing to help them (by walking up hills), and you can do it whenever you choose, too.  

You might want to use it to mix up your regular routine, or to get back into exercise after a period of rest. If you’re a runner returning from injury, Jeffing can help build your stamina. If you’re a beginner, this technique could be the first step to a healthy new habit.  

Jenkin adds: “The best type of exercise is one you can sustain and enjoy. Remember before you start to liaise with a relevant medical professional if needed. Listen to your body to determine what works for you.” 

Can I Jeff a race?

If there’s a particular distance you want to aim to run, or you have a race coming up that you haven’t had time to train for, Jeffing could help you cross the finish line.  

Runner and sports historian Katie Holmes used the technique to complete the Yorkshire Marathon.

“My training hadn’t gone to plan due to some minor injuries. I didn’t feel confident I could run the marathon distance and considered not going to the race,” she told Exceptional. Having heard about Jeffing from other runners, she then decided to give this method a go. 

A senior man crossing the finish line of a race with his hands in the airCredit: Shutterstock / Ground Picture
Jeffing can help you achieve your running race goals

She used the online Jeffing resources as a guide. “Galloway’s recommended interval for me was 60 seconds running and 30 seconds walking.

“I thought it would be hard to do such short intervals, but I tried it out on a few runs, including a 15-mile run, and found it surprisingly easy to get used to.” 

Holmes Jeffed the race and has since used it in other races and on weekly parkruns. She’s also a member of the group Girls that Jeff 

Jeffing – the bottom line

This running technique works well because you can adapt it to your own capabilities.

“Runners tell me they enjoy running more because they’re in control of their runs,” says Galloway. “They get all of the benefits – mental and physical – without the pressure of running non-stop.”

It doesn’t matter how fast you are, or how far you go; the Jeffing community will welcome you with open arms.

Galloway says: “It’s a warm and friendly group of people who support one another and respect the dedication to fitness that comes from running.”

So give it a go and join the ever-growing band of Jeffers.

Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her

Updated:

Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier. When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

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