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A friend and I are training for a 10K race, using a slightly modified version of C25K (running slightly longer, doing more repetitions in one run etc). We're doing about the same thing, but during a recent discussion we discovered that we walk differently during the walking breaks on the schedule. At this point the discussion is almost academic, because we're almost at the point in the schedule that abandons walking breaks completely, but I'm still curious.

The disagreement we have is whether the walking breaks in C25K should be relaxing walks, or power walks. I've been doing relaxing walks (which, actually, feel almost [but not quite] like resetting to full rest after 3-5 minutes), while my friend has been doing power walks. Which of these is the better method (or intended method) of C25K training?

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I have no hard data, but my experience is that a fast walk is best if you can do it. It keeps the heart rate elevated, but gives you a chance to take a breather and works some different muscles. The Zombie 5K app directly calls out fast walking most of the time (although it has some intervals in the early weeks where you alternate fast and slow walking). The walking pace should be fast enough that your muscles stay warm and your heart rate remains elevated, but not so fast that you're tired before starting running again.

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The way I look at it, walk breaks are ideal when trying to achieve an intensity level that is somewhere between a walking and a running pace. Thus, the running should be slow and the walking brisk so that both the walking and running segments are as close to the desired intensity as possible. However, if you're going up a steep hill then a brisk walk might be too intense and you'll need to slow down further.

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With the NHS C25K programme, it specifically says in the voiceover that the walking pace should be conversational. You should be working hard enough to raise your heartrate and warm your muscles, but be able maintain a conversation. Presumably therefore, the walking pace could get a bit quicker as you get fitter and less out of breath. You shouldn't be just having a gentle afternoon stroll, but keeping active and making good progress. This should still be enough to recover in between runs.

  • Isn't the jog itself that they say should be at a conversational pace? – Sean Duggan Mar 3 '16 at 17:27
  • I think it's both actually. Laura, the voiceover explains it at the very beginning but not so specifically on the running. Because the program is built for people with very little fitness, it would be disheartening to expect that much in the beginning. A lot of people struggle in the first couple of weeks and can't make it through the runs even without chitchat. The key thing though is not to let your heart rate return completely back to normal. So it's whatever works for you - a brisk walk - probably somewhere in between a chill out walk and a power walk. Good luck with your training! – HMWDesign Mar 8 '16 at 10:20

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