Neil Featherby: Always train within your limits and know your own safety zones

It's all about putting one foot in front of the other, says Neil Featherby. Picture: Archant

It's all about putting one foot in front of the other, says Neil Featherby. Picture: Archant

Malcolm J Blades Sport Photography

For whatever reason my column a few weeks back with regards to walk/run seems to have still created a lot of discussion amongst some.

I really don’t like covering the same old ground if I can help it, but there was a topical comment on one of the run groups this week on social media which seems to have got a few people going whereby I have received a few private messages asking me to make comment on the back of my earlier article.

First and foremost, advice given on social media can be a minefield and I now think very carefully before making comments unless of course I feel really strongly about it. In this day and age it is far too easy to express an opinion whereby the advice given requires more research or indeed someone who is more qualified to give such advice however well-meaning mine or other people’s opinions may be. Perhaps it is just me getting older which holds me back more these days.

However and for the final time, I will use this week’s column to say what I have always thought when it comes to this ongoing debate about defining the differences between running and walking. In truth we all know that running is different and of course in usual circumstances quicker than walking.

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Nevertheless, when it comes to getting started which so many people are now doing or for those people who want to take part (not race) in marathons and even ultra-marathons, I have always said it is just basically putting one leg in front of the other and just keep going in the direction of the finish.

There is still no excuse for not training and putting the miles in and even silly to attempt to cover long distances without having done so. But for those who are new to running, or for those who aren’t blessed with the same genetics as the elite, mixing (walking and running) for many is the most economical way for them to do so. The competitive athlete is different of course and will only take part in races subject to his or her conditioning and being fit to do so.

Anyway, due to the on going emails and messages I have been receiving and having spent a morning with none other than former Olympian and 2:08 marathon runner Paul Evans this week, I decided to ask him what his thought are.

“Good question,” he said. “I guess it depends on who you ask. Is jogging a fast walk or a slow run? When starting a beginners running group you will always get a mix of people who are already reasonably fit from having done other activities and those who really are complete beginners for which their abilities can be miles apart.

“That is a challenge in itself for the coach. However, the coach’s role first and foremost is to keep everybody safe and ensure that everyone works within their own safety zones. If that means mixing walking with jogging then that is what they will do. I always ask them to adopt the talk test theory i.e. if you can’t hold a conversation with the person beside you, you are working too hard for which I ask them to slow right down to a walk or even sit down until their breathing is back to normal.

MORE: It’s the appliance of science for most of us, says Neil Featherby

“Hopefully they will keep coming back and as their fitness improves the walking will become less and the running becomes more. I dare say there are plenty more scientific answers out there, but runners just want simple instructions which they can understand. After all it is supposed to be about the runner, not the coach!”

What more can you say really? Each to their own and let it be that way. The only thing I will say is always train within your limits and do not attempt to take part in any event unless you know your body is in good working order and fully prepared.

Incidentally, for those who like to be technically correct, with walking there is usually always one foot in contact with the ground whereas with running there is a floating phase where neither feet are in contact with the ground between toe off and foot contact. Nevertheless, I have seen some people walk quicker than some run and as Paul said, is jogging a fast walk or a slow run?

Amongst one of my run groups, I have a lady who is training for Run Norwich. A lot of her training is made up of run/walking. Come race day, I am going to suggest she does the same and I will hazard a guess that she will still finish ahead of some who run all the way. At the end of the day, she will do it her way for which I am sure she will be so very proud of her efforts when she crosses the finish line.

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