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To run a marathon, you first should walk

Times Staff Writer

U.S. Olympian, running coach and author Jeff Galloway travels the world conducting training clinics for average Joes who want to compete in marathons.

In the 35 years since he ran the 10,000-meter in the Olympics, he has trained an estimated 250,000 runners through his clinics and written more than a dozen books on running. (The newest is “Galloway’s 5K/10K Running,” released last month.)

He spoke to us by e-mail from Aachen, Germany, where he was conducting training clinics for local marathon and half-marathon runners before heading off to the Athens Classic Marathon in Greece.

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You work with a lot of athletes. What’s the one exercise that benefits almost everyone?

Walking. Even when doing small amounts of 100 to 500 steps at a time, scattered throughout the day, the accumulated total will burn fat and improve vitality. The one cross-training activity that can improve running is water running -- it improves running form.

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What do you recommend to the average person who would like to become a long-distance runner?

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Start by walking, gradually increasing the walk to 30 minutes, every other day. When you’re comfortable with this, start inserting a 10-second slow jog, every minute, into the walk, while still walking for five minutes at the beginning and end of the session. Do this for three sessions.

If all is well, increase the jog segment to 15 seconds every minute for three sessions. Continue to increase in this way, after three sessions, until you find a ratio you like, or to a 30-second jog/30-second walk.

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What do you think about when you’re running?

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I focus on feeling good. This usually means warming up at a very slow pace with many walk breaks.

After a slow warmup for 10 to 15 minutes, I can run whatever I want.

During a tough workout, when the negative mental messages start flowing, I focus on my “magic words”: relax, power and glide. These tie into experiences when I overcame problems during a difficult run.

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What do you encourage your running students to think about?

Try to find enjoyment in every run. By slowing down the pace at the beginning, one can enjoy the natural experience of moving forward. No run has to hurt if you gain control over your pacing from the beginning.

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How has your workout changed over the years?

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I haven’t had a single overuse injury in over 29 years. This is due to taking walk breaks from the beginning of my run (every minute at first), and running most of my runs three to four minutes per mile slower than I could run, when running fast for the same distance.

When I was younger, I ran much faster and was injured about every 21 days.

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janet.cromley@latimes.com

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