Jeffing: what it is and how to try it

You might have heard people talk about ‘Jeffing’, but what is it and should triathletes try it?

Triathlete racing toward the finish line

Ever read an article or overheard a conversation about something called Jeffing and wondered what it is? Here’s 220’s editor with the answer.

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What is Jeffing?

Jeffing is a term that refers to the run/walk coaching technique founded by Jeff Galloway in 1973. Galloway is an Olympian and competed as part of the 1972 US Olympic Team in the 10km event. Put simply, Jeffing is a run-walk technique similar to intervals or ‘fartlek’ (the Swedish word for ‘speedplay’) training.

By reducing the amount of running and combining it with walking, you put less stress on the body and can cover longer distances than might previously have been inaccessible to you with constant running.

Jeffing is also a popular technique with beginners or those looking to regain fitness after injury or a break for some other reason from running, as it allows you to build up gradually and regain strength and fitness without putting too much strain on the body.

How do you do Jeffing running?

Two women running at low intensity in a park
Alternating run and walk intervals can help you improve fitness and cover more distance

Jeffing is usually done by combining short run intervals (usually one or two minutes) with intervals of walking. For example a beginner session may consist of a five-minute walk to warm-up; followed by 20 minutes alternating one minute of jogging/running with two minutes of walking; then ending with a five-minute walk to cool down.

As the runner increases their fitness and strength, they may move up to longer run segments and also increase the length of the sessions. There are many online resources that can help you do this including Galloway’s own coaching website, which includes advice for beginners, more info on the benefits of run/walk training and training plans for 5km and 10km distances.

Is Jeffing running good for triathletes?

Some of the benefits Galloway lists on his website of using the run/walk method are bound to resonate with triathletes. Galloway states it can: speed you up over long distances (he quotes seven minutes over a half-marathon when done correctly); erase fatigue and delay exhaustion; break the distance into manageable units; improve recovery and reduce risk of injury.

If you think about how this can benefit a triathlete, it makes the run segment of a race (when you’re likely already fatigued and potentially stiff from being on the bike) much more manageable, both physically and psychologically. It’s also a popular technique with age-group triathletes targeting half- and full-iron distance races, when many are unlikely to be able to finish the run leg running consistently.

Rather than slowly breaking down and running when fatigue gets the better of them, using a run/walk strategy from the start enables the athlete to conserve energy, manage the distance and use mental strategies to break it into chunks. The walk breaks also allow more time in which fuelling/hydration can be prioritised.

Want more expert running advice to help you smash every race? Then take a look at our run section

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Top image credit: Pete Sherrard/Getty Images