Updated: Apr 18
Tessa Clements is a leader with Jog Derbyshire group Rogue Runners Ripley. In a guest blog post she tells us all about her journey into Jeffing, what’s it’s all about and the benefits she gets from it.
What is Jeffing?
Have you heard about interval running or Jeffing and wondered what it was all about? It’s a method of running with structured walk breaks which was devised by Olympian and marathon runner, Jeff Galloway and commonly known as Jeffing.
During his career Jeff Galloway sustained an injury and once he was cleared to run again, he wanted to run but in a way that was gentle on his body and reduce his risk of injury. He added walk breaks into post injury runs and found he could run further, without injury or associated fatigue. This was the beginning of Jeffing which has become popular in the UK. For example, I would estimate there were 100s if not 1000s of Jeffers.
Jeff analysed the runs of 100,000s of runners and honed his technique and improved it over the years. He has written countless books and run over 100 marathons using this method. I discovered Jeffing after a horrendous half marathon in 2019 when I felt I couldn’t run another half but didn’t want to give up running.
A running method for everyone
The jeffing intervals/ratios are commonly referred to as 15/30 30/30 or 60/30 or 90/30 which are all expressed as seconds. Yes, that’s right! You only run for seconds before a walk break unless you are an Olympic athlete in which case you might run up to four minutes before taking a walk break. The first number is always the run segment and the second is the walk segment. Before you dismiss this as not for you ask yourself a couple of questions.
Would I like to qualify for Boston Marathon at the age of 70?
Would I like to run a marathon in under three hours?
Well, both of these things are possible with Jeffing. You see, Jeffing isn’t just for beginners or those with injuries, Jeffing is suitable for almost everyone. In my club, Rogue Runners Ripley I think nearly everyone in the club has Jeffed at some point in the last six months. That could be to run a first marathon or increase distance from 5k to Half Marathon distance or in my case, a regular Wednesday night session.
I wouldn’t advise those without running experience to go straight into Jeffing (unless it’s the Jeffing C25K see below) as you still need to have a level of fitness to build upon, but it is perfectly okay for those runners finishing a sofa to 3k, none to run or couch to 5K course. There is a beginners/none to run version of a Jeffing couch to 5k and I hope in the future it is something Rogues will look to add into their new starter programmes.
Well, back to the questions above. Jeff Galloway qualified for the Boston marathon aged 70. In fact, he says that he can help you to run until you are 100 but after that you’re on your own! His son, Westin Galloway was coached by Jeff to run the Disney Marathon earlier this year and completed it in just under three hours. Both are amazing achievements and reinforce the notion that Jeffing can help regardless of your goal.
How do I personalise Jeffing for me?
So how do you know what your run/walk ratio should be? It is all based on how long it takes you to run a mile (magic mile). As mentioned, Jeff Galloway has analysed thousands and thousands of runs and runners over many years and has honed his technique. The mile could be running non-stop or a run/walk/run. Once you know your mile time you can choose your optimum run/walk ratio. For me, at around 13-minute miles mine is anything from 15/30, 20/30 or 30/30. On runs up to 5k I use 30/30 (or 20/30 if I am flagging). For my Half Marathons I use 20/30. I’ve just had a PB HM using this ratio and I am 59.
You may have noticed that the run section changes but the walk doesn’t. Generally speaking, 30 seconds is seen as the optimum time to recover from a run section. Any longer and your muscles may start to get cold, and you increase the risk of injury. You can walk for less time as long as its enough to recover from the run section. If it’s not, run at a slower pace or walk longer but as mentioned, no longer than 30 seconds. The walk section should be brisk, as if you are trying to get to the bar for last orders!
How to do it? I use a Gymboss Timer (available from Amazon) and mine is programmable with five different ratios, so I change mid run if I need to. Alternatively, there are lots of free interval /HIIT timer apps on the App store. Failing that use lampposts or bins to run between.
How we have incorporated it into our sessions at Rogues
We have weekly Jeffing sessions that are popular with new and existing runners. Some of our longer runs are Jeffed to help runners increase their distance safely. In the weekly sessions the age ranges from 16 -74 and all abilities. Although we get a wiggle on, the sessions are very sociable as we chat during the walk sections. I tend to stick to a 30/30 ratio which suits most people. The faster runners backtrack to keep the group together just like during any other run session.
Run feet low to the ground with less arm movements (to conserve energy)
When running and the timer sounds, don’t stop abruptly but gradually reduce your pace to a walk and when it beeps again gradually increase that walk to a run. It should be like a wave rather than stop/start.
Increase your cadence by counting your foot strikes and try to add one or two more during the next interval.
Benefits according to Jeff:
Increased fat burner (similar to HIIT training)
Adaptable as you can run your interval as fast or as slow as possible
It is not a substitute for lack of training
It is not just for beginners or those that are injured, it is for every runner
Strangely the lower ratios can produce faster times as you can run faster for shorter distances similar to a FARTLEK session
It doesn’t mean you lose the ability to run continuously. Many Jeffers run non-stop up to 10k distances but prefer to Jeff anything above this. One of my co-leaders was chasing a Parkrun PB and finally achieved it recently. The only change in her running is to Jeff a session once a week. Personally, I Jeff almost everything as I find it more enjoyable.
Jeffing should be done from the start of a run, not from when you get tired as the idea is to conserve energy and keep your pace consistent and finish strong.
Anyone who’d like to learn more about Jeffing is welcome to join one of our sessions on a Wednesday to see how it works. Email me on email@example.com