Galloway Approach – is someone well served or not?

One runner I coach sent this interesting comment in. He had followed the Galloway Method for a couple years prior to me coaching him:
I almost feel deceived about the Galloway method. I feel that I am improving and doing very well here with what you have me doing. His books as you know always say don’t do too much fast running and I pretty much do mostly faster running now. It is a great change and I feel the fitness coming on with this approach. I am seeing improvement. I do believe that using Galloway was the perfect way for me to feel like I could be a part of the running world at all. [He started out over-weight and out of shape. – DMH] It really opened the door of possibility to me. I recommend it highly to those who have never run and who feel that they can’t run. The method is great to get into the wonderful world of running. I am just amazed that I can run as fast as I am now. What do you think of this? Jason

I like your comments about Galloway and if someone is reticent about running it’s a good start… it’s better than not starting. If it gets them involved and motivated – perfect. If it builds self-confidence – great! And that is something I do credit Galloway with. He has involved many people in this wonderful world of running who otherwise would never have tried.

Anyone who has some running background (such as from the Galloway or other approach) has a leg up (pun intended) on someone starting running who has been a couch potato. So, it did serve you well in forming a base of conditioning by strengthening muscles, tendons and ligaments.

That is not to say that it is the better way to start for any given individual or even most people. If you start with any research-based training approach from the very beginning; a runner will yield far better results and those results will occur faster as well.

The fear (by Galloway and Long Slow Distance advocates) and the myth is that fast running yields injuries. Running is one of the most strenuous activities you can undertake. Why else does every single athlete use it to get in condition for their sport? As such, injuries are something to always be concerned about. But, fast running in fact yields injuries at a lower rate than “more miles.” Mileage is directly and unarguably correlated. Both speed and miles however must be approached gradually otherwise of course you court injuries.

Another part of the problem is a misinterpretation of the very term “fast.” Galloway advocates will see that word and think “all out sprints.” As you have learned through your program, “fast” is a relative term. The bulk of fast running is actually not even close to a sprint and mostly run between 5k and 10k pace.

The other misinterpretation is what pace to run that long run. There are advocates of lots of long slow distance to build a mythical aerobic base. The problem is that though an aerobic base is not a bad thing it also is not indicative of performance capabilities. That is, a high VO2max has one of the lowest correlations to race times. Whereas 50-300m sprint times, vVO2max, and lactate threshold all have far superior correlations to race times and these are minimally effected by long slow distance running. Yet, aerobic base is built simultaneously when doing faster running. So again, a faster pace is critical and you indeed have to run a chunk of these miles faster than just a slow jog with a walking break. If your goal is to run a four hour marathon – like you – then you must do progressively more miles at 9:00/mile – which you did. That will lead to sub-4 hour marathons – like you just ran in unbelievable weather – and running lots and lots of miles at 10 or 11 minute miles will not get you there. So, again, running faster gets results not running slower.

Even as you train for your 40 miler; of course there some longer slower runs but to hit your goal time a significant number of miles over the entire training program must be at “goal pace” which is not jogging.

What’s the bonus with research-based training?
1. As mentioned the first bonus is that you get faster at your running, well… faster.
2. You don’t have to run as many miles and you will get similar to far better results to those running or run-walking up to twice the mileage.
3. GENERALLY you will incur far less injuries than those putting more pounding on their legs.

So, a runner or coach must apply the scientific principles correctly as well as read the results in the athlete to know how to adjust or accommodate individual progress and reaction to workouts. The real bottom line is to evaluate the individual and what will help them thrive and stick to it; and that of course is the art versus the science of coaching. Anything followed blindly is stupid. And stupid is as stupid does… or something like that.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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8 Responses to Galloway Approach – is someone well served or not?

  1. run4change says:

    This is a great post Coach. Another thing that is great, is that I have cut my running time in half. I used to do around 14 hours of running per week and now I am doing anywhere from 6-8 hours per week and maybe 9 on a marathon/ultra week. I work so much so this is a giant plus to be able to set PR’s without giving up the rest of my life.

    i sure do appreciate the help and the program. I am all excited about it.


  2. Dean Hebert says:

    Wow, I didn’t even address the time savings thing! You’re right. It’s another great reason for busy people to get on the “fast track.”

  3. Martin says:

    Dean, I’m a newbie runner. I’ve been doing some research on running techniques, and there seem to be two schools of thought on heel-strike vs. front-foot-strike. Do you have any recommendations about a runner’s foot-strike?

  4. Dean Hebert says:

    The easiest response is “run what is normal for you” and ignore all the fad advice. Everyone has a different foot-strike. By doing the right TRAINING you will optimize YOUR unique form Period. Anyone selling you something else is selling you something. Predominantly it is more of an event specific issue. Shorter races require more forefoot striking to generate speed. Longer races use a heel to toe strike GENERALLY. Train right… and you will be optimizing who YOU are. Ok, the only caveat is if your form and foot-strike are causing injuries… then you need to work on remediation. But htat is done through running specific exercises NOT from some how intentionally forcing yourself to run on your forefoot.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Aric Keith says:

    I’ve been digging through your blog the last couple days because I find your approach fascinating and intuitively obvious. I started running at age 33 (four years ago). I didn’t follow a program, I used common sense. I would run 1.5 miles, take a day off, and do it again. After a few weeks I added another .25 miles, and so on. I simultaneously tried to run those miles as fast as I could.

    In 3 years I got down to a 20:30 5k time, running 12-16 miles per week. Only rarely did I do a “long run” of 8 or 10 miles.

    However, that peak came in august of 2010, and since then I’ve been unable to better myself. After a few illnesses I’ve been struggling to get back to even a 21:30 5k. I have always beens suspicious of the “run lots of miles slow” approach, even though many of my high performing running friends tell me it’s the way to go. Recently I’ve created a plan for myself which involves a tempo like run on monday (at about a 7:00 pace), a track session on wednesday (various intervals), some run on thursday or friday (6-8 miles, maybe recovery pace as I’m usually tired), and a long run on Saturday. I’ve been doing the long run at 8:15-8:30 pace up to 14 miles.
    Bottom line, after reading this I think I’m going to modify my plan a little and speed up my long run. I’m more than capable of doing it at a sub 8:00 pace, so why shouldn’t I? I haven’t been injured. I actually run better fast, and feel better, too.
    What do you think?

    • Dean Hebert says:

      You will benefit from two adjustments.
      1. Get your weekly mileage to the mid-20s with an occasional 30 mile week on a week that is mileage focused. Why? Because the research on mileage indicates that you get huge benefits to your VO2max (16%) through about 25 miles per week. (It requires about another 25 miles per week to max out with another 16% improvement – nice but your time is better spent with higher quality instead.) One long run every other week or even every 3rd week is good and yes 8-10 is more than enough for you.
      2. Your tempo run is ok if your focus is on 10K and longer. It however has less benefit (not none at all – just less) for a 5k specialist because it is slower than race pace. So, your two quality runs in a week should focus on actual race pace (5K goal pace) and mile pace and faster on another workout. This is also a key way to break out of slumps and plateaus in training – up the pace even if only for short distances.

      You’ll get faster by running faster… not slower.
      And until you get to a whole other level, many more miles won’t make an appreciable difference.
      I have high school runners running in the 16s, 17s and 18s on only 25-30 mile per week. Of course the jump to college level competition requires more of everything but it is HOW it is all done that makes the difference.
      Drop a line and tell me how things progress for you.

      • AricKeith says:

        Thanks for the advice! As a follow up question- I’ve recently pushed up to 26-32 miles per week (just these past few weeks) but 12-14 of those miles are weekly long run. How do I get that many miles without the super long run? I’m mostly constrained to 4 days/week, and it seems I’d have to run some super long speed workouts to reach 25+ miles. Or am I over thinking this?

      • Dean Hebert says:

        I have marathoners who run only 4 days a week. So it can be done. On your quality days run 2 miles in warm up and 2 cool down; that plus 3-4 quality miles makes a nice 7-8 mile day. Even if you chose to do a tempo run (as you mentioned before) do 2-3 miles easy then launch into 2-3 @ tempo pace then an easy 1-2 to end the workout… there you go another 7 mile day [or your second quality track run]. Long run of 10. Another day with 6-8 and you’re good. So very doable – 8-7-10-6 – 31.

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