Karen Explains How 'Jeffing' Helped Her Reach Her Goals
I took up running around September 2015 after being diagnosed with osteopenia (early signs of osteoporosis where your bone density starts to decrease). Five years previous – at the age of 34 – I had been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (or premature menopause) and it was always a risk this would develop. The advice was to increase my calcium intake and take up a sport or hobby that included high impact which would help strengthen the bones.
After a bit of Googling I decided to give running a try. A nice, free (how wrong was I??) sport that I could fit around my work and family commitments. Fortunately, I knew a lovely lady who was also looking to start running as she wanted to complete a triathlon. She recommended following a ‘Couch 2 5k’ app and then we would sign up to Parkrun. Now, the ‘Couch 2 5k’ app was a simple task: download it; put on a pair of trainers; hide in some big baggy old gym gear and hit the pavements with my phone and headphones – job done! Parkrun, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter – turn up to a local park and run where other people could see me or, heaven forbid, actually know me in real life! Then there was completing the distance, there was no way I was going to be able to run a whole 5k.
‘Couch 2 5k’ (C25k) was going well. Some weeks felt very daunting and a very big leap from the week before. I liked the way you could repeat weeks until you had confidence to move on. As the running increased so did my knee pain. There was also the struggling to breathe part. Every time I tried to slow my breathing down, or control it, the more I seemed to hyperventilate!
Then my friend read an article on Facebook about a running style called ‘Jeffing’ which was pioneered/ promoted by a marathon runner called Jeff Galloway (the ‘jeffing’ part comes from his first name). This is running your runs using strict timed intervals of running and walking. This seemed very similar to the C25 method of running but without regularly increasing the run part. We both decided to do a bit of online research to see if this was for us.
Looking into ‘Jeffing’ more, the more it seemed for me. Not only were normal people reporting faster run times for all distances, it also stated that it is better for you and reduces the probability of injury. I decided that running for 90 seconds and then walking for 30 seconds would be the ratio that I would try. I gave that a go and fell in love with it – it just seemed to click for me. Then I started to manage to get to around 4km regularly and it felt like I could have run for longer – it was time to Parkrun!
My friend and I met early, to make sure we didn’t get lost, for our first Parkrun. With our interval timer app set, we set off on what felt like an adventure. We seemed to keep catching a lady wearing a 50-milestone t-shirt and set her as our target. We didn’t catch her that day but the 50 t-shirt did become our long term goal.
I got the Parkrun bug from day one. Today I ran my 120th Parkrun, not at my ‘home’ Parkrun, but I braved another Parkrun with my 10-year-old daughter. I have run a few ‘tourist’ Parkruns, introduced a few people to Parkrun, met some lovely people there who have become my running buddies and taken my daughter to 9 of them. I’m not sure what I love about it; maybe it’s the social nature of running with 400 other locals; maybe it’s the feeling I get when I finish or the joy of soaking up the views around me.
Running has also helped manage some of my menopause symptoms. I had all the usual ones associated with the menopause – hot flushes, joint aches, restless sleep and general poor memory. Although I was on HRT (due to my age) some of the symptoms did stay – the night sweats and some joint pain. Since taking up running, my joint aches have gone, and the night sweats happen far less. I also feel far better and fitter now than I ever have done and this, I feel, is down to running regularly.
Another benefit I have found from running is that it helps with my mental health. Going running gives me an hour or so, to myself, in my own head. It gives me space to work through any issues or problems I have, find solutions and work out plans of action. I often run with friends and that gives me a chance to catch up and/or vent. It is also a great leveller – you remember that everyone has problems, some bigger, some less, but we are all trying to deal with life. I truly believe I am a much happier and more stable person due to my running.
As for ‘Jeffing’ – I still run using this method. I ‘jeff’ all my runs from 5k to half marathons and I am proud of all my times. Occasionally I have fully run some 5ks and 10ks, but I find that my knees and legs end up very sore afterwards. I have only suffered one injury which was due to running too soon after a sports massage, rather than waiting for my legs to recover. I honestly don’t think I could have run my half marathons without ‘jeffing’ – it means that I can keep up a consistent pace for a lot longer. It also gives you all the benefits of HIIT style workouts as your effort increases and decreases through the run/walk cycles.