Q&A with Olympian Jeff Galloway!

Coach Casey · May 17, 2020

Charge Running had the pleasure of sitting down (virtually) with Olympian, and famed coach, Jeff Galloway to discuss his own running journey and success along with that of his Run/Walk/Run training method.

Below is a transcript of some of our FAVORITE parts of the interview covering Jeff’s start as a runner, his Olympic experiences, his famous training method, and some of his favorite things! You can watch the full, unedited interview in the video below. Enjoy!

An Interview with Jeff Galloway:

Coach Michelle Knafla

All right. So today we are with a very well known guest, a lifelong runner, and all American collegiate athlete, member of the 1972 Olympic team, and the creator of the run walk run method. I think you know his name already. Jeff Galloway. Thanks for being here, Jeff.

Jeff Galloway

Hey, great to be here.

Coach Michelle

We also have coach Amy, along with myself. And we’re going to be asking Jeff a few questions today that, you know, maybe you may be asking on your own end. Just questions that we’d love to have answered. And yeah, we’re stoked to be here. 

We’ll start with some basics. So where did you grow up and where do you live now?

Jeff Galloway

Well, my father was in the Navy until I was 13 years old. And that meant a lot of moving around. I went to 13 schools during my first seven years. And really never got into any form of sports or physical activity. As a matter of fact, I really hated it because when I would jump in with PE group, they usually had a lot more skills and conditioning than I did and exercise always hurt.

…Well, as soon as I got in with these runners, and we started talking and, and doing things together, telling jokes, I had friends, they were good friends, they were trustworthy friends, and it totally changed my life. I did not really show much promise in terms of competition. As a matter of fact, I worked hard for five years and it was only during my senior that I qualified to run in the Georgia State Championship. So I didn’t win any college scholarship. I went on to college at Wesleyan University, a highly academic school, and it had no college scholarships there. Ironically, in the class behind me, a guy who became my roommate, Amby Burfoot enrolled, and Amby also didn’t have any scholarship offers, but his senior year Amby won the Boston Marathon. 

Coach Michelle

He was really your roommate. How did you guys get paired up? That’s so random.

Jeff Galloway

…Most of the people in that era were working on the competitive angle and running faster at short distances in both Amby and I realized that we were not going to excel in the short distances that we had to move up. I was actually the first one to run a marathon. I ran my first marathon in the Atlanta marathon in 1963. And then he was the first one in our group to win Boston. But my senior year, we were joined by a third fella, who you’ve heard of, Bill Rogers. I mean, the three of us ended up a dream team at Wesleyan, a school that had 1200 students and no college scholarships, and we were there at the same time. It was a wonderful thing and we’ve been fast friends ever since.

Coach Michelle

Oh, no way. Oh my gosh, that’s so funny. I didn’t realize that it was you three.

Coach Michelle

Oh, I love that inspiration that comes from friends and just the group at random. Sounds like you had a really solid core group that kind of helped you shape your life.

Jeff Galloway

Well, there’s no doubt about it. And and I think the other aspect about the mental improvements, I didn’t realize, nobody realized back then. It was well known that in most high schools, the group that had the highest GPA in most high schools was cross country team, but it was not really understood why this was. When I did my research for my book, mental training. I discovered what it was and that is exercise in general, but endurance running to the highest level turns out a very important part of the brain. It’s the hippocampus. It’s the center for learning and for memory, and for new growth of brain cells. So you actually will get smarter as you continue to run.

Coach Amy Magdalein

I like that!

Coach Michelle

Gotta love having interviews with very, you know, intelligent people like us.

Coach Amy 

We run a lot, Jeff. So we’re both very, very smart…

Jeff Galloway

Well, just keep running. Yes!

On the 1972 Munich Olympics

Jeff Galloway

Well, I have no regrets and I’ll tell you to this day it gave me and still gives me just a great sense of having helped someone and helped our team too. That year actually, our coach Bill Bowerman from Oregon was given a lot of flack for scheduling the marathon trials, right at the end of the Olympic trials. And most of the experts who weighed in on that said, you’re not going to get a good marathon team when you do that. Well, those critics were wrong. And Bauer man was right. Our team in Munich had the best finish that any country has ever had and the Olympics first, fourth, and Jack [Bacheler] was ninth.

Coach Michelle

Wow. That was a really good year for running.

Jeff Galloway

It was a time when running was just starting to build a little bit and people were so interested in the marathon because of Frank [Shorter] winning the gold.

Coach Michelle

What shoes did you wear in the Olympics?

Jeff Galloway

I wore..well actually, my main shoe that I wore at that time was a shoe called the Nike Boston. It was a flat but it was a very well designed shoe by a good friend of mine, Jeff Hollister, but in any case, that was my favorite shoe.

Coach Michelle

Do you still have it?

Jeff Galloway

I don’t have that exact pair. But I do have an example of that model.

Coach Michelle

That’s so cool. It’s like something you’d go to a museum to see I feel like

Jeff Galloway

well actually in my Ansley Mall Phidippides store we have several of those museum type shoes. In there is the very first shoe that I wore in 1958 when I started running.

On the Galloway Run/Walk/Run training method

Jeff Galloway
Coach Michelle

So I think we can dive into the famous run walk run method, because I know so many runners have questions on that. I’ll kick us off on this one. What is, maybe put in a few sentences, what is the run, walk, run method?

Jeff Galloway

The run walk run method is a way that an individual can gain control over their training, avoid injuries be strong all the way to the end of long runs and also races and and recover very fast from long run so you don’t have to be out of commission. And the surprising thing is that that runners run faster when they put the walk breaks in right from the beginning the way that they should. And the reason why they run faster is they save the resources and the resources keep them from slowing down, which is the main reason why runner distance runners don’t achieve their goals in races.

Now, the other major thing about run walk run that you need to know is that this is not some thing that I came up with on a run the day before yesterday, I actually taught it in a beginning running class in 1974. I started using it almost daily, when people would come into my Phidippides store. And then when the former beginners started competing and started beating the veterans, the veterans wanted to use it too…

Coach Amy 

So is the method is it ideally for a specific group of people or can anybody use it?

Jeff Galloway

Well, most people are going to benefit from it. A lot of people don’t know this, but I ran my fastest marathon 2:16 and I actually put walk breaks in there for the first half of the marathon because I really did not feel good. The way I did it back then, that was 1980, I would run for a couple of miles and then grab some water and walk through the water stop. And I did that through well past that halfway point, and I ran my PR 2:16. There have been a few others who have run very fast below two hours and 30 minutes. And there have been more than 300 now who have broken three hours reported and broken three hours and they use my method. But they were not able to break three hours when they were running non stop…

Coach Michelle

That’s interesting. It sounds like really anyone can benefit from it, regardless of where they’re at with their running.

Jeff Galloway

Yes, the average improvement time in a marathon when non stop runners find the right run, walk, run is over 13 minutes faster with run, walk run. In a half marathon, the average improvement is over seven minutes.

Coach Michelle

I mean, that’s a selling point right there. So that brings up a good question. How does someone find their ideal Walk to run ratio.

Jeff Galloway

Just look at pace per mile and go to jeffgalloway.com. Or you can get my book on the subject, which is simply called Run, Walk, Run.

….

Coach Michelle

Okay. And then from from training, you’d kind of find kind of your ideal your magic mile pace. So how fast you should be running versus walking in those segments.

Jeff Galloway

Yes, the magic mile is a time trial that has a lot of data behind it to be able to predict what you’re all out potential would be in a variety of races during a season. So, the magic mile calculator is found on our website, you can go to Jeff galloway.com, pull up, magic mile section. And on that in that section is a computation function. You can plug in your magic mile time and it will tell you what your potential would be at a variety of different distances.

Coach Michelle

That’s helpful. Awesome.

Jeff Galloway

And that would also then give you the safe, long run pace per mile. And it would also give you the run, walk, run amounts based on what that pace would be.

On Jeff Galloway’s favorites…

Coach Michelle

Yeah, gosh, that’s really interesting. So, all right, Jeff, let’s go into your favorites. We all want to know, what is your favorite racing distance? I think I can guess

Jeff Galloway

It’s the marathon.

Coach Michelle

You want to take the next one, Amy?

Coach Amy 

So what is your favorite race and tell us just why you liked it so much?

Jeff Galloway

Well, it’s got to be my Jeff Galloway, Barb Galloway weekend in Atlanta in December. We have a convocation of people coming in from all over the world. And just a lot of great stories. So just a an upbeat atmosphere the whole weekend.

Jeff Galloway

It’s a 5K on Saturday, which is the 12th of December and then on Sunday, the 13th is a half marathon sponsored by Northside hospital.

Coach Michelle

What are your favorite running shoes?

Jeff Galloway

Well, I have been using for many years, the Asics shoes. Asics was one of my early choices when they were called Onitsuka Tiger shoes. But my son Weston has been a shoe design person for Asics. And he has very quickly found shoes that that really work well for me. So loyal to him, I’ve been running and still run in Asics.

Coach Amy 

Wow. So what about your favorite running mantra?

Jeff Galloway

I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. It really, it really relates to a whole series of challenges that you might have, but it empowers me.

On the mental side of running…

Coach Amy 

So I gotta do this real fast, a little off script here. But you told us the other day a little bit about a dirty little trick that you use. Do you mind sharing that little dirty little trick?

Jeff Galloway

Oh yeah, there are a lot of them that you’ll find in my book Mental Training, a lot of dirty tricks. But the whole concept here is that if you will, if you’re having motivation issues, particularly in the last half of a workout or race, it’s often the motivation issues are often due to the fact that you’re letting your monkey brain be in control. And that’s your ancient subconscious brain, but we often let it be in control over our running. So the way that you can get out of that is to have cognitive strategies, and one of my most popular cognitive strategies, is dirty tricks, these are very specific quick fixes that are done to get you to move into the human brain by having a visualization here.

So let me tell you what one of them is. One of my favorite dirty tricks is the giant, invisible rubber band. In the latter stages of a race, if someone has the audacity to pass me, then I get out my giant, invisible rubber band and I lasso him with it. And I’m cognitively imagining how the rubber bands going over their head and around their waist so that I can cinch it up and let them pull me to the finish line.

What’s happening here is that by being cognitive and by being mindful and focusing on specific thoughts, I am activating my human brain. And the human brain, when it’s activated, will override the monkey brain. So the hormones that had been produced because of the monkey brain was when you defaulted earlier in the race, or at some point to let the monkey brain be in control. What happens when the stress builds up in a race is that the monkey brain starts releasing negative hormones, so you feel less and less like, like pushing it and sometimes you don’t even feel like finishing. But by activating your human brain with something like a giant, invisible rubber band, while you are visualizing that the hormones go away, because the human brain overrides the monkey brain and does away with those hormones.

Coach Michelle

I have a great visualization of this. Did you do this in the two mile race in the state championships in high school?

Jeff Galloway

No, I did not come up with some of these things until I was actually training for the Olympics. But I will tell you that in that race, what really pulled me through was the cognitive thoughts about how far I had to go, the calculations there of, all of that is human brain stuff. So I was during that last lap, when I made my move, I was getting rid of the negative hormones that had been building up before. And that’s the power of these mental training methods.

Coach Amy 

So really what you’re saying is like, when you’re tired, your body is tired, but it’s really more a mental thing than physical to actually get to the finish. And if you can just change that mental, you know, how you’re thinking, that you can override the way that your body is feeling?

Jeff Galloway

Oh, yeah. So I mean, in the long distance race, you’re going to reach a point of fatigue but the point is that you have a whole lot of resources there that can still pull you through if you’ve done the training and your pace has been realistic and the weather’s been okay. And so in most cases, people give up on their goal before they need to. And this is what the mental techniques in my mental training book help people to do.

On pre and post race fueling…

Jeff Galloway
Coach Michelle 

I love that. I’m going to a couple more favorites before we get to a couple closing questions. What is your favorite pre race meal?

Jeff Galloway

Well, I have used for many years the original formula of power bar. But these days, that original formula is hard to find so I I don’t necessarily eat anything before a lot of races, but I do drink a drink during the race itself to keep the blood sugar level up. I drink Coca Cola throughout all of my marathons, because I’ve found it to be the best blood sugar booster that has worked for me. I used that when I was at the world class level.

Coach Amy 

You carry that with you? Because most marathons I know, I had a friend tell me that they gave away Coca Cola at the Berlin Marathon and I was like “really?” but I’ve never seen that at another marathon. So you must carry that.

Jeff Galloway

It’s it’s given out a lot of foreign marathons. And one of the main reasons is that elite athletes first found that it really worked better than just about anything, but I do carry it with me.

Coach Amy 

So you like pop it early and get rid of the fizzy part.

Jeff Galloway

No, I shake it up the night before.

Coach Amy 

You just don’t open it right because then it’ll be like all over the place.

Jeff Galloway   

Well it’s a technique it what you do is you shake it up and you let it sit and then about a minute or so later, you release it and shake it up again and it takes about 10 minutes to de-fizz a 20 ounce bottle of Coca Cola.

Coach Amy 

Now we’ve gotten through the race, we’ve finished the marathon. So what is your favorite post race meal?

Jeff Galloway

Oh, the important post-race meals within 30 minutes of finishing. You’ll see that in my book Nutrition for Runners. The reality is that you have a 30 minute window to restock your muscle glycogen and if you do so, you get a lot of benefits. So what I do is I usually have an extra dose of my Coca Cola or some sugar beverage for the reloading.

Coach Amy 

So that’s enough just a dose of the Coca Cola within that 30 minute window is enough to restore those glycogen levels.

Jeff Galloway

The research shows that you need 300 calories a day. After either a half marathon or anything longer than that, so even in a marathon, you only need 300 calories within a 30 minute window, because the stomach just can’t process the stuff that quickly.

Coach Amy 

You really just need a 12 ounce Coke then and you’re good to go.

Jeff Galloway

That’s correct.

Coach Michelle

I love that you look at it from the science perspective of like, even though you just burned all these calories, what’s the best thing that I can do for my body to make sure that I’m replenishing it in the proper timeframe to make sure you’re getting the max benefits that you can. So that’s kind of a cool answer that you don’t really hear a lot of.

Jeff Galloway

Well, when I first started coaching folks back in 1970, I took on the obligation to give the very best advice to the people that I coach and so that put me on a track of looking into the research and also finding experts in the field that could help me out when I couldn’t find the answers to certain things. And I continue to do that to this day.

On advice for runners…

Coach Amy 

So, obviously we have a lot of people that are new runners and seasoned runner, so what would advice would you give them to someone interested in starting the “run, walk” whether they’re a beginner or if they’re, you know, looking for another way to like, you know, you say to run till they’re 100.

Jeff Galloway

Well, there’s some simple guidelines that are free and available at jeffgalloway.com. And they’ll it’ll go through the method simply and, and give you the guidelines there. If you’re looking for a textbook, the Run, Walk, Run book will will really help and, and then our wonderful retreats, go into depth on these things.

…The way that we start people off is to run just a few seconds and follow it with a 30 second walk break. So you only run five seconds, seven seconds or 10, if you’ve not been running before, but follow it up with a 30 second walk, break and you keep doing that so that you don’t get any stress build up and the body will adapt.

Coach Michelle

That’s kind of cool. It’s not like when you’re first getting into running. It’s important not to go all out right away. I think a lot of people are intimidated because they think they have to run for so long. They see all these people running multiple miles, it’s like, “No!”, just start slow. Gradually increase your body up to what it can handle and I think that’s a really good thing for people to hear.

Jeff Galloway

Well, yes, and the fact is that there’s a lot of bad advice out there. That’s another reason why I take on as a mission, the information that works for people.

Coach Michelle

I love that.

Jeff Galloway

Well, I’m looking forward to doing our lesson and coaching session on the [May] 17th. And so it but I did want to say that if anybody in the audience has any individual questions, I do take them. You can go via email at jeffgalloway.com there’s a free email service there.

Coach Michelle

Oh, I love that. Yeah, if any runners have questions for you, they’ll ask you in the chat during the run too so it’ll be a really cool, dynamic experience that so many runners are looking forward to.

Jeff Galloway

Well, good to do this with you. Y’all put together a good product. Good to work with you, Michelle and Amy.

Coach Michelle

Thank you, Jeff.

Coach Amy 

Bye guys, thank you. Bye, Jeff.

Jeff Galloway

Bye. Take care.

If you’re looking to train using the Galloway method as well as other run training methods, join Charge Running and get started with live, virtual coaching from professional trainers!

Jeff Galloway

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