“I’m almost finished the couch to 5k but I really miss the walk breaks you get in the early weeks. There’s less to look forward to.”

This is a photo of me after my Wednesday morning run. I started running in the late nineties, because it was pretty much the only fitness show in town in those days. When I had small children, running was my headspace and I ran 14 marathons in about five years.

A bone spur and Achillies tendinopathy derailed me, and I went for five years without running: but thanks to a truly amazing physiotherapist (I found her after many, many lesser physios) I’m back to running. There are a few differences, though: firstly, In the perimenopausal years, I’m more interested in short and sweet runs than in marathons, because they’re better for my body and my hormone production. And secondly, this time, I’m Jeffing.

Jeffing is interval training, named after a running coach and 1972 Olympian called Jeff Galloway. There are no strict rules – everyone can find their own way to Jeff. This week for me this week it’s currently 4 minutes of running and 30s of walking until I’ve amassed 5k in distance, but I vary it depending on how I feel. Maybe it’s a 30-minute run and a 2-minute walk, maybe it’s 30s run and 2-minute walk.

Who can benefit from Jeffing?

  • In perimenopause, long steady-state cardio is less useful than interval training, because it’s stressful on your body and promotes a cortisol response which doesn’t promote helpful hormone production.
  • Some people don’t have the patience for long steady-state runs, and interval training is more fun.
  • If you like a sociable run, Jeffing leaves time for chats and selfies.

Before you say ‘well, that’s cheating’, listen up to some of the benefits of Jeffing:

  • It protects your joints and tissues because it allows you to recover faster
  • It makes you faster. Even for someone with a 3-hour-30-minute marathon (which is a pretty fast marathon), gains from Jeffing can be as great at 13 minutes across the 26.2 miles.
  • It’s mentally different. If like me you like to have a wee break to look forward to, the thought of 30 continuous minutes might make you stay in bed, Jeffing can be the thing that helps you get it done (and the best sort of exercise is the kind that gets done!)

If the thought of running makes you feel unwell, Jeffing won’t change that for you – and that’s fine because there are many other ways to move your body, the art is to find the one you love. But if like me, running calls to you, don’t feel you have to run the whole way.

Make it fun, make it a Jeff.

Elspeth Alexandra - Women's Health Coach in Edinburgh

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