Coach Mike Mead

December 2013

Are You Getting Enough Rest?

Whether you run, walk, or even if you never exercise, over the years we have all likely been posed the question, “Are you getting enough rest?” It may have been your mother concerned if you are getting adequate rest because “you look a little tired.” It could be your doctor asking you on a visit because you’ve been battling an illness. It could be your significant other asking about your health and welfare.

But if you are a runner, you may have been asked this question by your coach about the amount of rest you are getting on a regular basis, or after a hard run or workout. Rest is important! Runners need recovery after a tough run for the body to rebuild and get stronger. Of course, this is on the assumption that one is the type of runner that trains regularly throughout the year and not seasonally. In the latter case, you may have had too much rest and not enough running to see consistent results.

However, my question, “Are you getting enough rest,” is asking if you are allowing adequate recovery during interval and speed training. Most of the time, recovery between intervals should be minimal so that you develop good speed endurance.

The general rule of thumb on rest between intervals is (if you do not have a heart rate monitor) check your heart rate (count the number of beats in six seconds and multiply by 10) and when it is between 120-130 beats per minute (bpm), start the next interval.

But there are times – at the beginning of intervals in a training cycle and late in the season of racing -- I believe runners need to take adequate rest between intervals to get stronger, faster, and build confidence. The best example to illustrate my point is mile repeats.

If you are on a 12-week cycle of intervals and are starting out doing 4 x 1 mile, you may want to use a 1:1 ratio in recovery. That is, say you run a mile in 7:00. Take seven minutes of rest to do the next interval mile in the hopes of hitting 7:00 again.

My logic is runners need to have time goals and early on they may not have the stamina to hit 7:00 with, say, three minute rest between each interval. If one were to do this workout four times during the 12-weeks, the next two attempts might involve shorter rest (3-5 minutes) between intervals. On the last session doing this specific workout during the cycle, one would hope the 7:00 mile goal would improve to, say a 6:30 mile per interval. If one is tuning up for the big race, maybe the goal is faster than race pace of a 6:00 mile. You’ll want a little more rest between intervals again, so in the example, 3 x 6:00 mile with six minute rest.

The same would be true for shorter intervals like 400m. With the shorter intervals, one might start out doing them at cruise pace with short rest, then gradually build up speed and shorten rest as the training cycle takes its course. Using the above mile intervals goal pace, a runner might start at 10-12 x 400m with a goal pace of 2:00 per interval (cruising at 8:00 mile pace) with short rest of 30-45 seconds between intervals.

As one works at running the 400m at faster than race pace using the above example, the workout might look like this:

• 10-12 x 400m @ 1:30/400m with 2:00 rest between each interval.

By taking a little more rest, the goal times for the workout will be attained. Distance runners should never get to the point where they are taking full recovery between intervals because it defeats the purpose in building speed strength and endurance.

So, as you plan your next training cycle, be sure that you factor in rest and recovery, not just after a tough workout, but also during a tough workout, too.