Stress and Rest, this cycle is not only essential to balance when looking at training as a whole, but also within individual workouts. The designated rest portion(s) within a workout must be purposefully planned so that athletes are able to successfully stress at the suggested specific intensity (pace, HR, power, RPE, etc.). In this article, rest is synonymous with recovery.
The ultimate goal of training is to have it translate into a better performance on race day- faster race time, higher placing, etc. During training, spending time at various intensities along with correlating rest allows athletes to prepare for a race and its different requirements for success including pace variations (race pace, faster than, etc.), fatigue by product processing/removal (specifically lactate metabolism, mental toughness training, maintaining form at different intensities and fatigue levels, and over various terrain (hills, grass, track, etc). Specifically thinking of an interval training session, there must be planned recoveries between the doses of intensity. During these recoveries, several things happen physically:
– Heart Rate decreases
– Body Temperature decreases
– Lactate and by products of fatigue are processed
– Breathing Rate/Rhythm decreases
– Parasympathetic Nervous System activated
– ATP-CP and Anaerobic Energy Systems begin recovery process
This break also allows a mental refresh as well. For further reading on this topic, check out What to Focus On.
A general rule of thumb- as intensity of an interval is increased, required rest afterward increases as well. There are some instances where this doesn’t exactly follow- the time in the season the workout is performed, athlete’s individual strengths and weaknesses, environment, goal for the session, etc.
Every workout an athlete completes can have 3 types of rest within:
Steady state workouts. Think the typical 5 mile zone 2 Heart Rate run, long run, etc.
Maximal all-out efforts. Think Sprinters on a track team. Complete rest between intervals allows fatigue by products to be completely processed and cleared. As well as the ATP-CP and Anaerobic energy systems can refresh and reload.
Typical endurance interval training. With incomplete rest, not all fatigue by products are able to be processed and the different energy systems cannot be completely refreshed.
Within Incomplete Rest there are two different categories, each with a different purpose and function: Passive and Active.
Passive Recovery meaning very little movement, the focus is on trying to be as completely recovered as possible before the next interval. These are generally used for faster intervals as it allows for a more complete recovery so as to stress at a similar high level again. Athletes generally stand around at the start/finish line with passive recovery.
Active Recovery meaning moving around once the interval has been completed. There are several variations of Active Recovery each with its own purpose and function:
- Walking- not completely passive recovery but fairly close. The goal here is to keep moving so that the fatigue by products are able to be processed quickly and efficiently.
- Jog- An easy trot pace, faster than walking, but nowhere near as fast as the completed interval. Again the focus here is to keep moving so that the fatigue by products are able to be processed quickly and efficiently.
- Specific Pace– Faster than a jog, this is a pace that is closer to completed interval pace. Targeting one’s Lactate Threshold pace for the recovery and a faster pace for the interval is a great session in helping your body better handle and process lactate as a fuel source. An example of this is 4 miles straight broken down into 800 at 13.1 RP and 800 at 10k RP. Due to the recovery portion being very incomplete, the intensity of the focused intervals must be decreased so as to successfully handle the workload.
- Non-Sport Specific Lactate Producing Exercises– These are exercises that target muscles not mainly utilized while running or used in a different way while running. The goal here is to fatigue these muscles to produce lactate and by doing so, it helps your body better handle and process lactate as a fuel source when you begin the next interval. An example of this is doing various body weight exercises between intervals of running. These can include: push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, core focused exercises, etc. Again, due to the recovery portion being very incomplete, the intensity of the focused intervals must be decreased so as to successfully handle the workload.
There are numerous ways to incorporate different recoveries within a workout, including combining different types within the same workout. One way to do this rounds of sets of intervals. For example:
- 3 rounds of 4×400 at 5k Race Pace with :30 passive rest after each, 400 active recovery jog between each round
- 2 rounds of 6×300 at 2 mile Race Pace with :45 active recovery jog back to the start line, 4 minutes passive recovery between rounds
Again, the general rule of thumb- as interval intensity is increased, required rest afterward increases as well. As with all of the workouts athletes complete, the closer race day comes, the more the workouts should prepare athletes for the demands of the race (SAID Principle). Manipulating the recovery within a workout is one way to better help your athletes prepare to race to the best of their ability.