Running: Calculating rest-to-work ratio on speed days

Share this article:
Running: Calculating rest-to-work ratio on speed days

Most runners who are training for a race – whether a 5K or a marathon – follow some type of training plan. The plan likely calls for long days, rest days and speed days. The speed workouts could be tempo, or comfortably hard, runs, mile repeats or 200-meter repeats. While most know how many repeats they want to do and what pace they want to run, few think about the rest between repeats.

How much rest do you need? You need enough so that you can recover enough to finish the workout and run each repeat hard. It seems logical that shorter repeats would require less rest than longer repeats. But what if you were running the 200 meters as fast as you could and running the miles at such a pace that you weren’t getting tired? Would you need as much rest for the miles?

Runners use varying amounts of rest between hard repeats, no matter the distance. Some prefer to use a 1:1 rest-to-work ratio, some like shorter amounts of rest while others like more. Exercise physiologists have studied the relationships between rest intervals and work rate and how they predict or affect endurance performance. They have answers to how much rest you should take and use fancy words for training such as lactate threshold or VO2max. The problem is their published amounts of rest or rest-to-work ratios might not work well for you.

I need more rest than the experts say I should take. If I do mile repeats (training for distance races, I like to run five to seven of them) and only take a small amount of rest, I might feel like crud the rest of the day – and that is if I finish the workout. What is more likely to happen is I will only finish two or three repeats because I am tired and did not get enough recovery between miles. Or I would have to slow to the point that the workout would be diminished.

I have done workouts with people on the track who do a half-lap jog as their rest interval no matter the repeat distance. That is simply not enough rest for me unless I am running quarter-mile repeats.I prefer a rest-to-work ratio of 2:3. If I run for three minutes, I want to rest fortwo . When I get closer to a goal race and am in the competition phase of my training cycle, then I take a little less rest but not much. Through trial and error over many years of running, I have found that this is the right approach for me.

How much rest should you take between repeats on your speed days? That answer is for you to find out. Try different rest intervals and see what works best. If after a rest interval you are too tired to continue the workout, then you need more rest. If you feel fresh during each repeat, then you are taking too much rest.

Paying attention to your body over time will give you the answer. Good luck with the puzzle!

Manning is a former member of the nU.S. Mountain Running Team and a

math teacher at Fountain Valley School. Read his columns on the first Thursday

of each month in Out There.

Leave a Reply