I once had this teammate in high school who frequently hijacked our workouts. Our coach would prescribe 8x600m at mile race pace and “Steve” would do the first one in all-out 600m race pace. Steve would then skip the 2nd and 3rd intervals before hopping back in for number 4 or 5 and once again dragging us along to inaccurate splits. Turns out, the rest of the team and Steve were doing two separate workouts.
Fast forward to current times…
Whether on Facebook, Twitter, Athleticore, or our personal running logs, we all record the data that we derive from our workouts. For a seasoned runner, the daily ritual of transcribing times from a training run into some type of diary is a part of an extended cooldown. When people post the results of their workouts publically, they often look something like this: 3x800m followed by 3x400m in 2:35, 2:31, 2:28, 69, 68, 68. This is good data and if it’s posted on Facebook, I “like” it. If it’s tweeted, I admire that you summarized your entire workout in 140 characters or fewer.
To the Legion I’m proposing a second layer of data to log: Recovery Time. Of course, these times are subordinate to our interval splits, but if given more than 140 characters, I suggest that we all start keeping track of them. Let’s take the above example. If you run the 3×800, 3×400 workout with 60 seconds between each interval that looks different from doing the workout with 6 minutes recovery between each and that looks different still from taking 2 minutes between the 800s, 45 seconds between the 400s, and 10 minutes between the 800s and 400s. Readily apparent, it becomes, that logging just your splits gives only a peephole glimpse into the training session.
Attentiveness to recovery time is also important because it (along with the pace of the repeat) dictates the energy system stimulated. General rule: lots of reps at moderate intensity with limited recovery in the middle of a training cycle and limited reps at high intensity with lots of recovery at the end of a training cycle.
When we are in the middle stages of a training program, we want to do lots of intervals with limited recovery time (read: approximately 1/3 of the time needed for complete recovery) because this allows us to improve multiple systems, aerobic and VO2 Max capacity, for example. A wide variety of workouts exist to train these energy systems that range from repeat miles (5 or more) with 1-3 minutes of rest to 4-5 sets of 4x200m with under 1 minute of rest between repetitions and 4 -5 minutes between sets. Do these types of workouts well before a goal race. The takeaway: time your recovery during your workouts. Don’t wait until you feel ready for the next one. Don’t start yucking it up with your training partners. You’ll reap an added bonus: the workout is done that much faster.
As a goal race nears, cut the volume of repeats and increase the speed and recovery time. These sessions demand energy recruitment from both aerobic and anaerobic resources. A runner may only do 2 repeats in this session, but they should be all out. Recovery can be upwards of 20-30 minutes between repeats. Sample workouts include: 2x1200m at mile race pace with 25 minutes recovery, 3x1500m at 5000m race pace with 8-15 minutes between each, or doubling at a BU mini-meet Note: recovery should be active and include light jogging, dynamic stretching, trotting to the nearest stall to “go the distance,” etc.
Remember my teammate Steve? He ran every workout like it was the last (in his macrocycle). Not a good approach for the long term and his penchant for low reps and lots of recovery for every session led, in my humble opinion, to unfulfilled potential. And that’s so not on The Level.
Kevin Balance is a USATF Level 1 Certified Coach and information from that curriculum was used in the compilation of this article. This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Level Renner. Next issue comes out in a matter of days. Not a subscriber yet? It’s easy and free, and subscribers are eligible to win sweet gear each month. Sign up now (upper right hand side of the screen).