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Running Intervals – How Much Rest You Need Between Interval Workouts

Running interval workouts two to three times a week is a great way to increase your overall fitness and speed. However, the length of the interval, how many, and how fast you run will largely depend on the event you are training towards or the goal you have set yourself.

The rest between each interval (interval recovery), is often overlooked as something unimportant. However, recovery is just as important as the interval itself. The recovery time can affect benefits gained and physiological systems targeted, and if tweaked correctly can have a large impact on the intensity of the workout.

In this article, we discuss running intervals and how much rest you need when doing 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1000m (1 km) intervals.

How Much Rest Should You Take During Your Interval Workouts?

The rest you take between intervals (regardless of the interval length) matters as it can have a large effect on your workout as it modifies what physiological systems are targeted and what benefits are gained from the session.

Shorter rest periods between intervals increase the intensity of a workout. This is because, during each interval, the intensity will slowly ramp up, making it more intense as you get through each interval. The intensity will also become harder because the body is not getting a complete recovery, as your heart rate will continue to remain high between intervals.

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However, shorter recovery periods can also be used during tempo runs. Adding in short recovery periods throughout a tempo run will allow you to run more volume while maintaining intensity.

Adding longer recovery periods to your intervals will allow a full recovery. Your heart rate will have time to drop below 120bpm which means the interval intensity will ramp up much slower than a shorter recovery. This also means you are more likely to be able to hold speed throughout the workout.

Generally, longer recovery periods are used when you are doing longer intervals or very demanding ones like race pace efforts (at or faster than your goal race pace). This means the more taxing the interval is, the more recovery is needed.

Below is a simple guide on how much rest you should take between different distances:

 

How Much Rest Between 100m Intervals

Since 100m intervals are close to maximum speed, the intensity is super high. This means your recovery period should last between 4 to 5 minutes. Having a long rest between 100m intervals will improve your ability to handle the high percentage of maximum speed in the workout.

 

How Much Rest Between 200m Intervals

Depending on your workout goal, rest between each 200m interval can vary between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. A Shorter recovery period is used when the 200m intervals are run at 3km pace or slower. When doing the 200m repeats at 800m or 1500m intervals a longer recovery period is needed, which can vary from 60 seconds up to 2 minutes.

 

How Much Rest Between 400m Intervals

Depending on the speed you are running the 400m intervals at, your recovery time can vary between 60 seconds and 2 minutes. If you are running 400m repeats at your 5km race pace, you should take at least 30-60 seconds between each interval. If you are doing 400m repeats at 3km pace or faster, you will need slightly more recovery. In this case, try to have at least 60-90 seconds of recovery planned.

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Marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge often includes 400m repeats into his training plan a few times a month. His workouts consist of 25 to 30 400m repeats at 62-64 seconds. His typical recovery time is between 30-60 seconds. However, this varies depending on what part of his training cycle he is in.

 

How Much Rest Between 800m Intervals

As we have already talked about, the longer the interval is, the more recovery is needed. That’s why it is recommended that you take between 60 and 90 seconds of recovery between each interval when doing an 800m interval workout.

However, if you are a beginner attempting to do 800m intervals for the first time, we recommend you extend this recovery period to 3 minutes. Then as you become more adjusted to running these intervals, you can decrease the recovery period to 90 secs or less.

 

How Much Rest Between 1 Km (1000m) Intervals

Just like 800m intervals, 1 km intervals will need more recovery time. The recovery needed between each 1 km interval should last between 60secs and 2 minutes. However, just like 800m intervals, this can be extended if you are new to running this length of intervals.


Examples of Interval Workouts and Recovery Periods

Below are some interval workouts for 5km. These can help you see how the recovery periods are implemented into the interval correctly.

400m Intervals
The workout: After a 10-15 minute warm-up, do three sets of 4x 400m 3 x (4 x 400m) at your 1500m to 3000m race pace. After each 400m interval, take 30 seconds recovery and take 2 minutes between sets. This 400m interval is a great example of a workout for 5k that incorporates short rest.

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1000m Intervals
The workout: Warm up for at least 10 minutes and then complete 8 x 1000m at a slightly faster speed than your 10k race pace. After each 1km, take 60-90 seconds recovery. This is an example of an interval session with medium-length rest.

3000m Intervals
The workout: Warm up for 10-15 minutes and then do 3x3km at your half marathon pace. Take 5 minutes of recovery between each interval. This is a prime example of a longer interval workout that requires a longer recovery time.

 

Final Words

There is no set-in-stone way to calculate your recovery. In general, if you are looking for a more intense interval workout and speed is not a prime factor, reduce the recovery time between intervals. If you are aiming to focus on speed, you will need to allow the body a longer recovery time so you can maintain the chosen speed for the entire interval workout.

If you are unsure how long your recovery should be, or how fast you should run, reach out to a running coach. They can help design a range of running intervals that are adapted to your goals, fitness level, and your current speed.