Should You Jog Or Stand During Recovery Intervals

Should You Jog Or Stand During Recovery Intervals? A Complete Guide

“Should You Jog Or Stand During Recovery Intervals?” This question is a common one among runners, regardless of their experience level. Interestingly, different coaches provide varying responses.

While it’s essential to pace hard intervals correctly for an effective workout, one often overlooked aspect is the pacing of recovery intervals during interval training. As a coach, I’ve observed athletes lose momentum in interval workouts because they approach their recovery jogs too aggressively. It’s crucial to recognize that a recovery interval serves a specific purpose: allowing your heart rate and breathing rate to decrease deliberately between the main work intervals.

It’s worth noting that this discussion primarily pertains to interval training in the context of long-distance running. If you’re training for a short-distance or sprint event, recovery intervals may differ due to the involvement of the phosphocreatine system in energy production. The ATP-CP system requires more extended recovery periods, so sprinters often incorporate generous standing recoveries between intervals.


Active Recovery Versus Passive Recovery

Interval running offers three recovery methods: jogging, walking, or standing between the hard intervals.

Active recovery involves jogging or walking during the recovery intervals. It promotes blood flow, which helps eliminate fatigue-inducing metabolites like inorganic phosphate more rapidly. Additionally, jogging during recovery increases the overall aerobic demands of the workout. Even at a slow jog, your body continues to engage in oxidative phosphorylation for energy production.

Passive recovery, on the other hand, entails standing still during the recovery intervals. This approach allows your heart rate to decrease more quickly and facilitates the effective replenishment of phosphocreatine in your muscles, which serves as a source of energy for anaerobic running. However, some runners may experience muscle tightness during passive recovery.

The distinction between active and passive recovery goes beyond the physical realm. There are also mental differences in terms of perceived exertion and confidence-building. Knowing that you can complete a challenging workout without needing to hunch over or rest your hands on your knees between each interval can significantly boost your confidence.

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Choosing Between Jogging, Walking, or Standing During Speedwork Intervals

A 2022 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology delved into the effectiveness of active versus passive recovery during interval training. The researchers conducted a comparison involving various parameters, including blood lactate levels, oxygen consumption (VO2), rate of perceived exertion (RPE), heart rate, and countermovement jump, among runners who engaged in active jogging and those who opted for passive rest following 2-minute intervals performed at intensities exceeding 90% of VO2max, often referred to as the “red zone.”

The study revealed that both active and passive recovery led to a decline in neuromuscular response, as evidenced by changes in countermovement jump performance. Notably, the choice of recovery method did not significantly impact the total time spent at high-intensity levels; both groups accumulated equal amounts of time in the challenging intensity zone.

However, distinct differences emerged in oxygen consumption, blood lactate levels, and RPE between the two recovery groups. The active recovery group exhibited a higher mean oxygen consumption, indicating a slightly elevated aerobic stimulus. In contrast, the passive recovery group reached a higher peak oxygen consumption but spent less overall time in the “red zone.” Lactate levels, serving as a proxy measure for metabolites contributing to fatigue, decreased more significantly in the active recovery group. Nevertheless, the passive recovery group attained a higher peak oxygen consumption and reported a lower RPE for the entire session.

The choice of whether to jog, walk, or stand during recovery intervals ultimately hinges on your training objectives. Active recovery, owing to its higher mean oxygen consumption and prolonged exposure to the red zone, proves advantageous for endurance development. It may find particular relevance during high-intensity interval sessions that don’t push to near-maximal effort levels. Conversely, when operating close to maximal intensity, passive recovery gains favor due to its ability to reduce RPE while elevating peak oxygen consumption.

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In situations where lower RPE holds value, such as for novice runners aiming to ease into interval workouts, passive recovery or walking may prove beneficial. Additionally, during hot summer conditions when heat exacerbates perceived exertion, opting for walking or passive recovery can be a prudent choice.


What’s the Appropriate Pace for Recovery Intervals

A common error I often observe among runners is the tendency to run their recovery intervals too briskly. They maintain the same momentum from their previous work interval, neglecting the need to deliberately slow down. Alternatively, some runners aim to sustain a particular average pace, often driven by a desire to showcase their performance on platforms like Strava. However, pushing the pace during recovery intervals can lead to increased fatigue later in the workout.

It’s crucial to recognize that recovery intervals serve a specific purpose. Unless specified otherwise in your training plan, the primary objective is to lower your heart rate, stabilize your breathing rate, and aid in clearing accumulated metabolites. Slower pacing is more conducive to achieving these goals. To fully optimize your recovery intervals, you should run at a genuine recovery effort, which often feels akin to jogging or a gentle shuffle. Strive to run at a pace slower than your typical easy effort.

It’s essential to keep in mind that the recovery interval itself doesn’t drive the adaptation process; it’s the work interval that serves as the primary stimulus. As suggested by a 2019 review published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, the purpose of recovery intervals is to enable you to sustain the desired workload throughout the session. The higher the intensity of the work intervals, the slower the rest intervals may need to be to facilitate proper recovery. If you find it necessary to walk during recovery intervals to meet the desired workload, don’t hesitate to do so.

A reliable indicator of whether you are appropriately pacing your recovery intervals is your overall workout performance. If you encounter difficulties in completing the entire set of repetitions or experience a decline in speed as the workout progresses, it may be beneficial to further reduce the pace of your recovery intervals. (In cases where you struggle with hard workouts despite correctly paced recovery intervals, you might also want to evaluate whether you are pushing your speed workouts too aggressively.)

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Final Words – Is It More Beneficial to Jog or Stand During Recovery Intervals?

In conclusion, the choice between jogging, walking, or standing during recovery intervals in speedwork is a matter of careful consideration for runners of all levels. The decision often varies depending on individual goals and workout intensity. Active and passive recovery each offer distinct advantages, impacting parameters such as oxygen consumption, lactate levels, and perceived exertion.

For those seeking endurance development, active recovery, with its sustained exposure to high-intensity levels, proves beneficial. It’s particularly well-suited to high-intensity interval sessions that don’t reach near-maximal effort levels. Conversely, during near-maximal intensity workouts, passive recovery can reduce perceived exertion while enhancing peak oxygen consumption.

Novice runners looking to ease into interval workouts may prefer lower perceived exertion, making passive recovery or walking viable options. Additionally, in situations where heat exacerbates perceived exertion, opting for walking or passive recovery can be a prudent choice.

The key to effective recovery intervals lies in pacing. It’s crucial to recognize that these intervals serve a specific purpose: to lower heart rate, stabilize breathing, and aid in metabolite clearance. Running at a slower, genuine recovery effort—often resembling a jog or gentle shuffle—is recommended. Remember that the recovery interval itself doesn’t drive adaptation; it’s the work interval that serves as the primary stimulus. Adjusting the pace of recovery intervals to align with the workout’s intensity can help optimize performance and overall training progress.

Ultimately, the choice of recovery method and pace should align with your training goals and the demands of the specific workout. By making thoughtful decisions regarding recovery intervals, you can enhance the effectiveness of your speedwork and continue progressing toward your running objectives.

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