Sunday, July 17, 2022

Keep Jogging Or Rest?

Picture by Richard Seow
For those of you old enough to remember former Singapore runner, Syed Ahmad Taha - he's the last Singaporean runner to run the 10,00m on the track in under 33 mins before Soh Rui Yong in 2012, and Melvin Wong in 2015 at the Singapore SEA Games. Syed ran the 10,000m in 32:41 min in 1990.

I remember watching him do interval training (the original HIIT) at the old National Stadium back in 1988. When I was a teenage runner, those intervals we did certainly did not have such a fancy name like HIIT. You run 15 intervals or repetitions of 400m with a one minute rest in between or the coach will say run 6 x 1km going every 5 minutes (meaning if you run your kilometer in 3:50 min, you get 1:10 min rest before starting again).

Syed Ahmad Taha was doing 25 x 400m with a 60 seconds rest and he would be lying on the track recovering while you could see his heart thumping away. He would spring back up as his coach told him to get ready for the next rep. No super shoes, no super spikes back then in 1990. Respect!

A quick question for all runners before reading the rest of this article. During your track intervals training, do you normally continue to jog/ run after the interval or just rest before starting the next rep?

Well, no prizes for guessing that this post compares active recovery (jog/ run) versus passive recovery (lying down or slow walk) between repeats during interval training.

The study had well trained runners do 4x 2:00 minute at their maximum aerobic speed at an outdoor track, with a 2 minute rest or 2 minute jogging between the intervals.

Resting (rather than jogging during the rest period) enabled the runners to work harder and spend more time at peak VO2. This is the whole point of interval training, to spend more time running in the 90-100 percent VO2 max region. The rest allowed the runners to suffer more. Perceived effort by the runners after each run was also lower with rest in between. The researchers concluded that complete rest is preferable for this type of workout. 

Some points to note. The runs were done at identical running speed. The runners may be able to run faster if they were allowed to run the interval at their own pace with a jog recovery since jogging (low intensity exercise) keeps the blood flowing, which eliminates lactic acid quicker to enable you to go faster at the next rep).

Lactate (or lactic acid) levels were only measured after the workout was over, lactate levels were significantly higher (6.93 vs 6.24 mmol/ L) while the runners rested. 

The question I'm pondering on is whether to make your workout harder or easier? Is standing still to rest better since your muscles are filled with lactic acid and you get to practice running in that state? 

Or is jogging better since you can train your body to eliminate lactic acid quicker form your bloodsteam and thus enabling you to run faster. Perhaps, you can do complete rest while training for your next race this year and do the jogging rest for the same race next year and see which gives a better race timing. Definitely a good study topic for researchers.

If your goal is to run each rep as quickly as possible, then you are better off resting or just walking a little, if the recovery time is a minute or under since resting helps to restore phosphocreatine, which fuels your sprints and the starting stages of your longer runs. (This is why some athletes that require frequent sprints in the sport - hockey, basketball, football etc take creatine) which can be a separate post.

However if your rest period is 2 minutes or longer, light jogging may possibly help you run faster since you are actively clearing lactic acid and other metabolites.


Sanchez-Otero T, Tumil JL, Boullosa D et al (2022). Acive Versus Passive Recovery During An Aerobic Interval Training Session In Well-trained Runners. Euro J Appl Physiol. 122(5): 1281-1291. DOI: 10.1007/s00421-022-04926-2.

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