rest-button.pngIn a collaborative effort with Scott over at Straight to the Bar, we wrote about rest for the month of October. This is the final article in our series. There will be a link to each topic at the bottom of this article.

The easiest way to time your rest is with a sports watch or stop watch. You can state before your workout how much rest that you want to allow yourself before starting your next set or repeat. This will allow you to accomplish various goals during your workout. The manner in which I time my rest depends greatly upon what type of workout that I am doing.

If I am running an interval workout, say on a track or other measured course, then I will usually save my time from my warm ups and cool down seperately from the workout itself. I will then use the lap timer to alternate between the interval time and the rest time, and will try to keep straight which is which when I am recording the workout later. For example, I might see something along the lines of 2:37, 1:05, 2:33, 1:20, 2:29, 1:15, 2:25 for a 4×800 meter hill workout where the italic times represent the rest intervals. My watch would not differentiate between them, but I can usually keep them straight in my head.

If I am running a fartlek style run, then I normally include my warmup and cool down as part of the lap count. I would usually run twelve to fifteen minutes for a warm up, and then 3 minutes on and 1 minute off, for example. Sometimes I will not bother doing lap counts but will instead using the minutes to figure out whether I am supposed to be going fast or at a normal pace and which repeat I am on, but that involves a lot more thinking than pushing the lap button on the watch. For those types of workouts, I do not usually record my actual time for each split, since I am running hard for a pre-ordained amount of time rather than for a set distance.

At the gym, I usually do not worry about how long it takes me to do any particular exericise. Instead, I worry about how much time I rest between each exercise. As such, as soon as I finish my set or superset and I am planning on taking rest, I will hit the lap button. When my set rest interval is reached, I begin the next set without bothering to push the button again. This allows me to get ready to begin the next set so that I can start the actual work after the rest period ends rather than having to push a button and then grab a bar in order to start the set. Timing your rest intervals this way is much easier than glancing at your watch or a clock and trying to remember when you finished the last set and are ready to start the next one. I used to do it that way, but no more.

Now that you know how to time your rest with a watch, you need to consider how long that rest should be.

Short rest can be used to keep yourself from fully recovering during your workout. You will be able to recoup a little strength and attack your next set, but you will be training your body to do work through exhaustion which can help build your endurance. Short rest is usually considered 30 seconds or less, but can be up to around a minute depending upon the type of workout and the shape you are in.

Longer rest can be used to more fully recover. This will allow you to run faster or lift more weight in subsequent sets and repeats, and will work more towards building larger or stronger muscles. Longer rest is usually around 1 to 5 minutes.

Rest can also be accomplished by doing some sort of alternative workout that involves a different muscle group than the set you just completed. For more information about that, you can see the first article about active vs passive rest.

You should also consider whether you need the same amount of rest throughout your workout. A few basic timing strategies that you could consider would be:

  • Uniform Rest: Every rest interval is of the same duration as every other rest interval.
  • Increasing Duration: Rest intervals get longer as your workout progresses. As you get tired, you get more rest. This works especially well in aerobic workouts where you are trying to build endurance or burn fat.
  • Decreasing Duration: Rest intervals get shorter as your workout progresses. Early in your workout you will get plenty of rest, but as you progress through the workout you force your body to work on less and less rest in order to simulate competition and to force your muscles to work harder. This works especially well in anaerobic workouts where you are trying to build pure power or speed.
  • Matched Duration: Rest intervals are dependant upon the type of exercise you just completed and will change throughout your workout. The best example of this is when running a ladder workout on a track; you will not need as much rest between the shorter legs of the workout as you will after the longer legs. For most ladder workouts, you will probably begin the workout with an increasing duration of rest, but end the workout with a decreasing duration of rest.

I hope that you have found our series on rest this month helpful. If you have any questions or want us to further explore a topic, feel free to email myself or to email Scott. Alternatively, you can leave a comment or question on any of our articles from the series. Next month we will be exploring sports injuries.