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Rest Periods between Intervals

To become stronger and faster, athletes use a technique called interval training, in which they exercise very intensely, rest and then alternate intense bursts of exercise and rest until their muscles start to feel heavy. You can apply this principle to your own exercise program, but the rest period between intervals is not the same for every sport.

Rest periods are different for runners and weightlifters. Runners run intervals as fast as they can and recover enough to run the same fast pace several times. Research shows that runners need very short recoveries between intervals, usually only about 30 seconds. So a runner may run a quarter mile 12 times, averaging one minute, with a 110-yard slow jog between each. However, weight lifters need much longer recoveries between hard sets, at least two and a half minutes.

Runners become short of breath and feel a burning in their muscles when lactic acid starts to accumulate in muscles. It takes only a few seconds for a trained athlete to recover from hard running and clear lactic acid, so runners usually need short 30 second recoveries between each hard run. On the other hand, weight lifters feel a burning caused by a tearing of the muscle fibers and it can take a much longer time for their pain to disappear so they can lift very heavy weights again.

Checked 8/31/11

May 11th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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