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Posted on March 20, 2013

There is an ideal intensity for every type of workout.  Long runs done to increase your aerobic ability should be done at a nice easy effort level.  Drills such as tempo running, or intervals need to be done at a much higher intensity.  Hitting the correct intensity level for your respective workout is crucial to getting the most out of your efforts.  One of the keys to success in this regard is making sure that you are rested enough to hit your goal effort levels for each type of workout.

When it comes to easier work, hitting the correct intensity is fairly easy.  For the most part, all you have to do is get out there, get your minutes in, and you will achieve the aerobic gains that you desire.  It does not matter very much if you are going a bit slower than usual.  In this type of work, volume is much more important than intensity, so being well rested is not quite as important.

Doing harder work, such as tempo runs, or intervals is another story.  To get the most out of these workouts, you will need to be well rested.  This is the only way to achieve the effort levels needed to get the most out of these drills.  If you were to attempt them when tired, you would not be able to generate the same power/energy as you would if well rested.  You might still feel like you were exercising at a high level of intensity, but in reality, being tired would force you to do the drills at a slower pace.  This in turn would compromise the results you get from these efforts.

This is something you obviously want to avoid.  Fortunately steering clear of this situation is easy.  All you need to do is follow two simple rules:

1. Don’t schedule hard workouts on back to back days.

2. Try to take a day off from running preceding your high intensity workouts.

Rule one is the more important of the two.  Scheduling back to back, high intensity workouts is looking for trouble.  Not only will you compromise your results by doing the second workout on tired legs, but you will also increase your risk of injury.  If you never schedule your hard workouts back to back, you can avoid these issues, ensuring the biggest bang for your workout buck.

Rule two is also important.  Taking a rest day before a hard effort will give you the best chance to full recover from your previous workout, which in turn will help you to get the most out of the workout you have planned.

I understand that there are times when back to back efforts are the only way to fit your planned workouts into your schedule.  I understand this, and am ok with it..  There is nothing wrong with planning a hard workout the day after (or before) an easier, aerobic effort.  I just want you to avoid doing high intensity workouts two days in a row.  This will enable you to get the most from your harder efforts, which will help you to continually improve as a runner.