Runners and resting – should I train without having a rest or should I have a bit of resting during season?

Počitek tekača: ali naj treniram brez premora ali naj med sezono počivam?


At work I’m often confronted with athletes’ dilemmas and questions related to “losses” they experience when they can’t train or simply don’t train. The reasons can vary. Among the most common are work- and family-related duties, illness and, in the worst case, injury. What’s going on when you’re not training, how much time do you need to regain the previous shape – I’ll answer all of these questions in this article. Researches made on runners are hardly accessible or relatively hard to find, so I used similar researches which deal with the state of our body when “compulsory” resting is needed.

“Detraining” is defined as a period completely or partly without training which doesn’t cause an adaptation on existing stimulus in organism. “Detraining” is related to various injuries which affect motor and physical skills of athletes and prevent them to continue their trainings. In the following section, I’ll outline what kind of “losses” appear in aerobic and muscular endurance, which is the most important part of the runner’s training.

Let me first explain that the point is not in constant training.

After every season is finished you have to rest at least for four weeks, because the body has to regenerate. If you skip the transitional part, you definitely won’t be very successful in the next season.

To recreational runners the levels of oxidative enzymes in muscles, VO2 max or lactate are not important. Pleasure and love for running are what it really counts. Let the article enrich your knowledge, so you’ll know what happens when you’re not training.



The heart muscle is tightly related to aerobic endurance and strengthens with every pulse, higher than 55% of the maximal pulse, and activities that last longer than 20 minutes. An activity that lasts long enough can cause an adequate adaptation of functional system. The research that I’m going to present was conducted in the USA and analyzed two well trained and three average-trained swimmers who, after a period of long-lasting training, rested for 20 days.

In 20 days of rest:

• submaximal heart frequency has increased drastically,

• ejection fraction of the heart decreased by 25%,

• oxygen consumption decreased by 27% (VO2 max).

Decreased ejection fraction and oxygen consumption (VO2 max) are consequences of decreased blood volume, blood plasma and ventricular contractile. It’s interesting that the better the shape of the test subjects (athletes) was the bigger were losses in oxygen consumption. This means that the better shape you are in the more you lose. But that’s not always bad. The research showed that after 20 days of resting the subjects had better results in oxygen consumption in the first 35 to 60 days of training. All individuals had better measurement results considering the previous state. It’s gratifying that resting caused a complete regeneration, which contributed to better VO2 max results. This means that after resting you’ll be even better machines for the next season.

The second research was conducted on 7 female athletes. The research started after the end of the season and lasted for 3 months. In that time the girls were occupied with daily schoolwork and PE. Their oxygen consumption (VO2 max) has decreased by 15.5%, which means that in these 3 months their VO2 max was on the same level as the one of their non-athlete peers. In conclusion, the oxygen consumption definitely decreases due to inactivity, which means that aerobic endurance is worse. Researches also show that at least three training sessions a week at 70% of VO2 max assures the maintenance of aerobic condition.


Muscular endurance

Poleg aerobne vzdržljivosti, ki je funkcionalna sposobnost dolgotrajno premagovati napor, je za tekače pomembna tudi mišična vzdržljivost. Sposobnost premagovanja napora (npr. interval, šprint, tek v klanec) se zmanjša že v prvih dveh tednih mirovanja. Razlike med VO2max in encimi v mišicah ter glikogenu so večje, kot bi pričakovali. Da malce zapletem zadevo.

Na kratko: trening povzroči različne adaptacije organizma, pri čemer so za tekače pomembni adaptacija na aerobno vzdržljivost ter prilagoditev srca in respiratornega sistema. Vendar ne samo to, pomembna je tudi vloga encimov v telesu. Raziskave so pokazale, da se je VO2max v prvih dveh mesecih povečal za 25 %, v naslednjih štirih mesecih pa samo za 2-4 %. Zato se lahko vprašamo, zakaj trenirati za tekmo deset mesecev, če dosežemo skoraj najvišji nivo v prvih dveh mesecih treninga.

Odgovor je: zaradi nivoja encimov, ki se s količino treninga povečuje. Od prvega meseca do sedmega meseca treninga se postopoma povečuje, in sicer se za 800 % poveča količina encima SDH sukinata dehidrodroginase, ki je pomemben oksidativni encim v mišicah. Zakaj to pišem? Zato, ker je njegova količina pri dveh tednih brez treniranja občutno manjša, vključno z oksidativnim citokromom, in sicer za 40 % do 60 %. Posledice? Nižja hitrost, manjša adaptacija na laktat, nižji laktatni prag. Na kratko: niste več, kar ste bili pred (prisilnim) počitkom.

Findings about glycogen: štirje tedni počitka zmanjšajo glikogenske zaloge za 40 % pri treniranih športnikih, pri sedečih posameznikih ni sprememb, če počivajo ;)!

Findings about lactate: – five months of training are followed by four weeks of rest. The swimmers are tested every week at 183m of distance (200 yards). Every week the level of lactate increases from an average 4.2 mmol/l to 6.3 mmol/l, then to 6.8 mmol/l and in the fourth week reaches 9.7 mmol/l. This means that you’re becoming “sourer” every week you don’t train.


What’s the conclusion? During the time when you can’t train significant changes occur, that are the most distinctive in the first two to four weeks. Which is not ideal! However, researches have shown that the athletes got back in a good shape very quickly. So, don’t worry. If you’ll train well even after rest, you’ll get good results. Probably even better than before the rest, at least in terms of oxygen consumption.


Marko MRAK



Physiology of sport and exercise (third edition) – Wilmore, Costill – Human kinetics 2004

Essentials of strength training and conditioning – Baechle, Earle – Human kinetics 2004

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