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Stopping Mid Run- Do You Get the Same Results?

Have you ever wondered if those short stops for the bathroom or at intersections will affect your training? We researched for you, so you can stop wondering, and focus on what really matters; your training!Stop lights. Every runner hates them.

Nothing is more jarring than cruising along during a run at a solid pace, until you realize the world is not with you in your rhythm, and you have to suddenly come to a stop at a busy intersection to wait for the lights to change.

If you live in the city, or near a road with heavy traffic, this might happen to you a lot.

You may wonder if interruptions like this counterproductive for your training. Is a three or four-minute break in the middle of a run interfering with the benefits of your workout?

This question is relevant even to runners lucky enough to have routes that don’t have stoplights on them. What about bathroom breaks? We have all needed to go to the bathroom while running before.

Or what if you’re a newer running using a broken-up walk/jog training program for your first marathon? Read our post Why Running Slow Doesn’t Matter.

Continuous running vs. stopping and starting

Surprisingly, there has not been any direct research on the question of the effects of very short breaks in a run versus completely continuous running, so we will have to get a bit creative about how we go about searching for answers.

Most research on continuous versus intermittent training in athletes is focused on comparing the relative value of high intensity running during the “on” periods, and walking or standing recovery during the “off” periods—essentially, an interval workout.

Several studies have compared interval-style training to continuous running, but these are not a helpful analogy to taking short breaks during a regular run, since the intensity is not going to be drastically different before and after you interrupt your run.

There is some research on breaking up exercise into several smaller chunks of equal intensity, instead of one continuous block. These studies, however, are focused on improving fitness in overweight or sedentary adults, not athletes. Regardless, they are worth a look.

A 2006 study of fifty sedentary adults in Hong Kong analyzed fitness gains from one daily session of 30min of continuous activity compared five six-minute blocks of activity interspersed throughout the day.1

The study found that VO2 max improved by about the same amount in each group, with the authors writing that the benefits of intermittent exercise of equivalent energy expenditure were similar to the benefits of continuous exercise.

Whether this carries over to higher level training in fit athletes is unclear, but it’s at least a good sign.

Another study, published in 2008 by researchers at the University of Virginia, investigated the effects of a 30min bout of exercise or three 10min bouts at the same intensity on the levels of growth hormone in the blood during the 24-hour period following exercise.2

Though the study focused on obese individuals, there was a fifteen-person control group which had a healthy weight, and within this group, both the 30min and the 3x10min exercise sessions resulted in marked increases in growth hormone in the blood during the day following exercise sessions—a good thing for performance gains—but no significant differences between the two.

We can interpret this to mean that the hormonal benefits of training persist regardless of short (or even longer) breaks in your run, as long as you accumulate the same total amount of running. Check out our post about Understanding How Metabolism works to unlock the mystery of Weight loss for more about hormones.

Heart rate as an indicator of effect

A more obvious factor to consider is heart rate. As soon as you stop running, your heart rate drops.

How fast your heart rate “recovers,” or returns to its resting level once you stop, is dependent on your level of fitness: the fitter you are, the quicker you are able to decrease your heart rate when you stop running when compared to people who are out-of-shape.

This ability is such a good indicator of overall fitness that it’s been found to be a protective factor from sudden death!3

Being able to quickly bring down your heart rate is great for your lifespan, but it does mean that your heart rate will have dropped by 40 or more beats per minute even after just one minute of rest.

If there is a benefit to maintaining a consistently elevated heart rate—and this is an uncertain proposition—you would need your run to be more or less totally continuous, with no stopping at all. On the other hand, the dependence of heart rate recovery on fitness means that newer runners who are not very fit will still maintain a fairly high heart rate during a one or two-minute walk-break.

Plan your route

Real-world experience tells us it can’t be that critical to run nonstop during regular runs: plenty of very fast runners live and train in places like Boston or New York City, and are prepared that one of the downsides of living in the city is that they will need to stop at intersections often.

The occasions where you would like to prioritize uninterrupted continuous runs are your race-specific workouts: if you are doing a ten-mile run at your goal marathon pace, for example, you should try to set it up on a route that won’t have any interruptions.

Even if there’s uncertainty over the physiological benefits, you should keep your race-specific workouts as similar to racing conditions as possible.


From the limited research available, the evidence indicates that short interruptions to your run, whether it’s a stoplight, a bathroom break, or a planned walking break, do not have any major impact on the physiological benefits of training.

Fitness gains, at least in sedentary people, appear to be the same when you compare intermittent versus continuous exercise, and growth hormone levels respond similarly regardless of how you structure your daily exercise.

The big unanswered question is heart rate: is there any additional benefit to your cardiovascular fitness by keeping your heart rate elevated continuously for a long time?

It would require a very well-designed experiment to test this, and the effects, if any, are likely to be small.

In general, you should not fret if you have to stop at a light or use the bathroom for a few minutes. Though research to date is limited, it indicates that you’ll still get the same benefits as long as your total duration of running is the same.

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How Long Until I See Results from my Strength Training?

You know what exercises to do to build your hip strength and prevent injures, but how long does it take to see results? We show you the research.Have you noticed we have focused on hip strength a lot lately? We had a post connecting lower back and hip strength, and another on how hip mobility can determine if you have injuries in your future. Hopefully by now you see just how important hips are within the entire chain of your body and its movements.

Good hip strength has been linked to a lower risk of IT band syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS, also known as “runner’s knee”), shin splints, and low back pain, in addition to a lower risk of injury overall.1, 2

However, as runners we can sometimes be stubborn, and ignore the warning signs telling us that this is a pain we should not be running through. Before you know it, you are struggling with one of the above-mentioned injuries. You start going to a good physical therapist who keeps up to date on the latest research on running injuries, and you are prescribed a hip strengthening program for rehab.

How long will it take to build hip strength?

Obviously, every injury is different, but looking to research that uses hip strengthening programs to rehab an injury associated with hip muscle weakness can give us some idea of the timeframe to total recovery.

We will focus on studies that successfully treat running injuries with hip strength rehab programs.

The first study we will look at was published in 2006 by researchers at the University of Kentucky. In this study, a quadriceps and hip abductor strength routine was used to treat PFPS in fourteen subjects.

Over the six-week duration of the study, knee pain gradually diminished, with the decrease becoming statistically significant after four weeks of strength training.

In 2006, a study of PFPS successfully treated thirty-five patients using a six-week hip flexion strength program,4.

Another study in 2000, looked at runners with IT band syndrome following a six-week strength program with success5. However, neither of these studies took week-by-week measurements of knee pain.

A 2011 study matched the four-week marker by demonstrating that a hip strength program resulted in superior results compared to a quadriceps-strengthening program for treating PFPS in runners after four weeks of rehab work.6

A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Calgary showed that a simple hip strength program, completed daily, produced very good results in a small group of runners with PFPS.7 Other than this small study, I have not seen any research using a shorter time period.

Individual differences with rehab

These studies varied in the details of their design, but one element they all shared is that the rehab exercises were done quite frequently—at least three days a week, and in some cases, every day!

Even with regular rehab work, it is likely to take three to four weeks for to see some real results. Remember, these are studies of many individual runners who may have the same injury, but may have varying levels of the injury. For example, someone with only minor hip weakness contributing to IT band syndrome might see results more quickly than a more painful case of IT band syndrome with more significant hip muscle weakness, who may take longer to recover from, even with the right rehab program.


Even the perfect rehab exercise routine will take a while before is has a significant effect, so if you are injured, be patient! You will not return to full strength overnight. Research indicates that successful programs, on average, take three to six weeks to have a significant impact. Give your rehab program at least this long to kick into effect before you ditch it for something else.

During this time, if you cannot run without pain, you can try to maintain your fitness through cross training, assuming it does not irritate your injury. Unfortunately, there is no quick solution to running injuries.

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Running as you age. Is it all bad?

As you get older, your body changes, but by how much? We look at the research comparing older runners to younger runners to see how biomechanics change over time.In the past, we wrote an article on how children can be compared to a spring in the way they run.

By looking at the way children run, and then monitoring the changes as they grow, we hoped to find some useful insights into our own biomechanics.

Today, we are going to follow runners at the opposite end of the spectrum by looking at how running mechanics changes as you age.

If you are an older runner, in your fifties, sixties, or even seventies, do your mechanics fundamentally change compared to a younger runner?

Biomechanical differences

It is no secret that runners do eventually slow down as they age. After the age of forty, runners slow by an average of 1-6 seconds per mile,1, 2, depending on the race distance.

Research published in 2008 by Italian and Brazilian researchers Giovanni Cavagna, Mario Legramandi, and Leonardo Peyré-Tartaruga attempted to illuminate the biomechanical changes that occur in older runners.3

Cavagna et al. recruited eight healthy men in their late sixties to seventies, three of whom were trained runners. The researchers had the men run at different speeds along a fifty-meter runway, recording data about their impact forces, and the motion of their joints. The running mechanics of the older men were compared to the same tests on running-mechanics of college-aged men. Again, three of these subjects were also trained runners.

By examining the differences in running mechanics at a broad range of running speeds (as slow as a thirty-minute mile shuffle and as fast as 5:40 mile pace in the older subjects!), Cavagna, Legramandi, and Peyré-Tartaruga were able to demonstrate certain similarities and differences between the older and younger runners.

Muscular Power

The older runners were not able to generate nearly as much vertical “push” off the ground as the younger runners because of their decreased ability to generate muscular power. In fact, younger runners were able to attain a 75% higher peak vertical acceleration when running at high speeds compared to the older runners.

This lack of muscular power has significant implications on the biomechanics. Younger runners generate vertical power to adopt a longer “loping” stride that spends more time in the air than on the ground.

Older runners cannot generate the same muscular power, and are therefore forced to adopt a much higher stride frequency to run at faster speeds.

In this sense, the concept of the “old man shuffle” has some truth to it.

The inability of older runners to generate enough vertical power to enable an “asymmetric stride”—one which spends more time in the air than on the ground—implies that their efficiency is diminished significantly at speeds faster than 8:45 per mile. This is the point where the most optimal stride patterns change to a floating, asymmetric pattern.

Stride Frequency

An additional barrier to efficient running comes as a result of the higher stride frequency: with less time spent in the air, there is also less time for an older runner to swing his or her legs forward, meaning the “shuffle” must be very quick and inefficient. At higher speeds, this importance is magnified.

Compared to younger runners, older runners become even more inefficient as speeds increase.

If your goal is to avoid or limit these age-related changes in running efficiency, it is pretty clear that you should aim to build or at least maintain your muscular strength.

Cavagna, Legramandi, and Peyré-Tartaruga identify two main reasons why older runners (and older people in general) cannot generate as much muscular power: loss of muscle mass and loss of force production at the cellular level in the muscles. Weight training should address both of these issues.


If you are over the age of fifty, and you are not lifting weights once or twice a week, you should be! Your focus should be on increasing the strength of the major muscles in your legs: the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. These muscles are what generate power during your running stride. Keeping them strong will hopefully stave off the age-related changes in running mechanics.

There might be a silver lining to these changes; a higher stride frequency implies less force going through the body with each step, which might explain why older runners have a lower incidence of many common running injuries.4

So, getting older does not mean all bad news!

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How Ready Will You Be for Your Best Boston?

Racing Boston Marathon in 2015? We have lots of great articles, and a bloggers linkup to learn about how others are getting on in their training build up.Are you excited for the buzz of the Boston Marathon yet? Even if you are not racing, it is impossible to not get swept up in the excitement of it!

This week we have shared a post from Matt Fitzgerald with 10 Tips to Tame the Hills of Boston, and the Ultimate Guide to Downhill Running. We also relaunched our podcast with Boston Marathon race director, Dave McGillivray. We will be adding these to our current Boston Marathon posts to give you everything you need to have your best race possible in April.


Here is the full list of all of our Boston Marathon related posts:

How to Train for and Race the Boston Marathon Course: Interview with BAA Coach Terry Shea

4 Key Workouts to Prepare for the Boston Marathon Course

10 Tips to Tame the Hills of Boston

Best Boston- The Ultimate Guide to Running Downhill

Setting up for Success- Boston Marathon Race Director, Dave McGillivray Podcast

3 Race Day Quirks You Must Prepare for in the Final Weeks of Boston Marathon Training

Boston Marathon Pace Calculator


We would love to hear how your training is going, and be a place for you to see how others are getting along in their training.

Running the 2015 Boston Marathon? Get our Boston-specific training articles, exclusive access to our VIP Boston events, and the latest on where, when and how to meet the RunnersConnect team. Click here to stay updated

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed, and would like to see how some of the experienced marathoners are approaching their training, check out our c0-hosts for this post:

Carrots ‘n’ Cake

Happy Fit Mama

Mommy Run Fast

An InLinkz Link-up

If all this Boston Marathon talk has you excited, but you have not yet dipped under that magic barrier, you can check this out to Reach Your Boston Marathon Dream.

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Be Ready for Your Best Boston- Guide To Running Downhill

Ask a group of runners from anywhere in the world what races are on their running bucket list, chances are you will hear the same marathons over and over: London, New York, Paris, Frankfurt, Vancouver…

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Training Articles
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Interviews and Training Videos

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