Is It Bad to Pause During A Run?


Obsessed with my running stats, I need to pause my running watch every time I need to pause during a run; whether it’s 30 seconds or two minutes. Going through that effort, I wanted to find out: is it bad to pause during a run?

Stopping during a run does not ruin your performance potential or your exercise. However, if you make constant stops, it could be due to an underlying technique issue. Try interval training if you feel pausing during a run is more suitable for your training needs.

Very few things are as frustrating as realizing the world does not stop for you while you are cruising on your morning run–e.g. that pesky red light, or busy intersection. This can cause you to pause your run, unexpectedly. On the other hand, are these just excuses stopping you from your true potential?

Is It Bad To Stop During A Run?

While it’s not bad to pause during a run (particularly if you have to from a stoplight), there can be some negative side effects depending on what type of running you are doing.

if you are running at a slow or moderate pace, pausing means your heart rate will slow down. Part of the reason why we exercise is to keep our hearts healthy. Bringing our heart rate back down to a slow heart rate means your body slows down and is not delivering as much oxygen–your body is transitioning to a rest state.

Perhaps more importantly, though–when you rest, your brain doesn’t want to start running again. I know for myself that when I stop that I have to force my body to start running again, which is mentally taxing. Stopping while running means your brain has to work harder to complete your exercise.

Past that, there could be other hidden issues with breathing, pacing, and mental and physical strength training. Put some thought into your running plan, be prepared for real-life experiences and unforeseen running pauses.

This doesn’t mean that stopping while running is bad, and in fact, it can have tremendous benefits. Let’s learn about interval training to see how to make the most of a running style.

Interval Training: Making Rest A Vital Part Of the Exercise

Interval training usually refers to breaking up your exercise into bouts of high-intensity and bouts of active or non-active recovery. For example, a small interval training session might be running at high-intensity for a minute and then walking for 30 seconds, repeating this pattern 5-6 times.

The key difference here between just stopping during your run and interval training is the word “high-intensity”. High intensity is defined as taking your body to 85 or 95% of its capability–this is hard work. 95% of your body’s capability is very difficult.

Studies show that interval training can actually be better for your heart and aspects of your body than running at a slow to moderate pace for a long distance.

[…] high-intensity interval training (HIT), which consists of several bouts of high-intensity exercise […] lasting 1 to 4 min interspersed with intervals of rest or active recovery, is superior to [Continuous moderate-intensity exercise training] for improving cardiorespiratory fitness, endothelial function and its markers, insulin sensitivity, markers of sympathetic activity and arterial stiffness in hypertensive and normotensive at high familial risk for hypertension subjects.

link

All that complicated language to say that high-intensity interval training improves our heart, vein and artery health, and more.

How To Make Stopping During a Run Count

Sometimes we have no choice but to stop during a run. You can make it count by incorporating interval training into your run. If you need to pass a stoplight, then if you run at your maximum for as long as you can (it’s a different amount for everyone), and then make that rest count as you prepare for your next sprint.

If you’re not interested in sprinting or high-intensity workouts, you can still make stopping less of an impact on your run.

Active Recovery

Walking quickly will still keep your heart rate up and keep your body and mind moving. It’s a lot easier to transition from walking to running than from stopping completely to running.

This type of resting is called active recovery. You can slow down your run to a jog, or you can transition to a quick walk–either way you are maintaining momentum (and still burning calories), and it will be easier to pick up the pace, later.

You Can Still Improve If You Stop During Your Run

Often there’s some pressure to not stop during your run–it’s as if your exercise somehow doesn’t count if you have to take a breather in the middle.

While it is true that those who are seeking the highest performance want to be able to run faster and run for longer, many of us are running for our health.

In this crucial study, they analyzed whether people improved in health with short bouts of exercise vs. long bouts of exercise. In both cases, they exercised the same amount, but in smaller chunks of time. (30 minute was the long bout vs three 10-minute bouts of exercise)

Both groups improved their breathing capacity and performance.

That means if you are trying to run around the block but need to take a break, that you will still make progress. If you are training for a 5k, then while you are starting out you can definitely stop for a break and you will still get the benefit of the exercise.

However, pausing while running can make it difficult to see your progress towards your set goals and will start you off with bad habits for the future.

The key thing is to keep improving. If you feel like you have to stop during your run, then perhaps give yourself 60 seconds before continuing, and then next time give yourself 50 seconds, and so on.

Tips To Avoid Stopping While Running

You might think running is not for you after many months of training but no progress, but you could be pleasantly surprised by looking into aspects that could be halting your training or force you to think you are in a rut.

Don’t Overlook Mental training

One sign of feeling an intense urge to pause during runs could be due to your mental training, which is just as important as the physical training itself.

Pain and boredom are some of the significant hurdles while running; what will keep you moving? How can you distract your brain from thinking of something else?  How do you resist the urge to stop? Your brain will try to get you to stop; when these thoughts creep in, but the trick is to calm your brain to resist the urge to stop and find a way to embrace the discomfort of running.

There can be times when mental training overpowers physical training; your brain and body need to be working simultaneously. Explore ways that could train your brain to accept and deal with discomfort and pain.

Are You Running Too Fast?

One sign of feeling the urge to stop is that your pacing could be all over the place. Your pace might too fast.

Even while doing tempo runs (running at a difficult but sustainable pace) and pushing yourself to your limits, you shouldn’t be running so fast that you feel exhausted, resulting in taking a break during your run.

If you feel the urge to stop mid-run to catch your breath, try slowing down your pace for the subsequent few runs and see if this helps you defeat the desire to stop. You can use a reliable running watch to track your progress and keep your pace on track accurately.

Learning To Control Your Breathing

If you find your pacing is not the problem, but you still need to stop mid-run to catch your breath, the fault could lie in your breathing techniques. We have all been for a run where you find yourself gasping for air and focusing on those strange noises you are making to keep going.

Finding a rhythmic breathing pattern can not only minimize the frustration caused by shortness of breath mid-run, but it could also increase speed.

I find for myself that depending on how hard I’m running I can find a different rhythm.

Breath RhythmRun Intensity
Out for two steps, in for two stepsLow
Out for two steps, in for one stepMedium
In and out on every stepHigh
These are my breathing rhythms as I’m running–you have to find what works for you. There’s no “correct” breathing rhythm.

Oxygen is the critical ingredient for our bodies to function not only correctly but at its best; without it, we wouldn’t last long at anything nevertheless running. As we learn to regulate our breathing, we provide our bodies a way to use oxygen more efficiently; so our bodies reward us by working more efficiently we perform better.

Getting Accurate With Your Stats

If you’re a stats runner, you might be thinking about how you can track your pacing and mileage when you need to stop in between. Depending on how many times you need to stop during a run, it could significantly affect your stats overall. Don’t stop if you are trying to get an accurate sense of your true running capabilities.

You can only track your progress if your stats are accurate; this is crucial to your future goals and pacing. Heading into a race with high expectations can be disappointing if you think you are faster than you are.

Taking those breaks can lead to bad habits and something you rely on. If you’re not hitting the right pace, take a break and get going again fresh and faster.

No Excuses

It’s true, there are reasons to stop, and as a beginner (especially), it’s totally okay if you have to. But back to the mental part of running:

Human beings are so good at creating excuses; they help us avoid hard work and put our minds at ease when not in the mood to do something.  Ask yourself if you are getting in your way? Stopping can be easier than exploring your pace or breathing.

The only way to fix your running habits is, to be honest with yourself; whether you are stopping due to excuses or having other running issues, it doesn’t mean you are failing, it just means that there could be room to try something new.

Conclusion

It is not bad to pause during a run; there could be various reasons you are stopping in the first place—looking at your pace, rhythmic breathing, and posture, which can be adapted to enhance your running abilities.

It’s possible to use pausing to your advantage if you combine it with high-intensity running (essentially interval training).

Exercise in general, including interval and continuous training, increases growth hormones within the bloodstream during the activity. Apart from increased performance gains, there is no other significant difference revealed. Regardless of the short or long pauses during your run, the hormonal benefit is similar.

Keep your motivation high and your excuses low; it doesn’t matter which running plan you begin with; as long as you improve your techniques along the way, the urge to pause will diminish.

Peter

Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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