Posted On:
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Stop Time Is NOT Your Friend

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As a coach working with athletes on Performance Coaching, I look at data files from fitness devices (such as Garmin, Coros, or Apple Watches) every day.  Data plus an athlete’s subjective feedback (their notes and perspective on how a given workout went) together provide me with the most information possible about how a workout went. 

There are a lot of things I look at when I analyze an athlete’s data files, but this week for Coach Tip Tuesday I’m going to talk about one in particular: Stop Time.

What is Workout Stop Time?

Stop Time refers to the amount of time during a workout file that an athlete is not moving.  The ability to see this is not unique to me or other coaches; most (if not all) fitness devices now record it, even if the athlete doesn’t hit the Stop Button on their device.  If an athlete doesn’t hit the Stop Button, then there will be gaps in the speed data that indicate that there was time during the workout when the athlete wasn’t moving.  If an athlete does hit the Stop Button, then the file will record two separate times for the file: Moving Time and Elapsed Time.

As a full-time endurance coach who literally looks at tens of thousands of workout files every year, I have become extremely good at detecting Stop Time, even if it’s not clearly spelled out in the numbers.  And I zero in on it because it’s honestly a really important metric to be monitoring.  Why?  Because Stop Time is NOT an athlete’s friend.  In almost all cases, Stop Time is an athlete’s enemy.

Why Does Stop Time Matter?

In my experience, most athletes don’t realize how long stopping/pausing during a workout adds up to.  Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of reasons for stopping during a workout.  Some are completely legitimate (i.e. going to the bathroom, avoiding being hit by cars, refilling nutrition/hydration stores).  Others are not as useful; one could say some of these reasons are bordering on being reasons that someone stopped unnecessarily.

No matter the reason, Stop Time is an important metric to monitor because it substantially alters how a workout feels, how it is completed, and across the landscape of training, it impacts the progress an athlete makes towards goals that they’ve set.

Stop Time allows for complete rest, and it’s impossible for me to completely articulate how much this changes how a workout goes.  It is SO SIGNIFICANT.  The body functions much differently with complete rest than it does with continuous movement (and so does the mind).  If the body and mind get used to Stop Time (i.e. because an athlete makes a habit out of stopping multiple times during a workout and/or for too long during a workout), then the athlete will be at a disadvantage when the athlete tries not to stop.  

How Stop Time Impacts Race Day Performance 

On race day, the clock never stops, even if you do.  The time keeps rolling.  So, if you are up against a time limit (IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN athletes, I’m looking at you; if you don’t believe me, look no further and/or talk to IRONMAN Tami Stone or IRONMAN Lisa Crockford) or if you are seeking to achieve a performance-based/time-based result, you may very well be surprised when things feel harder, take longer than you thought, or do not go the way you planned on race day.

It is never to your advantage to get your body used to prolonged rest in the middle of a workout if you are seeking to continuously move throughout your race.  If you have prolonged Stop Time during your workouts and feel that it is absolutely necessary for you to have it, you need to (repeat: NEED TO) build in this same Stop Time into your Race Day Plan.  

If your Stop Time plus your Moving Time sends you over the allowed time for a race, take note.  If your Stop Time plus your Moving Time sends you over pace or over time for your performance-based/time-based result, take note.  In either situation, once you’ve taken note of that, either modify how you’re training (read: Analyze your workout files after each workout and take steps to reduce your Stop Time) or modify your expectations for how race day will go.

How to Manage Stop Time in Workouts

My general recommendation for Stop Time is that it should not exceed 2-3% of the total workout time.  Any more than that, and it starts to have a negative impact on the athlete’s training.  If I see Stop Time in excess of those percentages for the athletes I coach, I usually talk to them about it.  Sometimes the athlete indicates the reason for the Stop Time in their Post-Workout Notes in Final Surge, but other times I need to prompt the explanation by asking.  Often, if I have to prompt the explanation, the athlete was/is unaware of how high their percentage of Stop Time was for the workout.

If you are self-coached, I strongly recommend that you pay attention to this metric.  What feels like “just a few seconds” really could be several minutes.  Our perception of time is usually altered during a workout.  (Just ask anyone who does two minutes hard followed by two minutes easy; they will swear to you that the hard interval was longer than two minutes and that the easy interval was shorter than two minutes. ;) )  Being specific in your post-workout analysis is important here.

The Bottom Line

Stop Time is basically low-hanging fruit when it comes to improving performance.  It’s easy to identify, track, and fix.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it doesn’t matter; it matters a great deal and can have a really significant impact on your training and ultimately your racing.  Set yourself up for success mentally and physically by aiming to use Stop Time for essentials only and to keep it as short as possible.  It may be tough at first, but it will reap dividends in the long run.

About

Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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