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The Pyramid Workout

A “pyramid” workout is something that often elicits groans from my high school distance runners. At the end of practice, however, they enjoy bragging about its successful completion to the rest of the track & field team. Pyramids are fast paced interval workouts that focus on improving running economy. They are so named because the intense efforts are performed over increasingly longer distances until a peak is reached and then the distances decrease again to the starting point. If you were to chart your pyramid workout, it should have a pyramid shape.

Pyramids are good workouts to include early in training plans for shorter distance races – anything from 1 mile to 15K. After you’ve spent time (typically about 6 weeks) building a base of fitness with easy runs, you can add intense running economy workouts (like pyramid workouts) into your training plan once per week for the next 6-8 weeks. Because the interval distances constantly change and the lengths of the intervals begin to decrease midway through the workout, pyramid workouts are less mentally taxing than many other running economy workouts.

Here’s a typical pyramid workout:

  • 1 mile warmup
  • 2-4 minutes rest
  • 4 x (200 m fast + 200 m jog)
  • 2-4 minutes rest
  • 2 x (400 m fast + 400 m jog)
  • 2-4 minutes rest
  • 800 m fast + 800 m jog
  • 2-4 minutes rest
  • 2 x (400 m fast + 400 m jog)
  • 2 -4 minutes rest
  • 4 x (200 m fast + 200 m jog)
  • 2-4 minutes rest
  • 1 mile cool down

If you’re running on a track, 200 m is half a lap, 400 m is a full lap and 800 m is two laps. If you’re doing this workout on a marked trail, 200 m is about 1/8 mile, 400 m is about 1/4 mile and 800 m is about 1/2 mile. Conveniently, each set of intervals with its recovery jogs totals 1 mile.

As with any running economy workout, you should focus on practicing proper form throughout the workout. If you are unable to maintain a consistent pace during all the intervals, then you’ve started out too fast.

You can use our handy Training Pace Calculator to figure out the pace at which you should run the fast portions. Simply enter a recent race time and refer to the goal times listed under “running economy” in the “interval workouts section:


 

Written by

Brian Darrow is a running coach in St. Petersburg, FL who specializes in online coaching for beginners. Follow him at ARunnersBlog.com

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