- A nice variation on classic interval sessions
- Perfect for the track
Pyramid sessions are a good way of adding a bit of variety to interval sessions. By adjusting rep length and recoveries a host of training goals can be achieved.
A pyramid session involves starting with a rep at a certain time or distance, then increasing the time/distance of each successive rep until a maximum (i.e. the tip of the pyramid) is reached. Rep time/distance then decreases until it reaches the starting point again.
By adjusting the length of reps and recoveries a variety of goals can be achieved with pyramid sessions.
The main benefit of pyramid sessions is that they allow the runner to ease into a certain pace/intensity by beginning with shorter reps. It is also psychologically pleasing to know that once the longest rep has been done (and by which time tiredness is setting in) each of the following reps will be shorter.
They also offer the benefit of variety. The simple fact that they are different from traditional interval sessions, where each rep is the same length, is useful in itself. Variety can help avoid boredom and it's even been suggested that it can help prevent overtraining.
If you fancy turning the session on its head, then you could try a reverse pyramid instead.
Real World Examples
A good example of a pyramid session to work on speed would be to start with a 10-second rep and work up in 10-second increments to a 30-second rep, then work back down again. Since running fast requires one to be well-rested, recoveries should be long. Perhaps as long as 5-6 times rep length. So you'd be taking a minute's recovery after the 10-second rep and a full three minutes after the 30-second rep.
A good VO2 Max session could be to start with a 2-minute rep and work up in increments of 1 minute to a 5-minute rep and then back down, taking half the previous rep time as recovery. So, you'd be taking a 1-minute recovery after the first 2-minute rep and 2 minutes and 30 seconds of recovery after the 5-minute rep.
Be wary of starting too quickly. Since the first rep is the shortest it can be difficult not to go off too fast. As a general rule you should be keeping a consistent pace for each rep, regardless of length.
Consider the total volume of running you'll be performing when designing a pyramid session. When the reps are different lengths it's easy to lose track and end up doing too much or too little. The best approach is to try and equal the overall volume you would complete in a standard interval session.
It's best to vary recovery according to the length of the previous rep. For speedy sessions, when complete - or almost complete - recovery is important, you'll need more time to recover as rep length increases. For VO2 max sessions, you only want partial recovery between reps, so it's important that recovery is not too long after shorter reps or you will not be getting full benefit.