Interval Pyramid Tempo Training

Interval Pyramid Tempo Training

This is an article recently written by a friend of mine — retired Royal Commando “Sol”  Sollerer.

A number of people have approached me saying they have reached a plateau in terms of how fast they can run 10km, 5km race, or even the military 1.5 mile PFT – and they want advice. Here it is!

Interval training sessions, expect you to run for a set distance, or for a set time — 3 to 6 times, maybe more, during a run and generally full into the brackets of Aerobic, Cruise, Sprint, Negative Splits – or for the highly conditioned athlete Tabata Intervals.

How Interval Pyramid Tempo Training works is like this, for example:

You are presently running a 9min 20sec mile and a half (2400m) and your goal is to run it in 9 minutes.

You take the 9 minute goal and split that time down for the following distances:

2400 meters = 9:00 goal                     (8:00 goal)                   (10:00 goal)
1200 meters = 4:30                             (4:00)                           (5:00)
800 meters =   3:00                             (2:40)                           (3:20)
600 meters =   2:15                             (2:00)                           (2:30)
400 meters =   1:30                             (1:20)                           (1:40)
200 meters =   0:45                             (0:40)                           (0:50)

You can see how easy the smaller distances are and how much harder the longer distances are going to be, according to your individual goal! Now you need a well measured trail, or preferably running track!

After warming up you are going to run each of the following distances at the target times set above, with a comfortable recovery pace in between for the distance stated:-

2 x 200m with 200 meters slow recovery between each (remember 45 seconds!! – I bet you do the first 200m far too fast!)

1 x 400m with 200 meter slow recovery
1 x 400m with 400 meter slow recovery
1 x 600m with 400 meter slow recovery
1 x 800m with 400 meter slow recovery
1 x 600m with 400 meter slow recovery
1 x 400m with 200 meter slow recovery
1 x 200m with 200 meter slow recovery

Total distance run = 6400m with 3800 meters run at the desired goal race pace and 2600 meters run at recovery. You can now see how effective this sort of training is for 5k and 10k distances.

If you achieve all the times required in the example above, then you can take a 400m out and put a 1200m at the top of the pyramid, or another 800m instead – progressing the program until you achieve your goal; if you are not making the times required you need to regress the distances, rather than the time; keep the time the same – as long as you are being realistic, only you know.

When you have progressed to having a 1200m at the top of your pyramid, with a couple of 800m,  when it comes to race day you are very likely to smash your goal time. For a 5km goal, work towards putting a 2400m at the top of your pyramid.

This training approach has many advantages, such as, it does not tire the body like other training methods, so it is idea for triathlon training, or if you need to get more miles under your belt on other days. Also your body will adapt and get used to the pace you are setting, giving you a natural rhythm to run at that pace, as your anaerobic threshold rises. Additionally, as part of a training program this method gives you a measurable mark of your fitness gains as you progress.

Some may say this is not a true interval and that it is more Fartlek orientated – I say if it is Fartlek then where is the random change of pace, or the hills and the different terrain?  Whatever the training approach – it works and remember – you saw it here first!!

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About Sol

Sol joined the British Army at 18 and served as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, seeing active service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia (UN & NATO tours), 3 tours in Iraq and a tour in Afghanistan. After 22 years service Sol retires at the rank of Sergeant-​​Major, in a Quarter Master Sergeant Instructor’s appointment. In this last appointment Sol was also the Unit Fitness Training Officer – Advising on Unit Fitness and forming Policy to meet the needs of the Unit, in accordance with Army doctrine, to then physically and mentally prepare soldiers for arduous overseas Operations.

Sol was a Military Diver and Commando, possibly two of the most physically and mentally demanding courses in the British Army. Sol is now a trainer with The Program (www​.theprogram​.org) and volunteers his spare workout time with Stew Smith and the Heroes of Tomorrow (www​.heroesoftomorrow​.org) as well.  Email Sol at sol@​britcommandofitness.​com if you have questions about his interval /​ tempo pyramid or share below in the forums at military​-fitness​.military​.com

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  1. Mattoomba says:

    Is the \“slow recovery\” ever a brisk walk? Or is it just a slower run or jog?

    • Will says:

      It depends on where you are at physically. You can start out at a walk and then build up to a jog or even a slower pace running. The key is to keep building on it and you will see the improvement.

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