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1, 2, 3, 4 Pyramid Workout

This pyramid run workout is the perfect way to switch up your interval training and increase your speed and endurance. It’s done in 35 minutes with alternating hard and easy pyramid intervals. 

I’m still in a boot from toe surgery, so I’m not running right now (or probably any time soon), but I thought it was time to update one of my favorite workouts from the blog.

I can’t wait until I can run again. It’s amazing what time away from something you love can bring. I’ve had dreams about running so I know I’m really missing it. 

This happens alot before I get back to running postpartum, and even to an extent, running in third trimester. It’s not “real” running and I look forward to feeling more like myself post-pregnancy.

In my dream, I ran a half marathon, followed by a full marathon. Crazy! I told Ed about it and he said, “Wow, you must really miss running.” 

Anyway, I do remember taking a lot of time off after the Savannah marathon. I knew that marathon recovery time was important, but I was starting to get the itch to run.

Kind of like I am now. 

I credit my quick recovery to compression socks and epsom salts, and good nutrition, of course. 

If you have a marathon coming up, one of my favorite posts to look back on is 26 lessons from my first marathon. When I do start marathon training again, I’ll make sure to read it.

It’s amazing what long distance running can really teach you, and what time in solace can do for your mind and body. 

Okay, let’s talk about this pyramid run. 

Pyramid runs are my favorite form of speedwork. I wouldn’t consider myself an interval runner, but I do try to do some speedwork when I’m training, and some easy pyramids are my favorite.

Not that this workout is “easy” by any means, I’m not saying that.

Where Can You Do This Pyramid Workout?

The great thing about pyramid exercise is that you can do them anywhere; outside or inside. If at all possible, I try to do my running workouts outside, especially on a track. But, with my Garmin Forerunner, it’s easy to do them on a greenway as well.

My obvious disclaimer statement is: just try to avoid doing them on the street.

Street running, especially with intervals, and a pyramid set workout, can get dangerous with crossing streets and cars (duh).

This pyramid run is also very easy to complete on a treadmill. However, if I absolutely have to do a workout on the treadmill, this 40 minute treadmill workout helps beat the boredom a little better, in my opinion.

And the good thing about treadmills is that they are really easy to track your time and distance on one display at the same time.

Generally, I enjoy speed workouts. I enjoy the challenge and the fact that there are mini distances that I have to go and then it will be over. Having small, measurable goals seems to work really well for me.

And that’s the point of a pyramid run. You work hard for a bit, and then you have a little recovery. 

When it comes to interval training, pyramid workouts are my favorite (mentally). I really think doing strategic workouts like this helped me get through my first marathon, and qualify for Boston in my second marathon. 

I often did this pyramid workout on a track, as we have a high school one nearby. 

This pyramid run is not based on distances, but rather on minutes. The great thing that this is a 30 minute running workout, with subsequent pyramid intervals.

Well technically, just above it, but mentally, if you think of it that way, it helps!

I think having it based on time makes things easier without pre-marked distances around. I also think mentally, it’s easier to count down minutes before changing speeds and intensity. 

However, if you do want to do it on distance, 400m, 800m or 1200m may be a good starting point. 

Track with a field in the middle

What is a Pyramid Workout?

As the name pyramid exercise is structured for both increasing and decreasing times and intensities.

You pretty much work your way up the pyramid (or ladder) before working your way back down for reverse pyramid training. 

I did a one mile warm up before doing this workout and ended with a one mile cool down.  So it turned out to be around 50 minutes total for me.

Of course, if you have longer to go or more mileage to do, you can add to your warmup and cool down. If you’re crazy enough or need more distance/time on your feet, you could even add another layer to the pyramid workout. 

I made sure to stretch really good after and foam rolled the next few nights too! All of these things make a difference, as discussed in this post about foam rolling for runners.

Once you finish your warm-up, you’re ready to begin your pyramid run.

I would recommend warming up well and doing some dynamic stretching before beginning to prevent injury. 

1, 2, 3, 4 Pyramid Run Workout

This pyramid workout is like reverse pyramid training with increasing pyramid intervals. You’ll start with a hard minute, followed by an easy minute at a recovery pace.

I recommend going 85-90% for the hard minutes and 50-75% for the recovery minutes.

However, all of this will depend on your ultimate goal.

  • Are you training for something?
  • Trying to get faster?
  • Working to increase endurance?
  • Are you incorporating cross training?

For me, it was about 5k goal pace for the hard (7:00-7:10ish), and marathon goal pace for the recovery (8:30). Modify as needed!

graphic for pyramid workout

You’ll then move up to two minutes hard, two minutes easy, three minutes hard, three minutes easy and finally up to four minutes hard and then easy.

Once you finish the four hard minutes, followed by four easy minutes, you’ll work your way back down the pyramid workout.

If you want a longer workout as mentioned above for pyramid interval training, you can go up to five minutes hard and five minutes easy. If so, go you!

It won’t be a 30 minute running workout in that case, but sometimes, you want or need longer. 

What is Pyramid Exercise Good For?

There are many reasons to do pyramid exercise because pyramid workouts can be so beneficial.

If you love sprinting and speedwork and racing, that’s a reason in and of itself. 

Some other reasons include:

  • Increase speed and endurance
  • To hit a goal pace for a race
  • To teach your body to perform when uncomfortable
  • Test your lactic acid threshold
  • Increase aerobic and anaerobic capacity
Track for pyramid workout

What Other Speedwork Can You Do?

If you just hate the idea of pyramid workouts, don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to practice your speedwork.  Some other favorites include:

Plain Old Intervals – Try going harder for a standard distance, followed by a recovery period. You can do time or distance! For example, 1 minute hard, 1 minutes easy, or 1/2 mile hard, 1/2 mile easy. Continue. 

Fartleks – I did a lot of fartleks when I played highschool soccer. Basically, you can make up your own intervals to incorporate. Maybe you go harder for longer, then the next time, it’s a shorter burst. I used to do them around our football field. I’d go hard during the short distance, and recovery during the long distance. 

Hills – A classic form of speedwork and interval training. I will say, I hate hills but they are so impactful on lower body strength, building muscle and endurance! I used to have to do hill repeats when I was training for softball in college. 

Don’t forget, you can also do pyramid intervals for strength as well, using weights. 

I am definitely focusing on some yoga and stretching and doing what feels good. 

More Workouts for Runners

You may want to check out some of these treadmill workouts for runners, too!

Need help with your nutrition plan? Check out these healthy snacks for athletes and our endurance fueling course for athletes!

Do you prefer quicker, high-intensity workouts or longer, slower workouts?

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  1. This 1234 workouts pyramid workout speed, is good. Will incorporate this in my routine. Great blog, good read and informative.

  2. Hi Sarah, you are the cutest and I love your blog! Thank you for posting when you are so busy. I look forward to your posts and always learn something. I have done most of the workouts that you have posted and I have loved them all. I have done this one three times now, and look forward to it. Good luck with the move!

    1. Thank you for your sweet comment, made my day! So happy you enjoyed this workout. It’s my favorite one to do where I don’t feel like I’m constantly “looking at my watch.”

  3. That pyramid workout is great. My daughter does this a lot with her middle school cross country team. You can do lots of variations.

  4. I love these types of workouts, but always forget how valuable they can be as speedwork. I may swap this in place of my speedwork tomorrow on the treadmill. I’ve done the same workout a few weeks in a row now, and it’s getting a little boring.

  5. This workout sounds a lot like a workout I once did for track! It’ was a toughie, but a goodie, so I can’t wait to try this out. I love high intensity workouts, but I have to say, there’s no better feeling than finishing a long run.


  6. I like this workout! Some of the speed sessions get so involved that they are hard to remember. This one is laid out very simply. I think I prefer a tempo run over intervals, but I do them occasionally anyway. The progressive run will always be my favorite as you get plenty of time to work your way down to the desired pace. Thanks for linking, Sarah.