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Special Workouts: Billat's Four by Five and the Thirty-Thirty

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Veronique Billat is an expert on how to improve running performance.

She is a fast half marathoner herself (sub 1:20), coach of top runners in France, and a renowned exercise physiologist.

When she claims she has found a way which show how to improve performance and increase speed, runners listen.

Below are two of her workouts. Both of them have been scientifically tested and have proven to be successful, so we'd better pay attention!

What Do the Workouts Do?

Billat claims in her article in the "Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness" that the 4x5 workout and the 30-30 both increase max VO2.

This is the amount of oxygen your body passes on to your muscles.
A higher max VO2 will help you increase speed.

Another accepted way of increasing VO2 is via interval workouts.

How to Improve Your Performance with the Four by Five?

The recipe is simple:

Run four times for five minutes with a 2 1/2 minute recovery jog in between.

At what speed?
She explains further that you should do this workout at a pace between tempo and interval pace. This is normally close to 5K race speed.

And What About the Thirty-Thirty?

Again, the recipe is simple:

Alternate 30 seconds of fast running with 30 seconds of a slower jog. Do this a maximum of twenty minutes, or until exhaustion.

At what speed?
This should be done at interval pace.

Note that for these types of timed workouts the Gymboss or a GPS heart rate monitor are both perfect little tools to use.

running quote -
                        running is simple...

Important Note About Recovery: Walk or Run

Veronique Billat's team continuously do tests and studies to work out how the body reacts to different exercise regimens.

One recent study compared runners who did the 30-30 with walk breaks in between and those who did the 30-30 with slower jogs in between.

To even out the workload the "walkers" did 50% more intervals.

The results?

The runners improved their VO2max. The walkers did not. Despite doing more intervals.

It is believed that the walking breaks allowed the people to recover too well, basically. During the interval sessions not enough time was spent really testing VO2max.

So, when in doubt, don't walk your recovery periods, do a light jog.

I think the effect of walking vs jogging in recovery is probably negligible (or at least smaller) when you are doing longer intervals. When you do a five minute interval, you'll be spending enough time testing your VO2max anyways, so it would matter much less if you'd be walking or jogging your recovery periods.

But for short intervals, Billat's message appears to be that you need to run in your recoveries.

billat, veronique
                        billat, v02max

What Do I Think of the Workouts

These are killer workouts. I like killer workouts. At times... I like that they help make you really strong. I don't really like doing them though!

These are pretty good to do when you get to the phase in your training just before your key race, say about 2-3 months out.

Both of them take limited time to complete, which make them work reasonably well as lunch time workouts for example.

My lunch break is not overly long (as for most people), a bit too short to be satisfactory if I stick to an easy jog.

However, the 4x5 and the 30-30 workout get me sufficiently tired for the rest of the day!

They are good replacements for interval sessions.

And it is always good to get a bit of extra variation into your schedule.

After all, as a general rule, the question of how to improve your performance is best answered by saying that a runner needs to cover as many different speeds in training.

Each speed comes with its own benefits.

So, do the Billat everyone!

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