Billat 30-30

Veronique Billat.
Now there’s a nice French name. A movie star perhaps? Government minister? Nope, she’s an exercise physiologist at the university of Lille. She’s been applying her treadmill and exhaled-gas analyser to the study of vVO2max. There’s a more detailed explanation of her work here, but basically vVO2max is how fast you need to run to maximize your oxygen consumption for conditioning purposes. Every coach knows that the way to spend maximum time at VO2max before exhaustion sets in is to do intervals.But what intervals, and how fast? Mme. Billat has come to the conclusion that equal intervals are best, 3 minutes on, 3 off repeated 5 times. The “off” periods are done at a recovery jog.
Recently Mme. Billat has been working on shorter intervals, which are are nearly as good for most runners, and better for some. 60 seconds on, 60 off or even 30-30 seconds. There is no fixed count for these. You simply continue to failure, in the manner of pushups.

The answer to “How fast?” is simply the fastest speed you can hold for 6 minutes. I found this test difficult to do solo, but McMillan’s predictor says I should be able to run a mile in 5:51. I’m sure I can’t do that yet so I picked a time that seemed do-able to start: 6:20.

The 30-30 workout suits me pretty well. The bouts are short enough that I can say “just one more” 4 or 5 times before I really have to stop and commence serious air sucking. I’m now up to 22 of them, and averaged 6:13 pace on the latest set this morning. When I can do 20 of these sub-6:00 I should graduate to the 60-60s. This is only my third week of doing these, and the improvement is noticeable. That means I’m a little soft in the speed department of course, but these workouts are working better for me than anything else I’ve tried.

This Sunday’s Kaiser Half will test that assertion. I ran this course in 1:37:49 last year, which was a PR at that time. No predictions this time since this race is notorious for nasty weather, but if conditions are good I’ll set out at around 7:00 pace and see what develops.

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6 Responses to “Billat 30-30”


  1. 1 Flo February 3, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Very interesting. I’ve read about Billats wouldn’t have thought of their usefulness for marathon training, though now that I’ve rear your entry, I could see that it would definitely help the speed department. I’d be interested to see if you regular, longer intervals again, how those improve thanks to the Billats. Do you have some on the schedule that I can look out for?

    And woohoo, goodluck this weekend!!

  2. 2 Christi February 3, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Thanks for the great information! I am in awe of your ability to do these intervals. I have intervals tonight so I hope I can kick some major butt. Good luck at your 1/2!

  3. 3 jime2 February 3, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Flo – My program is week-by-week at the moment, but the constants are: one speed day, one tempo day and a long run each week. For speed, I’m sticking to the Billats for the time being but I might fit in something like 10 X (1000m, 2min rec) later to see how I’m doing.

    Christi – Nice skiing pictures on your blog. Kick butt today!

  4. 4 Loraine McVey February 3, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Interesting Jim. Actually, I’d be surprised if you couldn’t get pretty close to running a mile in that time.

    Does garmin lock on that quickly in a 30 second burst to give you an accurate pacing or is this something you did more by feel and look at the results later?

    I like that Daniels gives guidance about amount of speedwork in relation to overall mileage, so I keep that in mind with intervals (makes me feel I’m doing something to avoid injury!). Do you think that translates over to Billats?

    Sorry, always have the questions to learn something new!
    Good luck at the half, hope weather complies for a nice speedy run.

  5. 5 jime2 February 3, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Loraine – I usually use the “Lap Pace” reading on the Garmin, and hit the lap button when I’m up to speed. It settles down in about 10-15 seconds. I hit it again before slowing down. I have the backlight permanently on at night, and hold it in my hand when doing intervals, so I can push the lap button with my thumb. Trouble is, I have trouble reading the pace when I’m running at speed, so I’m mostly guessing, then checking later. That’s why my actual paces have been getting faster, converging on the 5:55-ish that McMillan says is my 6 minute sustainable speed.

    These intervals don’t actually use up much distance. 20 of them is just 10 minutes at speed, which would be 1.7 miles at 6:00 and I’m not doing them that fast yet. The 5X3min version would be 15 minutes, so 2.5 miles. If you count the recoveries as well, then add on 50% (Billat says you should go at half speed for the recoveries). Jack Daniels sets a percentage upper limit for speedwork, so it all kinda fits.


  1. 1 Hillats | Girl In Motion: A Running Blog Trackback on February 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

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Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
10K43:44
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)

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