30-30 Workout Progression

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    John F

    My question pertains to the advisability of modifying the progression of vVO2 workouts during a half-marathon training plan.
    A few months ago, while in my off-season base-training phase, I came across an article Matt wrote for Outside Online in November, 2015, about Veronique Billat’s 30-30 vVO2 Max workout. Describing how to determine the distance to be covered in each 30-second interval, it was suggested that vVO2 Max could be determined by running as fast as you can for 6 minutes, then dividing the distance run during the test by 12 to get the distance to be covered in each interval. The workout involves a warmup followed by reps of 30 seconds @ vVO2 Max, followed by a 30-second recovery jog. This sequence is repeated until you can’t cover the distance in 30 seconds. The article stated that somewhere between 16-24 reps was the norm.
    I really struggled in the 6:00 vVO2 Test, and was preparing myself for only being able to complete 10-12 reps the first time. But when I did the workout, I was running the reps @ 15-20 sec/Mile faster than the vVO2 Max the test yielded, covered more ground during each interval, and stopped at 24 reps only because I am in the third year of recovering from a nerve compression injury and did not want to push my luck.
    The nerve injury was caused by a herniated disc in August 2020, and left me with a pretty severe case of drop foot (near-paralysis) of the ankle on my dominant leg (right). I’ve recovered about 80-90% of the strength in that leg, but am still @ 1:00/Mile slower at half-marathon distance than I was pre-injury. I’m thinking that part of the discrepancy between my vVO2 Max pace as recorded on the 6-minute test run and the faster 30-second intervals may have to do with not being used to sustaining that faster pace for more than a few minutes at a time.
    I’m training for the KY Derby Festival mini (half) marathon in April. Matt recommended 4 to 6 weeks of 30-30’s at this point in training, then 4-6 weeks of 60-60, followed by 4-6 weeks of 5 x 3:00 @ vVO2 Max.
    My question is: Considering that I completed the first workout so easily and recovered quickly, would it be OK to skip the rest of the 30-30’s and go directly to 60-60’s this week?
    And if 60-60 seems easy, would it be OK to progress to 5 x 3:00 after two weeks of 60-60?
    Also, does anyone else have any experience with returning to running after a disc injury? I was fortunate to have found physical therapists who knew how to work with this injury and was able to recover without surgery, though I am open to surgery if it becomes necessary at some future point. It just was my experience in this case that the body can heal itself if you give it enough time and learn how to maintain good positioning of the spine.


    Matt Fitzgerald

    Hi John,

    It sounds to me that your performance in the 6:00 test was artificially limited by your condition, whereas the same limiter does not affect you when you run short intervals at the same pace. If that’s the pace, then the reason the 30-30’s are so easy for you is that you are running them too slow (below your true, not-artificially-limited) vVO2max. So I recommend that you start by running a standard 30-30 workout at the fastest pace you can sustain for the prescribed number of reps, treat that as your true vVO2max, and progress from there.


    John F



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John F

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