You don’t need to divide every run into a negative

The idea of ​​running negative gaps is so ingrained in us, it’s such a rudimentary skill for runners as tying your shoes. At some point, every runner must learn to execute negative swings or figuratively die trying.

By definition, a negative split occurs when the second half of your run or run is faster than your first half. The ability to run negative divisions teaches you how to manage your energy and pace yourself properly throughout a run or training run. This is ideal because you learn how much you can push early so you don’t explode during the second half.

But just as every coin has two sides, so too does the rhythm. On the other hand, negative divisions are positive divisions. This is where you get out faster and slow down as the run or race continues. Considered taboo, mainstream wisdom warns against intentionally running into positive divisions. It is believed that positive divisions are associated with pain, discomfort, and poor outcomes.

However, I think most players would agree that sometimes a calculated move against the prevailing odds can pay off big. And as a certified running trainer and runner myself, I believe that when executed correctly, the positive split can be a powerful stimulus strategy. One that just might get you that personal best or the Boston qualifying time you worked so hard to finally land. But here’s what you need to know before you start your next run or race on the faster side of your goal.

Should you give up on a negative shared goal?

The elusive negative split is perhaps as much of a goal in the race as it is to set a personal best. We see elites doing this all the time and it has been well documented that most world records are set with negative deviations. But what about the rest of us who don’t break world records? Are there any scenarios where one should let go of a negative division? I would say yes.

Justin ross, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in health and wellness psychology, human performance, and sports psychology agrees. A runner himself, explains Dr. Ross, “The elites are really good at running 26 miles because they’ve run over 100 miles a week for a long time, compared to amateurs who just can’t maintain that pace for a long time. so long time, because we don’t have the training or maybe even the physiological ability.

This begs the question: if we hobbyists don’t run more than 100 miles per week and maybe don’t have superior physiological capacity, should we emulate the elite’s negative shared rhythm strategy? While I think more experienced runners should be looking to keep up with their faster counterparts, I want to provide an alternative for the non-elite. That is, something I call “controlled fade”.

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What is a controlled fade?

Controlled fade is a deliberate, positive distribution stimulation strategy, which is calculated and will not result in exploding or hitting the wall. It’s a slow and gradual pace. “I don’t think we have to worry about the positive split if it’s done with intention and reason and the slow fade is really close, like in relatively even shares,” says Dr. Ross.

Note the words of Dr. Ross “done with intention and reason. “For a controlled fade to be successful, it has to be a calculated strategy. Dr Ross warns,” I don’t think we need to be afraid of the positive split, but I think we have to. be careful. ”This is because the margin for a blast is much greater than with a negative division strategy. If you are too ambitious during the first half, a controlled fade will result in a disastrous second half, potentially one that you will leave lying around or walking or just miserable for those last few miles. On the other hand, if executed correctly it can be very effective.

What is the advantage of skipping a negative division?

“I think a lot of this is a shift in mindset that you don’t have to divide negatively to perform PR,” says Dr. Ross, who set his personal marathon best of 2:57: 36 at the 2019 California International Marathon running 86 seconds faster in the first half of his run, coinciding with a positive split.

Mentally, there is a very different mindset between having to pick up the pace at kilometer 20 to reach your goal when you are already tired and having time in the bank to cool off a bit. With the latter you have achieved your goal and it is up to you to lose and with the former you do not have the goal and have to pursue it when you are already tired. People are more likely to struggle to keep something they already have than something they never had in the first place.

So what is a controlled fade? It comes down to a pretty positive mental approach to those last few miles – and of course that could also pay off with a faster finish time.

How to correctly execute the controlled fade?

Being honest about your current physical condition is crucial to successfully performing the Controlled Fade. The best way to get an honest assessment of your ability across all race distances is to plug a recent race result into a race pace calculator which projects what would be an equivalent performance over other distances. This will give you an idea of ​​what you are capable of if everything goes perfectly on race day.

In most cases, a more realistic goal is to add two to five minutes to what the calculators tell you, especially if you’re using run times further away from the marathon, like a 5k time. If your goal is within this two to five minute window, it will likely be achievable and suitable for the controlled fade strategy.

A controlled fade works best when you run the first half of your run between a total of 30 seconds and three minutes faster than the second half. This equates to five to ten seconds per mile for the marathon. As you pace the first half of a marathon, aim for five seconds per mile faster than the end goal pace with an absolute speed limit of 10 seconds per mile faster. For example, if you’re trying to go past 3:30 a.m. for the marathon or run an average of 8:00 a.m. / mile, try running the first half at a pace of 7:55 a.m. / mile, never going over 7:50 a.m. / mile. .

The goal is to maintain this pace for as long as possible, hoping that you will pass out at some point. The more you keep up the pace in the race, the more buffer you will create against your final time goal.

Keep in mind that it’s always important to relax in this faster pace. So starting 10 seconds slower than the target pace for the first mile can be a good option for those in need of a mile warm-up. You’ll make up for that time at mile four or five if you settle into your planned controlled fade rate at mile two.

When to use a controlled fade?

A controlled fade works best for longer runs, like the marathon, and when there is a lot of internal pressure to beat a very specific time.

Determining when to use a controlled fade depends on your goals. Dr. Ross points out the difference between result objectives and performance standards. Performance targets are a specific outcome you are looking for, such as breaking your personal best or qualifying for the Boston Marathon, while performance standards are about “the more approach you take to show up.” For outcome goals, there is a clear line between success and failure. Either you reach your goal or you don’t.

“A lot of times what will happen during a race is that we recognize that our goal goals are lost for some reason – the weather isn’t cooperating or it’s just not our day. At this point, runners are often really defeated and frustrated, ”says Dr. Ross. Without having a performance standard to fall back on, some runners might give up and give up their goal altogether.

This is where the controlled fade comes in: building a little cushion of time to fall back on late in the race allows runners who place a strong emphasis on result goals a margin of error, alleviating some of the burden. pressure.

So think about what you want to accomplish in your run or if you have that specific goal to pursue in your run and if the controlled fade would work for you.

What are other coaches saying?

Terry Howell, owner of Blue collar running, coached seven runners at the 2020 Olympic Trials. He agrees that the controlled fade is a viable plan for some runners and often creates a cushion even for his elite runners. “Depending on the caliber of the athlete and the condition they are in, I’m okay with a two-minute cushion in the back, which means I’m slowing down in the second half.” In an ideal situation, Howell likes to see his athletes somewhere between 30 seconds slower and 30 seconds faster than their marathon halfway goal.

On the other hand, Karen Dunn, owner of Strengthen your stride and VDOT Certified Distance Trainer and RRCA Level Two Running Trainer, says “it’s really about knowing your athlete, knowing their history, their goals, their mental toughness and tenacity.” She thinks a steady or slightly negative pace is the best strategy, but recognizes that if it’s the right fit, a positive split can help some gain confidence.

Is a controlled fade the right approach for you?

Ultimately, it’s important to avoid absolutes. When it comes to a negative, positive or equal stimulus strategy, one is not always better than the other. It all comes down to the individual runner, the race course and what feels comfortable in a given situation.

However, the only way to know if a stimulus strategy is better for your particular situation is to try it. If you’re like most runners who think positive spreads mean poor performance, try the Controlled Fade. It might pay even more than you expected.

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