The Trouble with Positive Splits + . . .

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. . . four other surprising things I learned in my Run Coach course! One of the things I love about running is there’s a lot to learn — in fact, there’s always something more to learn. 

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I’m linking up with My First 5K and MoreRunning With Attitude, Runs with PugsZenaida and Run Laugh Eat Pie for Fit Five Friday. Today I’m sharing 5 things I learned in my RRCA Run Coach course that surprised me — and might benefit you.

1: The problem with positive splits
Positive splits are running the first part of a race faster than the second half. Every one second you go out too fast in the beginning of the race may add three seconds to your pace at the end. Every runner is different, of course. Some runners do well with positive splits.

Put another way: do you want to be passing people at the end of the race, or do you want to do the passing? 

2: 2-4 hard efforts per week are enough
What is a hard effort, you ask? It depends (we got that advice a lot in this course!). One person’s hard effort is easy to another person. What I learned in this part is that the whole week (in addition to speed work, or other intense forms of exercise) counts as a hard effort.

Let me repeat that: Your whole week of running is one hard effort!

I never thought about it that way. So if you have speedwork and a tempo run in your training plan, and you’re feeling burned out by your training — you may already be at your three hard efforts because the entire week counts as one, too. Every runner is different, but it’s a good point to keep in mind.

3: Hills may make you faster . . . 
. . . but being faster won’t necessarily make you better on hills. I’m sure a lot of us have heard that hills are speedwork in disguise. It was interesting to me to learn that just because you run fast doesn’t necessarily mean you will run hills better.

Which brings us back to specificity of training: train on the terrain you’ll be racing on .

4: Try to give yourself a range for mileage/pace
Add some wiggle room to your training plan. Maybe you go a little shorter or a little longer, or maybe you have a range for the pace you want to hit. Notice any patterns that emerge — if you’re always choosing the slower or shorter runs, maybe you’re setting the bar too high for yourself. Conversely if you’re always adding mileage or running faster than the range you planned on, you may not be challenging yourself enough.

Only you know!

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5: Throw out some of the pyramid
Training plans have cycles, and in this course we’re taught to visualize the cycles as a pyramid. At the bottom is your base, and at the top are intervals (aka speedwork) right before you are at your peak performance (ready to race).

In between the base and intervals is the strength phase:

  • Tempos
  • Fartleks
  • Hills

None of that should come as a surprise. The thing that did surprise me is that we were taught as long as you continue to grow your long run during the strength phase you can run a great race without ever doing intervals. Food for thought, anyway.

Final Thoughts
We learned many things, of course. These are five things that surprised me; they may not surprise you — or matter to you. Maybe one of these tips will speak to you — or not.

Which of these was most surprising to you?

What have you learned about running recently that surprised you?