Andrew Raynor Dover New Hampshire NH

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Negative Split For Life

Andrew Raynor Dover

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By Mike Tarrolly for Crushing Iron

I’ve long been consumed with the concept of a negative split. When I started running at 48 years old, the idea of actually going faster at the end of a race (even a 5K) seemed ridiculous.

I was always too gassed at the finish line, but the simplest explanation is probably that I always started too fast my actual fitness.

The more I thought about the negative split, the more it made sense, and occasionally it really locks in.


Over the weekend I slid into an interval run that broke out like this:

– 15 minute warm up
– Then 10 x one-minute-intervals broken into 20 seconds “fast” and 40 seconds “easy”
– Go through that twice with a 5 minute easy in between
– 10 min cool down

My first thought was, I’m not in great speed shape, so my “fast” will be more like a Freddy Kruger chase. And then, I broke it down even further.

I would try to negative split segments of the ten minute blocks. In other words, my first interval “fast” would be the slowest of the ten with my 10th hopefully being the fastest. Then, I thought, let’s make the first 10 block slower than the second.

I’m no scientist, but logic says the payoffs from negative splitting a workout seem big:

  • You micro train in negative split space to embed the concept in your training DNA
  • You work on patience in training and hope that carries over into races
  • You feel better at the end of the workout than you do at the beginning
  • Not being wiped out is a good thing

You can drill down even further.

I started willing myself to negative split the 20 second segments. Start out “fast” but end “faster.”

Then ramp down slowly and back into the slow pace for 40 seconds.

The interesting part of this is that those 40 seconds started inching up with less effort and by the end, what may have started at a 10 minute mile pace was 9:30 with less effort.

I think this may be the secret: If you let your body ease into whatever you are doing, you have a much better chance of finishing strong.

It’s like waking up in the morning.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up late, scrambled to get dressed, then drove to work for a meeting with a brain of mush and one minute to spare. I was ruined and it took everything I could do to get my head straight for an hour of “big-boy-pants.” The problem was, that adrenaline spiked and the rest of my day out of whack.

On the other hand, when I wake up slowly, meditate, move around a little, eat a good breakfast, etc. the day seems to come to me.

This is usually the case with training and racing as well. My best days are when I’m mentally and physically ready to work.

When I blast out of bed and right into a workout, it’s a sensory overload that typically ends with a crash the minute I’m done. Can I do it? Yes. And often it feels good in the moment, but by the end it’s a struggle to hang on.

In our Crushing Iron Podcast, Train To Your Current Fitness, I went on a little tangent about negative splitting your entire training season. Most of us seem to struggle in the Winter months and when you look at an entire year as a race, it makes you feel a little better.

For a lot of us, this time of year is the “getting out of bed phase.” We have to be careful of the demands we put on our body. It’s so much better to take it slow, and simply keep moving.

This can translate into short swims, bikes, runs, or whatever feels good. For me that’s often yoga or some other mobility stuff to keep my body fluid and flexible after a long year of tension.

And really, that is the key to training at this time of year. If you bury yourself in a hole, a long race calendar is daunting. How can you keep this up for 9 more months? You probably can’t.

So, I think it’s good to take some solace in the fact that you’re rummaging around for the snooze button right now. Sleep a little more. Get in tune with natural cycles of life like sunrise and sunset.

You only make gains while the body is in recovery. It rebuilds and you come back stronger. Believe and trust that process.

Embrace the negative split in everything you do, including another long and demanding year of training for your big race.

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Andy Raynor Dover

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