Every new runner wants the same thing, PR’s! Lots of PRs! When you first begin running you often notice you can line up at a race and get a faster time than the race prior. Then, a couple years in, it stops. Why is this happening, you probably know people who have been running 20 year
s and they are still progressing. What is it that you are not doing?
First, progress is never linear. So, not every race will be a PR…FOR ANYONE. But there are a lot of things that go into maintaining and progressing your running career. As a newer runner you will see some great stats almost immediately. This is because your legs are fresh, you are learning how to be consistent, you’re finding your paces, and learning your body.
So why is it that you start to plateau and what can you do about this? Running is a very unique sport and you need to treat your training as such. You might think all it takes is going outside and running 3 miles a day and doubling your run on Saturdays. However, if you want to be faster, you have to understand that you need to develop your running gears and that means training to hit that PR zone every time and avoid the dreaded plateau.
Things to implement into your training to keep progressing:
Build your Base
The base run is the foundation of your running. A consistent, easy, conversational pace 5-6 days a week. You might start out doing a run/walk and build to running a solid 30 minutes within the first 2-3 months. Once you are running 30 minutes a day, it is time to build on this. Staying at an easy 30 mins daily, you will start to plateau. Try to add 5 minutes to your base run every 2 weeks until you are able to run 45-60 minutes for those 5-6 days. Listen to your body though, maybe you it will want you to add 5 minutes to just a couple of base runs until you can consistently have all your base runs even.
Strength imbalances happen and this is one of the most important issues to correct. When your body becomes more efficient on one side more than the other, your overall system becomes less efficient/functional. Soon your body will start to compensate for these imbalances, and this is where the risk of injury increases.
When overcompensation begins, you shift your weight to another side. This leads to increased stress on the knee, ankle, hip, and back. When you combine overcompensation with your consistent daily runs, workouts, and long runs it is a recipe for disaster.
If one muscle group isn’t working at its full potential, the result is staying stuck in a plateau, not performing efficiently/safely, nor hitting your desired paces.
Running at the wrong effort on a daily basis
Another reason for plateauing is that you are training the wrong way. To train smart means using strategies that will challenge your body without continually breaking it down. Strategies like this allow you to run for the rest of your life.
Our bodies are created to adapt to stress, so when you continue to do the same thing repeatedly, your body gets used to it, and you plateau. Or you could be overworking your body and it never gets a chance to recover so what once was a pace you could sustain regularly, now becomes difficult.
Without consistency and a continued progressive model, you will never see results.
The occasional skipped run is not a big deal. The problem arises when you miss running regularly and your training volume/load stays the same.
Training cycles, or "periodization", is when we divide a training cycle with a specific goal in mind so you don’t do the same type of workouts all the time. Think of this like the "ebb and flow of hard work".
These cycles are broken up into high volume, mostly easy running (base phase), lower volume, hard running (preparation), race specific, fine tuning, taper phase, goal race (peak). These three phases are then followed by rest & recovery. Breaking your cycle into these phases allows you to combine the benefits of multiple workouts that collectively add up to peak conditioning. When variety is introduced into your training, you limit your chances of plateauing and/or becoming injured. Periodizaton is planning and the goal is to give you the best possible chance of peak performance at a certain time. You're always more successful when you plan. (See blog article: https://www.milesandmacros.net/post/training-phases-of-running)
Most people overlook technique. Improper movement is detrimental to your runs.
There is a truth behind the argument that “running is natural – put in enough time and miles and you will naturally get better at it.” Yes, running in itself is simple; however, when we start increasing the frequency, the intensity, the duration of our runs this is where skill comes in. This is where sustained effort can rely on possession of a more efficient running form.
Enter the running drills. If you haven't run track and field in high school or even trained on a track, the chances of you being familiar with drill movements is slight. Though there is no one-size-fits-all way to run, the mechanical process of running can be hindered by individual biomechanical constraints. With the repetitive nature of running, as individuals, we all have personal limits as to how far and how fast we can run before injuries occur. Reducing our individual constraints and improving our running efficiency will allow us to set ourselves new limits. We are able to improve these factors when we implement running drills. (See blog article: https://www.milesandmacros.net/post/copy-of-nutrition-and-injury-rehabilitation)
It is so important to RECOVER! Your body cannot progress beyond its ability to heal.
Every time you work out you create micro-fractures in the muscles. These tears get repaired when you have quality sleep, calories, and smart training. To boost your energy intake, increase portion sizes and add mid-meal snacks. You also want to focus on fueling around your exercise. Be sure to eat before, during (long runs), and after training routines. Allow enough recovery time between exercise sessions. And aim for a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night.
In summary, running is not a one size fits all for each person. You have to train your body to challenge itself without breaking your body down beyond repair. Train smart and train consistently. Remember to eat properly, rest train properly, and recover properly.