It means you’ve gotten past the initial jump of being a ‘beginner’ and your body now needs more stimulation in order to improve. In other words, it means you’re getting better! Plateaus can surely drive your motivation into the ground though. So without further ado, let's learn how to leave all of that behind:
LOOK OVER YOUR TRAINING PLAN
Are you challenging your body enough? Maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board and change things around in your training plan. Make a good ol' cup of coffee (or your preferred beverage), sit down and contemplate your training plan. Think about the last two weeks and try to remember which workouts felt easy.
Those are the ones you can start pushing your limits in. Your workouts should stimulate your body and push you to new limits. Keep in mind there should always be one or two easy sessions per week in order to allow for adequate recovery.
Extra tip: It’s normal for beginners to hit a plateau early on in their running journey. This is because most beginner training plans only include regular running sessions. Maybe it's time to spice things up a bit and include fartlek, tempo and interval sessions. Strength sessions can do wonders for you too! Don't know what these are? I explain them all in our "3 Techniques to Improve Your Running Speed" article.
I'd like to leave a little food for thought here... if you want to run fast, you have to run fast! Remember that when planning your future running sessions - make sure to include tempos, intervals and fartleks sessions!
ARE YOU PUSHING HARD ENOUGH?
You need to dig deep for this one. Psychologically, you might find a particular workout very hard BUT your body can handle more. How does this work? For example, training on a treadmill can be very repetitive and tedious… you might get bored and you’ll fatigue easier. The same thing happens if you're running in the same location every single day.
Now imagine you’re running in a new part of the city or through the woods and you’re looking at new things and discovering new areas. Time will FLY BY! You can use this extra energy to push yourself a little bit harder than usual. Running in a new area brings excitement and will help you feel energised and ready to go).
Extra tip: So you've decided you want to go EXTRA hard in your next running session, huh? Studies show that listening to music while exercising helps fight fatigue! Just like running outdoors, music will (temporarily and sporadically) 'distract' your brain from the physical effort. Here's the link to two very interesting studies, one by Brunel University London (United Kingdom) and the other by University of Pernambuco (Brazil).
If you're training for a marathon and the maximum distance you've ran is 42km, then this tip is for you! Think about this in a logical way. If your goal is to run 42km (forget time) and the maximum distance you have run is 42km then your body will be prepared to handle 42km. Knowing this, wouldn't it be logical to train with a distance goal of 45km? That way, when you reach the finish line of your marathon your body will still have some extra juice because it's used to running 45km! You can use that 'extra juice' to speed up in the last couple of km's in your marathon!
By training more miles than you will actually need on race day you allow your body to be more relaxed during the last few kilometres. Your body will expect and will be ready for 45km so, by cutting the miles short (42km) you can use the extra energy to speed up!
In conclusion, long runs are important. It's especially important to prepare your body to run more than the total distance of the race your training for. This goes for all other events as well, such as the 5k, 10k, etc...
If you're not doing any strength work, this might be the key to overcoming your plateau! Strength training is absolutely essential to improve speed and prevent injuries because it strengthens the muscles and joints. In order to reach your peak performance you need to take a logical approach to training!
USE HEART RATE TRAINING
The heart is one of the best indicators of your current fitness level. An easy way to test your cardiovascular fitness is to check your heart rate as soon as you wake up (this is known as your resting heart rate). You can do this by placing your fingers on your wrist and, after finding your pulse, count how many heartbeats you feel in 20 seconds and multiply that number by three. This will give you your resting heart rate. Elite athletes can have resting heart rates as low as 40 beats per minute... what's yours? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in our Facebook group.
So, how can heart rate training help you overcome a plateau? Using your heart rate in training is a great way to improve your running by planning strategically and using YOUR OWN body and heart rate to train to the best of YOUR ABILITY!
In theory you will NEVER plateau because you will always be training according to your current health state. For example, if your fartlek sessions gets your heart to 170bpm and you don't see any improvements overtime, your new goal will be to push harder and try to reach 180bpm. This will surely push you over your boundaries and enhance your training results.
I've written a full article about this subject, click here if you'd like to read it.
So, how to you put all of this together? The simple answer is you need to discipline yourself to run smarter.
Every training session should have an objective and you need to be strict when you're creating the training plan and when you're out there. Running is a fun endeavour but there are times when we want to improve and we must push beyond our comfort zone and train differently - train smarter.
A great way to train smarter is to train with a goal in mind and to create a strategic path to reach that goal. Find a race that will happen at least three months from now and train for that specific race! Create a well-thought-out training plan and spend next the three months focusing on your goal. The techniques mentioned in this article will definitely help you overcome a running plateau and you'll soon be flying past the finish line! Oh, and when you crush your PR head on over to RunPage and create your own RunPage to commemorate! RunPage allows you to keep track of all your race results, photos and experiences in a organized manner that is easy to share with your family and friends. Click here to find out more about RunPage.
A FEW QUICK EXTRA TIPS BEFORE YOU GO
- Make sure you're sleeping enough. A good nights sleep is fundamental for recovery!
- Improve your nutrition (You can find some tips here)
- Set a new goals. Goals can boost your motivation!
- Run with someone who is more experienced/faster than you... that'll give you the push you need!
- If you're happy with your current training plan, stick with it... the results will come! Alas, at a slower pace... but they will come!
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