How runners can overcome a plateau

Quick training tweaks for amazing gains

Training hard but not seeing much in the way of improvement? Making changes to your regular routine can bring rewards says Scott Overall.




Written by Scott Overall

Scott is a British long distance athlete who represented Team GB at the 2012 Olympics. His marathon PB is currently 2:10:55.

 

There will come a time in an athlete’s career where the training they are doing is not seeing any improvements in the performances they are producing, and there can be a number of reasons for this. Doing the same training at the same level is always going to produce the performances you have done in the past. As you get fitter you need to set higher targets, faster times and more miles to help you keep moving forward.

Of course, when you first start training seriously the jumps in performances are going to be significantly greater than when you have been running for a number of years. The same goes for when you are coming back from an injury, the progress you make in the first few months is going to be huge as your fitness levels increase to where they were before you got injured.

Small changes can make all the difference

Once you have reached a certain level you will be training harder but only see slow and steady improvements. The same is seen with elite athletes, when you get to the top of your game and are pushing the envelope to run faster times you are going to have to train very hard and might only see 1 or 2 second improvements (or even less depending on the distance). This is where the little things in an athlete’s life can make all the difference, a little more stretching, bit more recovery here and there, and a better diet to name but a few! 

Critically assess your training

In order to overcome a plateau you will need to look and your training to see if there is anything is missing. Could you improve the distance and/or pace of the long run, could you be more consistent with the training you are doing, adding weights and core training to your program, or it might even be a case of making sure you are recovering more in between sessions so you can get more out of them.

Improve lifestyle choices

It could also include improving other things in your lifestyle such as diet, amount/quality of sleep and training venues. It is possible you have lost your mojo and it could be a case of running somewhere new and give you a new 'fresh' approach to training. It can be quite amazing how different you'll feel on a run where you don't actually know where you're going - I often find the time goes so much quicker.

Avoid getting stale with your training routines

It could be that you are so focused on trying to break your 5km PB that you are getting stale just by running the same race distance week in and week out. This is where you need to turn your attention to something different such as a 10km or even better a 1500m or mile to get the speed going - who doesn't like running fast? It might be an idea to start writing a training diary and include things like how you feel before and after each run and maybe make a note of any days where you feel more tired than normal. After a few weeks you might start to see a pattern in your work/social/running life where you can make changes.

If happy with your routine, then stick at it and the rewards will come

It is possible that you are actually quite fit and you have run the same time in races for a while, in my career I have often had this and then all of a sudden you have a massive break through and you smash your PB. Obviously it is very hard to tell if this is going to happen, but if you look at your training and are happy with how things are going then just ride it out. I would only say to do this if you can honestly look at the training you are doing and can't find anything you would change. 

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