If you’re training as hard as ever but you’ve stopped seeing results, you’ve probably hit a plateau. Our five top tips will help you bust out of it in no time.
Ah, the dreaded plateau. You haven’t changed your running routine, but suddenly every run feels hard and you’ve stopped seeing any kind of improvement. Some days, you even feel like you’re going backwards and it’s driving you crazy.
Every long-time runner faces a plateau at some point, but knowing it’s a common occurrence doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Here are five tips to help you get out of a running rut.
1. Take a break
Have you been running for months or even years without taking more than a few days off at a time? Do you think rest days are for the weak? Are you known for hitting the pavement two days after running a race? You could be overtrained.
There’s only one fix for overtraining: rest. Depending on how severely overtrained you are, you’ll need to take a few days to a few weeks off running to allow your body to recover. If you don’t, you could end up injured and sidelined for much longer.
2. Shake up your routine
Once you’ve ruled out overtraining or taken the break you needed, it’s time to revamp your running program. Forget your favourite routes for a while and try some new ones for a boost in motivation.
Rather than running at the same comfortable pace all the time, mix it up with hill repeats, intervals, fartleks (alternating moderate-to-hard and easy periods of running in an unstructured manner) and tempo runs (a “comfortably hard” pace maintained throughout your run). These are all different types of speed work, which will improve your endurance, pace and overall fitness.
3. Increase your mileage
While it might seem counterintuitive to run more when you’re already struggling, increasing your weekly mileage is one of the best ways to bust out of a plateau because it boosts your endurance and forces your body to adapt to longer and harder workouts. The key is to do it slowly and steadily by following the golden rule of no more than a 10 percent increase per week. So, if you’re currently running 20K per week, increase to 22K the first week, 24.2K the second week, and so on. It might feel tough at first, but you’ll soon start to see results.
Strengthening some of the main muscle groups involved in running – such as the core, glutes, hips, pelvic floor and back – can significantly improve your performance. Start by performing a simple body-weight circuit (including exercises such as squats, lunges, planks and Mason twists) for 10 to 20 minutes twice a week. Once you’ve increased your strength, repeat the circuit two or three times.
5. Join a running group
Not only will the social aspect of a running group kick-start your motivation, but training alongside runners who are faster than you can push you out of your comfort zone. You’ll also benefit from the tailored advice of a running coach who will be able to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll be running a PB before you know it!