How to Break Through a Running/Racing Plateau.

8 miles all smiles this morning with some friends from the Irving Running Club crew. It’s always fun when my running buds want to go the extra distance with me. I’m working on getting my mileage back up for the Dallas Marathon in December. Hopefully I can end this year with a bang before moving on to ultras and more fun stuff in 2017.

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So I’ve been kind of marinating on this topic for a while. It’s definitely something we all go through as distance runners, especially as years go by and the racing medals rack up. When you first start running marathons, everything is happy and shiny and bright. You get PR after PR, you are feeling truly on top of your game, and you just want to go faster and longer. But sooner or later…you hit a plateau with your performance and your times kind of even out. So, what do you do to break that plateau? Here are a few things that have personally helped me over the years and I hope for some out there it will help you too.

Understand that after running marathons for a while, not every run will be a PR. Some things will be out of your control no matter what you do or how hard you train. It could be the weather, how your body cooperates that day or whatever. I used to BEAT myself up if I didn’t PR a race. Like, it would really mess with me mentally. After running so many of them though (just ran 26.2 number 21 not long ago!) I realized that every run is a success. And I am proud to be out there, healthy and still running.

Incorporate some speed/intervals in your weekday training runs. It probably goes without saying, but if you want to run a faster marathon…you have to run FASTER. Simply going through the motions on day to day runs is not going to cut it if you want to break through that plateau. Tempo runs, fartleks/strides and speedplay is vital. This year I did more track work than I’ve done in a while and it definitely helped me to break through that sub 4 plateau. Also remember…hills are speedwork in disguise. So do them.

Run MORE. Now, this one is tricky because you have to be careful about upping your mileage (especially if you’re incorporating speedwork) but start working in some double runs during the week. Not every run has to be super long. For me sometimes breaking up runs and doing a 3 or 4 mile run after work after running in the morning is a great way to increase your leg strength and efficiency. Again, make sure you do this safely and try not to increase your mileage by too much from week to week. Everything should be gradual and should also include some cutback weeks to recover. Here is a great article on the benefits of running doubles.

Be Dora the Explorer! Mix up your route. It really helps to change up your scenery from time to time. Spice up your workout and go run somewhere you have never run before. It really changes things up mentally and physically.

Bored of running alone? Find a fun social run in your area. A lot of communities have a group of runners that do weekly happy hours or meet at different cool locations. It’s also a great way to make friends…and we all know running friends are the best kinds of friends. I am just saying.

What are some ways you have broken through a running/racing plateau?

4 thoughts on “How to Break Through a Running/Racing Plateau.

  1. I like to call myself a social runner!! I am not there to win or do anything fast!! I have found that just starting with the mind to finish and taking all the pictures along the way works for me!! However, I have cut almost 10 minutes off of my ‘normal’ finish time the last two half marathons and I haven’t done anything different?? This is crazy for me, I haven’t been that quick since 2013 and it’s throwing me off!! I just love being out and meeting new people…slow is okay for me!!

    • Nothing wrong with running for fun! Nothing at all…I feel like if running stops being fun or starts feeling like an obligation you are doing it wrong! I just had a conversation about this with a running buddy this morning. But I feel ya! Some days I am competitive with running but most days I run because it gives me so much joy. Keep doing what you are doing my friend! Cheers!!

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