If you’ve been running for a few years you will have inevitably experienced either a performance plateau or a dip in enthusiasm. I’ve written before on different ways to ‘spice up your run life’ and change things up to rekindle that love. But what if this is your first performance plateau and you’re not sure how to get through it? Maybe you’ve experienced those rapid gains that come when you’re new to the sport. I’m sorry to say that new PBs don’t come as quickly as they used to. But I’m happy to say that when they do, they are so much more fulfilling! So here are 4 reasons you may be limiting your athletic progression, and what you can do to break through them.
- Inefficient Movement
It doesn’t matter how hard or how much you train if you need to take time off due to injury and lose all that good work. Inefficient movement is the number one reason for injury. You can call it overuse if you like, but our bodies are quite resilient and can handle a beating if it’s in the right area. If a ligament/ tendon/ muscle/ bone is pushed in the wrong direction it will eventually break. So, please, learn to run efficiently.
Why is running the only sport we ignore technique in?
Learning to run efficiently will give you two great benefits within weeks; it will reduce the energy cost of running, and reduce the risk of injury. Reducing the energy cost means you require less effort to achieve the same thing- so you can save that energy for the last part of the run and go further, or you can put more energy in and go faster. Reducing the risk of injury is a huge bonus- dispersing impact through the parts of the body that can handle it and taking the pressure off areas that cannot will make you less sore and allow you to run injury free for longer.
- Oxygen Defecit
“I’ve got my second wind…” What does that really mean?!?! I don’t know where the saying comes from but in practice your respiratory system is finally catching up with your heart and muscles. The respiratory system needs to be ‘warmed up’ just like our other systems do. You may stretch, or get the blood pumping, but why do we ignore the lungs in a warm up?
Within your warm up, as you’re getting your heart and muscles moving, try a few deeps breaths. Hold your breath for 10 seconds or so, then repeat. We want to get the lungs working through a full range of motion. Adding some short sprints to the warm up will also dilate blood vessels and allow more oxygenated blood to the muscles- which is what happens when you do actually get your second wind. Why not get it before a race?! Do this 10-20 minutes before the race or a few minutes before a training session and recover before you start.
- Lack of Variety
If you complete the same training session day after day there will be a point where the body gets used to it. And at that point there is no more stress on the body so it doesn’t need to adapt (get stronger). That is the biggest cause for performance plateaus.
Whether you buy into heart rate training, power zones, pace zones or RPE, it doesn’t matter, as long as you mix up the intensity and volume of your training. You can find your threshold and work out percentage zones based on that, then run at different intensities to keep your body guessing and always needing to repair and get stronger.
- Not Enough Recovery
Following on from the last point, when the body is constantly challenged, it will need to recover so that it can get stronger and adapt to the stresses being placed upon it. Too much stress and not enough recovery will slowly dig a hole you cannot get out of. You need to reduce volume and intensity every few weeks to ensure you adapt to the recent stress. Whether that be 2 weeks of stress and 1 week of recovery (better for older athletes and those new to running or 4 weeks of stress and 1 week of recovery (better for those with a long, consistent training history and are able to absorb volume), find what works for you and be sure to recover.
Too many big races and not enough rest days (or slow days) in between intense sessions will also cause sickness and a lack of athletic progression.
For many of us it’s easy to just keep pushing hard- day after day. But we fitness doesn’t come from doing the work, it comes from recovering from the work. If you want to be able to keep doing the work and then recovering from it, make sure you’re moving efficiently. Enfer Running offers one-on-one face-to-face running technique lessons in Richmond, just 2kms from Melbourne CBD. These sessions are hands on and teach a more efficient method for running, and work we with the athlete to find the style that fits them best. Book now for a personalised, one-on-one session.