Every runner experiences a plateau in their running at some point during their running career. Sometimes it is due to external stresses at work or at home, and leveling off can be a good thing while you get things under control in other areas of your life. This happens when you are just physically tired due to other things in your life.
I’ve been getting my house cleaned up and fixed up so I can sell it and move closer to family and friends. Over the past week, I’ve noticed that I just don’t have the “get up and go” during my runs. This was really frustrating until I realized I have been putting in 12-15 hour days seven days a week between my job, volunteer work, and working on my house. When you add my running, swimming and cycling to this schedule, it’s well, a lot. So as much as I dislike a plateau, I understand why I’ve hit it.
Other reasons a runner can hit a plateau in their running is due to overtraining, overwhelmed or over-focused.
Overtraining is not only a physical condition, but it can be a mental one as well. If all of your mental energy is going towards your running goal, in other words you eat, sleep and breathe running, you may need to remember other aspects of your life for a few days before getting back into running.
This is easy to spot. Just look at what you do every day. When you’re not running, are you icing, stretching, strength training, foam rolling, reading about running, and focused on your diet to maintain gains in running. Do all you’re social relationships revolve around running. These are good signs that your plateau is probably due to mental overtraining. Do something different for 3-4 days and then come back to it at a less intense level. There are other aspects to life and running will be there when you return.
Being overwhelmed can also stagnate your running. It’s hard to get the motivation to push yourself hard when you’ve got so many things begging and requiring your attention. If this is the case, it is easy to ease up on your running or get lost in your thoughts during a run and just “dog” the miles.
You only have so much time and energy each day and if you are burning the candle at both ends, you will run out of wick sooner rather than later. Your runs will feel harder and you are not going to improve during this time. You need to get some things off your plate and be aware of things that are coming your way as much as possible. Don’t over extend yourself. Don’t be a “yes” man.
Being over-focused is also a way you can level off your progress. Having a goal race and pace is perfectly fine, but be able to let it go if needed due to illness, injury, or crisis. If you are so focused on hitting a goal that missing it or the chance of missing it is causing you to alter your everyday life and not participate in other things that give you pleasure then you run the risk of losing more than just your goal time at the race. You can lose your motivation and friends or family.
Running is a beautiful and wonderful thing. Balance in essential in all aspects of life, running included, especially if you want to make progress and get better. Keep it all in perspective, my friends.