If you are training for a distance run, you are likely to experience a plateau sometime during your training. You will be running longer distances and faster paces, and then suddenly it feels like you’ve hit a wall, and you just cannot run any farther or faster.
These plateaus affect runners of all experience levels, and there are a few training techniques you can try to get out of your plateau and back to meeting your goals. In this article, Walter Keating Jr., marathon and triathlon trainer from Toronto, explains how to overcome plateaus in your training.
Tip #1. Try interval training
Interval training can be done in a variety of ways. One way to interval train is to run at various speeds for set amounts of time. For example, you might jog for two minutes, run for two minutes, sprint for one minute and then repeat. This is a great way to make those boring sessions on a treadmill pass quickly. You can also incorporate high-intensity interval training (“HIIT”) into your training routine. High-intensity intervals include short bursts of dynamic exercises, such as squat jumps, pushups, or jumping jacks, with no rest between exercises. HIIT workouts are excellent for those days when you need a break from running but still want to challenge your cardiovascular system.
Tip #2. Try a pyramid-style running program
For example, you might start running at a speed of 6.0 miles per hour for two minutes, then increase to 6.1 miles per hour for two minutes, then increase to 6.2 miles per hour for two minutes, and so on until you reach your maximum speed. This type of training will help your body learn to continue to push and find energy reserves as you continually increase the intensity of your workout without stopping to take a break.
Tip #3. Run uphill
Try running hills or stairs because when it comes to aiming for a particular goal time during your distance race, you’ll need to be able to maintain your pace on an incline. Plus, running hills and stairs is a great way to burn fat and challenge your body.
Tip #4. Try lifting weights
Incorporate weight lifting and other types of strength training into your training regimen. While you may be tempted to focus solely on running, varying your workouts with strength training will keep you fitter and less injury-prone.
Tip #5. Go on a tempo run
A tempo run, or a lactate-threshold run, should be a pace that is hard but not your race speed. In order to find the right tempo for your fitness level, you should run at a pace that allows you to say one or two words, but not carry on a conversation. If you are familiar with running 10k races, your tempo run should be at a pace about 10 seconds slower than your 10k race pace. As your training advances, your tempo pace should get faster and faster. “Comfortably hard” is how many runners describe their tempo run pace.
Even a new running route may help you improve your performance. Finding ways to get over your running performance plateau is all about variety in your workouts and continually finding new ways to challenge yourself. So break out of your routine and try something new if you want to start setting new personal records.
About Walter Keating Jr.
Walter Keating Jr. is a Toronto-based fitness coach specializing in triathlon coaching and corrective exercise training. He graduated from the Fitness and Lifestyle Management Program at George Brown College and immediately started his professional career. Mr. Keating has worked as an endurance coach, personal trainer, spinning instructor, and corrective exercise trainer.