For those of you training for the upcoming Chicago Spring Half Marathon in 2 weeks (or any race in general), there comes a time in your training when you hit that “blah wall.” You know the one we’re talking about- the point in your training where you no longer find any excitement or challenge in your routine. Or even worse, where it seems that you are not making any progress whether its gains or losses. Ladies and gentleman, we have with us here today: The dreaded plateau.
Now, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. This is a good thing and it is absolutely normal. In fact, you should be proud that you have stuck through your training and put in 100% day in and day out to even get to this plateau. The truth is, there are many reasons why we reach a plateau; it can be anything from boredom to an unbalanced diet. Your body is constantly changing and while training, we put it through a rigorous path of exertion. Let’s look at some reasons why we hit a plateau and the best ways to shake some life back into our routine.
First and foremost- do not get discouraged! Most people will hit a plateau, believe they are not making any progress and give up. Don’t you dare! You’ve made it thus far and you should not give up on the progress you have made. Running is all mental. Sure it takes stamina and endurance but we all know it is a persistent ’84 year old couple bickering’ between you and that annoying voice in your head. Don’t let it get to you. Often times, our discouragement comes from not achieving the ‘X results’ we thought we would see by ‘X time’. Please remember that everyone is different and while Stacy from the gym was running at a 9:30 pace by Week 10, that doesn’t mean you will be too – and that’s perfectly ok. Focus on you. Take encouragement from your own personal victories. How far have you come in the past couple of weeks? Think of where you were when you started your training and where you are now. Reminding yourself of your own small victories will help clear the cloud of discouragement that overwhelms the spirit during a plateau.
Eat, Sleep, Run, Repeat
Our bodies, like machines, are a finely tuned and oiled machine; we get what we put into it. A big reason behind a plateau is our lack of adjusting our eating and sleeping patterns to match our training patterns. We won’t get into how many calories you burn while running as this varies immensely depending on distance, terrain, weight, etc. What we will focus on is the fact that the calories burned running should be compensated with your daily calorie intake. Do not make the mistake of cutting back on calories while training. Your body will not perform at optimum level if its running on vapors. This will lead to lack of energy, decreased endurance and you called it- the plateau. In addition, make sure that the calories you intake are good, healthy calories. Protein and vegetables will take you a lot further than a night out at the local pizza joint.
Lackluster and stalled performance can also be a sign that you are not getting enough ZZZ’s at night. Let’s be real. It is the sweet embrace of soft sheets and the tender peace of counting sheep that we look forward to after a long day of adulting. Yet, sleep is the first thing that we shove headfirst to the backseat as we go through our non-stop and chaotic daily lives. Sleeping is essential when training. Just as a machine gets routine maintenance, your body needs routine rest. The key word being routine. Depending on your schedule, the optimal 7 hours a night may not be possible. Keeping your sleep amount consistent will allow your body to get the most from your rest.
Hitting a training plateau is the equivalent of hearing your significant other say “we don’t do fun stuff anymore.” It is your body telling you that it is time to spice things up! This is a great time to incorporate cross training as it helps immensely to refresh what may seem like a stagnant routine in addition to helping those who feel like they are getting “stuck” – whether it be physically, emotionally or mentally.
Why cross train? Well, it can improve your aerobic fitness level, increase power, improve performance, help with injury prevention or even rehabilitation, and certainly help with any boredom factors. When you incorporate cross training, you focus on other muscles and moves that aren’t usually dominant during running.
Recommended Cross Training Activities
- Strength Training
- Water aerobics or water jogging
You want to avoid activities that put a lot of strain on your knees or that are overly weight bearing. As always, if you try something new, be careful and monitor your body’s response!