Plateaus are part of life. They’re part of learning and growth. There comes a point when you just couldn’t seem to go further despite hard work. Gym buffs know this. Runners do too. What do you do when you hit that dreaded plateau?
Know it’s temporary.
Plateaus are temporary unless they are caused by an underlying medical condition. If you’re stalling on your running performance and you haven’t been seeing endurance gains for weeks, you should be looking into your training, nutrition, lifestyle, or stress levels. Eventually, you will have to snap out of that situation. Figure out what’s causing the plateau. Take it from there.
Take your time off.
Runners sometimes focus too much on their training that they barely have time for anything else. This may tire the nervous system, particularly the brain. Maybe the plateau is your brain trying to tell you it needs a break. Get out of the track and do other things for at least a week. Spend more time with family and friends. Talk about other things. Take your mind off running.
Maybe you have unrealistic goals. Maybe you’re comparing yourself too much with other athletes. If you’re an ambitious runner, chances are you’re taking everything seriously and you get upset when you don’t meet your goals. Obsessing with your performance goals can kill your motivation eventually. It’s good to be determined, but it’s equally important to set realistic goals. Every athlete is different. Every runner will experience performance gains in their own pace. Just because you are not as fast as the other person with whom you started training doesn’t mean you should be pushing yourself harder. You’ll get to that pace eventually.
Check other aspects of your life.
Plateaus in sports or strength training may be caused by certain factors you didn’t suspect at first. One example is work-related stress or fatigue. Work is a notorious strength and endurance killer. When work takes most of your mental and physical energy, you will have little left for workouts and training. You will notice work-related or even family-related stress affects your athletic performance. Stress eats so much of your energy reserves that little is left for other activities. The same thing happens when you’re sleep-deprived. Staying up too late at night to finish reports stresses your mind and body out too. The result is you couldn’t run as fast and as long as when you’re not stressed out and when you had great sleep.
Eat like a true runner.
Good diet should complement good training. Every athlete has to train and EAT properly. Running burns A LOT of calories. You should be eating more calories than the average guy unless you’re trying to lose weight. Two-thirds of your diet should consist of carbs–your major energy source. About a fifth of what you eat should be protein, which you need for muscle repair. Remember you tear your muscle fibers when you run. Don’t forget the good fats and your micronutrients.