Beating running distances and times, like anything else, requires practice, patience and commitment. As much as you're dedicated to your routine and determined to push yourself to new limits, getting stuck on a runner's plateau is a common occurrence. We've asked endurance sport coach, professional triathlete, elite runner and NASM certified personal trainer Jim Lubinski what things hold runners up in the pursuit of gold, and what you can do to power through these snags.
Being a Baby
When stuck in a running plateau, sometimes you need to keep chugging along through the brutal times. "It is natural for us to tire as a workout progresses, but if you can adapt to running hard on fatigued legs, you will be much stronger and faster on fresh legs. The only way you make gains is to push yourself out of a level you believe is your maximum effort, " Lubinski says. If you're comfortable all the time, then you're not pushing hard enough. Training Advice Break up your typical run distance into separate sets and take two-minute breaks in between them. This will allow you to recover, gain composure and mentally prepare yourself to put your head down and go for more distance or speed. "Train your body to get there," Lubinski advises.
Too Much Booze and Junk Food
Junk food and alcohol will absolutely wreak havoc on your progress. "Every extra pound on your body is an extra pound you have to carry around while running. Imagine if you had to run a 10K with a five-pound weight wrapped around your body," Lubinski explains. Training Advice If you're serious about busting through a previous personal best, Lubinski advises getting your priorities in order. "If you can cut down on the excess junk in your diet, you will lose weight, which will bring your running times down."
Avoiding the Weight Room
Think runners don't need to hit the weight room? Think again. "I'm not saying that you should go into the gym and start bench pressing 350 pounds. But you need to hit the gym and perform exercises that will benefit a runner," Lubinski says. Specific weight training exercises are what opens up a runner's stride and builds running strength, resulting in faster times. Training Advice Get into the gym and hit the weights one to two days per week. Lubinski recommends: hip openers, a variety of glute strengthening exercises and core stabilization movements.
Sticking to the Same Routine
Running the same route, day in and day out, or spending all of your time on pavement is bound to get mundane and limiting. Fitness trails are ideal environments to change things up. "Trails test your stability from your ankles to your knees and hips. The instability of the paths will force you to be a stronger runner," Lubinski says. Training Advice Lubinski recommends allocating a couple days per week to training on trails. "By becoming a strong trail runner, you will be that much faster when you hit the road. The muscles engaged through the ups and downs of a trail will make the road feel like a dream."
Keeping Pace With a Running Partner
A running partner could be the best workout tool, but if you're not progressing, it's time to reassess your working relationship. If you're the one always pushing your friend, don't expect to make any progress. Training Advice Surround yourself with better athletes, immediately. "Faster runners help you get to another gear, so find someone faster to help you or seek out a running group that has all ability levels," Lubinski recommends.