Beat The Runner’s Plateau

In every running career, there will be many plateaus. Sometimes they sneak up on us and we don’t realize they’re happening until we see stagnant race times. Sometimes it’s our running buddies who ask “are you alright?” when we’re lagging behind on every. single. run. Sometimes we find ourselves dreading the everyday run because it just doesn’t feel good anymore. Runner’s plateau sucks.

It happens. Now let’s talk about how to fix it.

First things first. You have to be honest with yourself and ask a few hard questions:

Am I varying the speed and distance of my workouts? This is the most common reason I find for newbie/semi-seasoned runners. If you want results, you gotta mix it up.

Am I cross-training enough (or at all)? Another mistake people make is to think simply running will make you faster. Not true. Aerobic + Anaerobic workouts make you faster.

Am I putting forth 100% effort in my workouts? Only you can answer this question.

Is my schedule the same every day/week? Yikes. Isn’t that boring? I’m plateauing just thinking about it.

Am I getting enough rest? Sleep is where our muscles heal and grow. If you’re not sleeping, neither of these very necessary things are happening.

Do I have a goal? Running for the sake of running is intolerably boring. Even if it’s a 3K/5K Turkey Trot, set a goal. Work for it. It takes the monotony out of the running.

These are the important questions to ask because they will provide you with the answers to get out of your running rut, over the plateau and into a new gear in your running. And we all have multiple gears, like cars, that we can train into and find as we get in better shape. It’s kind of a cool thing when you find yourself pushing and easing into a newer, faster pace.

But that doesn’t just happen. Here are some suggestions to get out of your running rut:

-Substitute one run for another form of cardio. Try swimming or indoor cycling. You never know, you might find you looooove triathlons. Get off your legs and into something new.

-Grab a faster running friend once a week for a short, hard run. Scary, I know. But it helps.

-Join a gym and try some strength training classes. A change of scenery and pace might make you appreciate the solitude and quiet many of us experience on a run.

-Mix it up. Don’t do the same workout for two weeks. Nothing the same, every workout is new and different. No run route is the same. No distance is the same. No class is the same. Try it.

-Kick it up a notch. Indoor cycling (aka “spinning”) is a great way to challenge your cardiovascular system while not beating the hell out of your legs. Push as hard as you can during one class a week and see if you notice a difference in your runs after a month.

-Take a break from running. I know, I know. Runners hate this suggestion. But, seriously, taking a one week/one month break from running to find new ways to move might be just what you need to get back into it with a fresh perspective.

-Set a goal. Sign up for a race. No better way to push yourself than to set a bar to reach and work as hard as you can.

Plateaus are bound to happen to everybody, even (and maybe, especially) the pros. How you handle them is up to you. You can wallow in it and complain about it or you can switch it up, work a little harder, try something new and discover something else about yourself: you have another gear. Who knew?

Now go out and run!

What do you do to get beyond the plateau???

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Better Than The Alternative Tuesdays: Failure

I didn’t used to try things if I knew there was a chance I might fail. The few times I did were usually auditioning for a musical role and not getting it, but that happened to everyone in college so it wasn’t nearly as devastating. No, I played it safe and did what I knew I could do. Bor-ing! And pathetic.

These days, I do my best to try things where I may very well fail and fail spectacularly. And it’s kind of awesome, actually. And worth doing, which is why it’s our BTTA theme today. Failure is totally an option and should always be an option.

If you’re not failing, you’re not really trying.

This is true in my academic/professional life and my fitness life. I’ve done yoga since college, but I have tried more classes, poses, teachers in the past two years than all thirteen years of practicing added up. I have fallen out of poses, spent a good portion of class in child’s pose and invited friends (who became juuuuust a little closer friends after being seen with me in public during and after a class) to witness my often ungraceful yoga practice in public. Oh, God bless your souls, dear friends.

I have also undertaken the challenge of my career: going back to school for my DPT. My, oh my, this is something I could very well fail over and over at. But I will keep on trying because, as my husband says, “It’s not that you can’t learn it, you maybe just need to learn it in a different way than the professor is teaching. You’re smart!” I, by the way, do not really consider myself smart, rather, I am a hard worker and willing to learn. Maybe that’s better? I have absolutely no ego about school at all. Anyway, I gotta tell you, that B that I earned in Chemistry was sweeter than any other accomplishment in my entire life. As my aunt, the boss of all of us, about my reaction: tears, shock and then jumping up and down on the cell phone with JB and the Obi-wans. Seriously, it was HUGE. And hard-fought and I almost failed. Really, I did.

Same with Calculus. I was saved by my work ethic and my willingness to ask for help from a very kind professor. The opportunity to fail is everywhere for me.

Even here on my blog. It’s been almost three months and I wasn’t sure anyone (besides the Obi-wans and all 50 of my close family members) would bother to read this. I would publicly fail and it would live forever on the Internet. Having all you fine people read is an honor and I do a little dance every time I read a comment or someone clicks on my page.

Putting yourself out there to fail is terrifying. But when you try your absolute hardest and the chance that you might fail is so real, when you succeed, it’s incredibly rewarding. I can’t even describe the feeling. It’s like a runner’s high. And it’s definitely a reason why it’s better to be here than there.

Try. Try hard and be willing to fail. Explore your edges and be vulnerable to failure. Run harder. Tackle some crazy obstacle. Do something that scares you.

As a final thought, I’d like to leave you with one of my all-time favorite athletes in one of my all-time favorite ads:

Preach.

Now go out and run!!