Can’t seem to improve your running speed?
Why are you stalling?
What should you do to take your running performance to the next level?
If you’re looking for answers to these questions, then today you’re in the right place.
Here’s the PAINFUL TRUTH.
Even the most driven runners can see their running performance hit rock bottom. Many things can trigger such a decline—most of them are fixable, but some more serious. Knowing which is which—that’s where the challenge lies.
But fret no more.
In today’s post, we’ll take a look at some of the main reasons you’re losing running performance as well as what to do to amend your situation—or prevent it altogether.
Let’s lace up and dig in.
Note—Get checked by a medical professional to rule out any serious conditions such as heart, blood, thyroid, or other health issues as the culprit behind the decline in your running performance. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet.
The law of diminishing returns is a universal decree that applies to most aspects of life—training is no exception.
Assuming that you’re in good health and don’t have any underlying issues, the most likely reason you’re losing the spring in your step could be overtraining.
To help prevent overtraining, alternate between hard and easy training days and take one day off a week. On day one, you run hard, feel sore the next day then go easy for as many days as it takes for the soreness to subside.
For example, on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, do high-quality sessions, such as intervals, hill reps, and tempo workouts. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, feel free to cross-train or run easy. Then, take a full rest day on Sunday.
You should also keep tabs on overtraining symptoms. You’re likely in an overtrained state if you’re experiencing more than a couple of the following:
- Elevated heart rate
- Depressed mood and irritability
- Loss of appetite
- Chronic aches and pains
- Poor sleep
- Unwanted weight loss
- Altered sleep patterns
- Colds and the flu.
Not Eating Enough
Food plays a critical role in running performance. Skimping on calories means mediocre performance and slower times. That’s why when you’re logging serious miles, you’d need to make sure that your overall calorie intake fits your exercise level and body needs.
Just keep in mind that proper fueling before, during, and after running requires experimentation. There’s no such thing as a universal rule that applies to everyone.
It’s simple. Eat more. As a runner, your daily fuel needs exceed those of the average sedentary person. It’s not uncommon for serious runners to have calorie needs exceeding 2,400-3000 calories per day.
Consume the right proportions of carbohydrates, protein, and fats (50%/30%/20% is a good guideline to follow).
As a rule, get your carbs from good sources such as veggies, fruits, and whole grains instead of processed foods. You should also shoot for more protein after a hard run to help with recovery. And don’t shy away from healthy sources of fat—they’re good for you.
Your pre-run choices also matter. If you’re running hard or for more than 45 or so minutes, it helps to have something in the tank first before braving the outdoors. I’d recommend any of these snacks.
Keeping your body well-hydrated is also key. Proper hydration helps carry nutrients to your cells and flush out your organs. Shoot for 60 to 90 ounces of water per day, depending on your training intensity, sweat rate, training duration, etc.
Respect The Weather
The weather has a great impact on your running performance.
Heat is, in particular, problematic as it impacts your athletic performance by raising your heart rate and making you prone to dehydration—which slows you down drastically. Try running in 92 degrees heat with lots of humidity, and your chest will feel like it’s being compressed by an invisible vise a couple of miles in.
While it’s not as challenging as summer running, running in the cold is also tricky. Snow, ice, wind, slippery surfaces, muddy trails, and freezing temperatures can wear on you and slow you down.
In other words, you simply can’t run as fast when the weather isn’t on your side.
Running in weather extremes is the ideal opportunity to work on the skill of running by feel. Instead of adhering to your typical pace targets, run by effort and time instead of pace and distance. Focus on your breathing and how you feel. Then re-adjust your pace accordingly—toss your GPS watch to the side.
You’re Doing The Same Runs
A common mistake many runners make is doing most of their training at the same pace. But the truth is: if you want to push the pace, you need to run fast.
Different types of training trigger different types of physiological adaptation. Low to moderate effort runs are key for building an endurance base, strengthening key muscles, and improving overall health.
If you want to reach your running potential, you don’t want to repeat the same run every day.
During the course of a week, your running schedule should include a variety of workouts from easy recovery runs to challenging race-pace intervals. Easy, mild, and intense runs all have their benefits.
Each run has to have a purpose. Don’t push too hard when your run is supposed to be easy, but when you have an interval session on schedule, give it your all.
Schedule at least one to two faster-paced workouts per week, like a simple fartlek session. You can also perform strides to at the end of your easy runs a few times per week.
Another culprit behind the lag in your performance could be as simple as being inconsistent. You’re not doing your due diligence to reap any gains.
Stay consistent by having a plan. Start by deciding how many days you train each week, even if you don’t have a specific training goal yet. Then come up with a plan that works for you and your lifestyle, then stick with it.
Keep your focus on the little things that motivate you to run on a regular basis is, whether it’s losing weight, achieving a new PR, or fundraising for a cause.
You’re Getting Older
I hate to say it, but oftentimes, age is what’s slowing you down. Athletic performance—not just running prowess—gradually plummet as we get older.
Research tells us that VO2 Max—which is a metric that describes the amount of oxygen you can take in and deliver to issues—start dripping at about 40 years old and decline at roughly one to two percent per year thereafter. This means that you could lose up to 10 to 20 percent of your maximum aerobic power between 40 and 50! That’s a huge drop.
Although we (still) can’t reverse the effects of aging, there are many things you can do to slow down the decline—and aim to the best at every age.
Here are a few measures to help you control the decline.
Keep it consistent, but listen to your body. By keeping your training regular and knowing when to take a break, you’ll not only keep your athletic performance in check but improve your overall longevity as a runner, too.
Strength train. You naturally lose muscle mass as you age, which affects your athletic performance. Consistent resistance training can help you mitigate the inevitable decline.
Improve your balance. This isn’t only essential for runners, but also for everyone as we age. When you lack balance, you’re more likely to fall and/or find it harder to gain your balance as you start to fall.
You’re Not Sleeping Enough
Your performance improves when your body recovers from and adapts to the training stimulus—a process that requires sleep, and lots of it.
Sleep can’t be overlooked, yet a lot of runners disregard it. Your performance doesn’t improve when you’re cranking out hard reps during a track workout or going for a long run. In fact, sleep time is your body’s prime time for repair.
Research has revealed that sleep-deprived athlete reports reaching a point of exhaustion about 10 percent faster than well-rested athletes.
Research has also shown that inadequate sleep can also result in increased fatigue, hormone irregularity, low energy, poor focus, mood swings, etc.
Aim to sleep at seven to nine hours during the night’s time. Do the following to improve your sleep.
- Go to bed and wake up at consistent times.
- Cultivate a cool-down and window routine before you go to sleep.
- Avoid heavy dinners or stimulants in the two to three hours before going to bed.
- Reduce blue light exposure in the evening.
- Avoid consuming caffeine late in the evening
There you have it. The above covers some of the most reasons why you’re losing your running performance as well as what to do about it. The rest is just a matter of implementation.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep training strong.