Are you frustrated with your running performance plateauing?
It can be disheartening to put in so much effort and not see any improvements.
But before you give up on your running dreams, it’s important to understand that there are several reasons why your progress may be stalling. Some reasons are easily fixable, while others may require more attention and medical intervention.
In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the potential causes behind your running slump and provide you with actionable steps to help you break through it.
So, if you’re ready to lace up your shoes and get to the bottom of your running struggles, then keep reading.
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.
Running Not Improving Reason – 1. Overtraining
The most common culprit behind your stalled performance could be something as simple as overtraining.
Think of it this way: your body is like a car engine, and overtraining is like revving the engine too high for too long. Just like a car engine, your body needs rest and recovery to perform at its best.
So, what can you do to fix this? Alternate between hard and easy training days and take at least one day off a week. It’s like giving your body a chance to catch its breath and recharge its batteries. And if you experience any of the symptoms of overtraining, such as chronic pain, poor sleep, or frequent colds, it’s time to pump the brakes and give yourself some rest.
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.
Running Not Improving Reason – 2. 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.
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.
Running Not Improving Reason – 3. Respect The Weather
As a runner, it’s important to respect the weather and its impact on your performance. The elements can either be your ally or your worst enemy. Imagine running in 92-degree heat with high humidity and feeling like an invisible vise is squeezing your chest a couple of miles in. Not exactly an enjoyable experience, right? On the flip side, running in the cold can present a whole other set of challenges, including snow, ice, wind, and freezing temperatures that can slow you down and wear on you over time.
So, what’s the fix for dealing with weather-related performance issues? Well, for starters, it’s time to work on the skill of running by feel. Rather than obsessing over pace targets, focus on your breathing and how you feel during your run. Adjust your pace accordingly and toss your GPS watch to the side for a change. This approach will help you develop a stronger sense of pacing and allow you to adjust to the conditions more effectively.
It’s also crucial to dress appropriately for the weather. For winter running, layering is key. Wear moisture-wicking clothing and avoid cotton. Don’t forget to protect your extremities with gloves, a hat, and warm socks. And for those hot summer runs, be sure to stay hydrated and wear breathable, lightweight clothing that allows for proper ventilation.
Research shows that high heat and humidity can lead to a decrease in running performance, especially for longer distances. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that running performance decreased by an average of 4.4% in hot and humid conditions. So, when it comes to the weather, remember to respect it and adjust your training accordingly.
Running Not Improving Reason – 4. You’re Doing The Same Runs
Running is like cooking a gourmet meal – you can’t use the same ingredients and recipe every day and expect to wow your taste buds. Similarly, if you want to wow your running performance, you need to switch up your training.
It’s easy to get comfortable running at the same pace, but that won’t help you improve. If you want to see results, you need to vary your speed and distances. Studies show that different types of training trigger different types of physiological adaptation, which means incorporating a variety of runs will make you a better runner.
Start by building an endurance base with low to moderate-effort runs. These runs will strengthen your muscles and overall health. However, if you want to push your pace and reach your running potential, you need to challenge yourself with faster-paced workouts.
To avoid plateauing, your running schedule should include a variety of running workouts, from easy recovery runs to challenging race-pace intervals. Each run has its purpose, so don’t push too hard on easy days, but give it your all during interval sessions.
Add some spice to your training with a fartlek session or some strides at the end of your easy runs a few times per week. These faster-paced workouts will help you build speed, endurance, and mental toughness, making you a better, more well-rounded runner.
Running Not Improving Reason – 5.You’re Lazy
It’s time to face the hard truth – you might be lazy.
Yes, you heard that right. Sometimes, the reason we’re not seeing results is as simple as not putting in the effort. Inconsistency in training is a common issue that can prevent us from reaching our goals and reaping the benefits of hard work.
But don’t worry, there’s a simple fix to this problem. The key to staying consistent is having a plan. Start by deciding how many days per week you want to train, even if you don’t have a specific training goal in mind yet. Then come up with a plan that works for you and your lifestyle, and stick to it.
But how do you stay motivated to stick to your plan? Find your source of motivation, whether it’s losing weight, beating a personal record, or running for a cause you care about. Keep your focus on that goal and use it to push yourself to run regularly.
Remember, consistency is key to improving your running performance. So, stop being lazy and start putting in the effort to reach your goals. The results will be worth it.
Running Not Improving Reason – 6. You’re Getting Older
Age may be just a number, but it can take a toll on your running performance. As we get older, our athletic abilities gradually decrease, and it becomes more challenging to hit our targets. It’s like a hill that gets steeper and steeper as we climb, and the peak seems further and further away.
Studies suggest that VO2 max, a critical metric that measures the amount of oxygen your body can absorb and deliver to your muscles, declines at a rate of 1-2% per year after the age of 40. That means that you could lose up to 20% of your maximum aerobic power between 40 and 50! A significant drop, right?
But don’t worry; it’s not all doom and gloom. You can slow down the decline and aim to be the best at any age. Consistency is key. Keep your training regular, but listen to your body. It’s essential to strike a balance between training hard and giving your body time to recover. It will help keep your athletic performance in check while improving your overall longevity as a runner.
Strength training can help mitigate the effects of aging, as you naturally lose muscle mass as you age. Consistent resistance training can help you maintain muscle mass, improve bone density, and reduce the risk of injury.
Balance is crucial for runners and non-runners alike. It’s even more critical as we age since we’re more likely to lose our balance, increasing the risk of falls. Incorporating balance exercises into your routine can help you maintain your stability and prevent injuries.
Remember, age may slow us down, but it shouldn’t stop us from pursuing our goals. With consistency, proper training, and a healthy lifestyle, we can continue to improve our running performance and be the best versions of ourselves at any age.
Give this 30-day running challenge a try.
Running Not Improving Reason – 7. 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 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
Additional Resource – Running in polluted areas
Running Not Improving – The Conclusion
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.