What to Do When Your Race Performance Plateaus

Have you ever been running just fine and then all of a sudden you have no juice in your legs? You can run 9:45 pace just fine but if you try for 9:30 it's like the energy was drained from your body.

Many runners hit a plateau and stagnate; they run the same times at races and get frustrated. But the big mistake is to do more of the same.

Instead, a big-picture look at your training can give you a clear picture of what needs to be changed, fixed, or upgraded so you can keep improving. Most of the time, a few simple tweaks can result in dramatically faster race times, far fewer running injuries and much higher energy levels.

More: How to Run With More Energy

You'll inevitably hit a plateau or feel like you're working hard but not improving at some point in your running career. Let's look at specific ways you can reenergize your running and boost performance.

More: Should Running Training Emphasize Performance or Physiology?

Don't Burn the Candle at Both Ends

If you're training hard, you can't also stay up late chasing girls (or guys), party all the time, and eat a fast food diet.

More: 2 Simple Diet Truths Every Runner Needs to Know

The biggest lifestyle issue that contributes to runners hitting plateaus is not getting enough sleep. The value of sleep simply can't be overlooked because you actually don't get faster when you're hammering a long run or a tough interval workout. You get faster when you recover from and adapt to the stress imposed by that effort. This stress-adaptation process requires a lot of sleep.

More: The Single Best Way to Recover Faster From Workouts

Next, make sure your diet doesn't resemble that of a freshman frat pledge. There are usually three ways that runners' diets suffer:

  • Not consuming enough calories. You need to keep your fuel levels high if you expect to run a lot.
  • Chronic dehydration leaves you sluggish and lethargic. Check the color of your pee—it should be pale yellow or straw colored.
  • Not eating enough carbohydrates. Carbs are your body's preferred type of fuel; it's the "rocket fuel" you need to run fast.

More: Active Cookbook: Healthy Carbs for Endurance Athletes

  • 1
  • of
  • 2
NEXT

About the Author

Jason Fitzgerald

Jason Fitzgerald is a USATF-certified running coach, 2:39 marathoner, and the founder of Strength Running. Have a question about running? Download the free Strength Running PR Guide to get 35+ answers to the most commonly asked questions about running.

Jason Fitzgerald is a USATF-certified running coach, 2:39 marathoner, and the founder of Strength Running. Have a question about running? Download the free Strength Running PR Guide to get 35+ answers to the most commonly asked questions about running.

Discuss This Article