4 Ways to Break a Running Plateau

Training Mistake: Constant Training at Low Intensity

The Fix: High-Intensity Intervals

Contrary to the mistake above, some runners follow an 80/20 protocol, but simply never realize the aerobic gains necessary to improve running performance. These “non-responders” likely have a higher ratio of fast-twitch muscle fibers. If you’ve been religiously working to build your aerobic base with an 80/20 mix of easy, long-slow distance and speed work, but your performance is stagnant, there’s a good chance you fall into this category. So, while conversational-pace running can help train the slow-twitch muscle fibers and force your body to adapt to the stress that distance running places on your muscles and joints, that’s where the benefit stops.

In order to boost VO2Max and realize the endurance and speed gains you’re after, you will need to deviate from the 80/20 protocol and include more high-intensity interval training into your regimen. Try a six- to eight-week regimen of two easy runs and two or three workouts that include sprint intervals, hill repeats or Tabata workouts each week. After eight weeks, drop one of the high-intensity workouts and work a long, slow distance run back into the rotation. You should find your aerobic capacity much improved.

Training Mistake: Ignoring Form

The Fix: Dynamic Warm-ups, Strengthening and Form Drills

For those who are at or near their VO2 peak, logging more miles and adding more speed work poses a bigger risk of injury than the potential reward. If you’ve been running for a long time and you’ve done everything right, the only way to squeeze out a little more performance is by improving your running economy.

First, understand that the overall running performance you achieve over the course of a race season or training cycle is a product of the quality of each training run—and subsequent recovery period. To get the most out of each run, it’s imperative that you start out with a solid dynamic warm-up. Just launching into a run forces your body to warm-up during the first five to ten minutes of the workout, making these essentially wasted minutes. What’s more, the right kind of warm-up can serve to strengthen weak areas, loosen tight areas and improve your running form.

A great warm-up should raise core and muscle temperature and move all of your major joints through their full range of motion. It will also include bodyweight strength exercises that target the hips and glutes, which tend to be weak in many runners, and the abdominal and back muscles, which are critical to good running form. Finish the warm-up with some ballistic movements and form drills—such as skips, strides and sprints—to get your neuromuscular system firing on all cylinders.

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