Pushing Through a Running Plateau

Running Plateau

I have finally hit my first running plateau in my half marathon training. I had hoped that all the talk of plateauing was fake, and really just a result of burnout and boredom. That hope was dashed and incorrect. I hit that plateau hard. Three weeks ago, we had bumped up our mileage to about 20 miles a week. I had bought new running shoes (same as my old pair, but apparently not the same :p ), and had created the perfect storm—my shin splints acted up, my foot started to feel weird, my energy was down. I had a whole host of problems. Then swooped in July fourth, a godsend from above. I decided to take the week off from running and enjoy some family time. It was an amazing time at home, and my body really did enjoy the time off. I came back the Monday after ready to work, run and enjoy getting back into it. Unfortunately, my body had other ideas.

I dragged through my 4.5 mile run on Monday. It felt terrible. I felt slow, tired, my shins hurt. My excitement for the rest of the week began to die. Tuesday was our hill run, which felt just as bad. Thursday I did a solo 4.5 miles. (I usually run with my running buddy, and I know it’s probably just a mental game, but I always run faster with another human) That felt like death, and then Friday was our eight-mile run. The eight-miler dragged on and on and on. At mile three my Bluetooth headphones ran out of batteries; at mile four my right calf completely fell asleep; at mile six I had to walk for thirty seconds; at mile 7 I had slowed down and ran at an 11:30 pace. At mile 8, I praised the Lord that I had somehow made it through those miles. It was hard to be kind to myself about the run. I had expected to run a 9:45 pace maybe 10:00 pace for the whole time, but I couldn’t maintain that this time. In fact, I had barely finished the 8 distance without giving up. I had to remind myself that I haven’t run 8 miles in years. In my previous bouts of half marathon training, I only made it to 9 miles, and only ran 8 miles once before that. I’m essentially running a new distance.

When we first started running, one of my coworkers was able to run farther and farther and faster and faster. I didn’t understand how he was able to run the same distances as us but keep improving at such a rapid rate. He made the argument that he’d run half marathons before, and that his body was used to running these distances at an accelerated pace. I of course, didn’t believe him, and chalked it up to some weird mental state. When this coworker fell off the running wagon, I attributed that burnout to the paces and distances he was trying to set. Foolishly, I assumed that I would never hit a wall like that, and that my training would continue at the same pace it had progressed at so far. Until this week, I truly believed that. I must remember that no matter the pace I finished my runs at this week, I still finished all of my distances. I ran 20 miles this week. 8 of those miles were at one time in one hour and twenty-two minutes. I accomplished a great feat. A feat that eight weeks ago, I would not have even thought possible. When we first started, we did a one-mile run, and I literally thought I was going to pass away on the sidewalk. This week, I ran eight miles at once, and while I also thought I may pass away on the sidewalk; the progression is amazing.

Throughout this next week, I am going to focus on being kind to myself. I will give myself the grace needed to keep progressing, and not be too hard on the progress that I (arbitrarily by the way) decided that I should be making. Progress is progress, and running is a journey. We have mileage goals and time goals, but as long as I’m strapping my shoes on, hitting the asphalt and moving, I am growing in strength, mentally and physically. Other than just a mindset change, I need to improve my hydration, nutrition and recovery exercises. I started doing calf raises, which have helped with my shin splints. Now I need to focus on fueling with vegetables, complex carbs and drinking 170-ish ounces of water. A more comprehensive look at the nutritional choices I’m making will help propel me through this plateau and onto the next week of training.

So what I have learned in the past two weeks:
  1. Treat yourself kindly. Setbacks happen, and some runs don't pan out as anticipated.
  2. Focus on recovery exercises, foam rolling stretching, all the good things. As mileages increase these will become even more important.
  3. Nutrition and Hydration are key components of any training plan. Focus on improving those to keep up the increased pace of 1/2 marathon training. For tips on Hydration, check out this post.

What are your tips to overcoming plateaus? Are you in a plateau right now? Comment below and let’s support each other through this adventure 😊