If you’ve been running long enough, you’ll undoubtedly have experienced some form of stagnation in your physical performance. Getting into the rut happens when you well, settle into a rut: Run at the same pace for the same distance or duration every session and your body will adapt to that level of effort, says Dr Tan Swee Kheng, kinesiologist and movement specialist from Fifth Ray Integrated Activities.
Variation is Key
Similar to how you need to eat a wide variety of foods for optimal health, varying your workouts will keep it guessing, and constantly adapting to overcome a new training stimulus. We know, it’s easy to settle into a routine – and that means you’re already on the road to steady decline. Only when you tax your body at different intensities (with adequate rest days), does it begin to learn how to cope, and subsequently improve. “Sometimes, we can get so comfortable that we forget we need to work harder to better our performance,” says Dr Tan.
Increase the Workload
In short, you need to step on the gas a little more. The training principle of overloading is essential for improvement, says Dr Tan. Try this: If you’ve been running a set distance for the last three weeks, begin to overload your body by increasing your running time by around 10 per cent. Or clock more mileage by running about 10 per cent more of the distance you normally cover. “Increase your training volume or intensity by 1 to 5 per cent every two weeks,” she advises. Don’t push yourself past this level too much though, as excessive overload can lead to injuries.
Make a Plan
The main reason why the average runner doesn’t notice himself sliding into a plateau is because he simply can’t see it. Try to have a six-month to a year-long training plan, recommends Dr Tan. Even if you’re not competitive, it pays to aim for a particular race (it doesn’t have to be a marathon) through periodisation training. Essentially, there are three phases: The base endurance building phase (the longest phase with emphasis on long, slow runs), the preparation phase (where speed work is introduced) and the peaking phase (where speed work is increased further while overall mileage is reduced). Or keep things simple: Record your run times and distances of every session – if you begin to stop improving, either pick up the pace if you’ve been slacking, or take a break, if you’ve been pushing hard. Remember, vary your training intensity and keep your body guessing.