So, you've been running for a little while, and you are not seeing the improvement you want in those five key times, those 10K times, whatever it is your benchmark is you feel like I'm just not getting faster. Why am I not getting any faster? Well, I'm Jesse Funk, and on today's episode of Runner's High, we're going to talk about a few reasons you may not be getting faster.
First, let's get this out of the way and say that plateaus are normal. Everybody who runs goes through periods of plateaus. So, it is unlikely that this particular plateau is going to be the top of your game. Now, that being said, one very obvious situation where it is probably going to be the top of your game is if you've been training for 10 to 15 years, you're a top-level collegiate or a pro athlete and you just can't eke out any more time. In those situations, I'm simply not qualified to try to eke out those couple extra seconds. But those are times where a plateau may be the case, and there really isn't any more potential over the top side.
In those cases, often the training schedule has to change completely to a whole new paradigm shifts for anything to happen. But in your case, because you're here with me, you’ve probably have hit a plateau and you're going to be just fine. The first thing to check, and this is something my friend Todd Buckingham mentioned in the Smart Athlete Podcast, Episode 29.
I will link to that at the end of this video. But I interviewed him, he has his Ph.D. in athletic performance, if I remember right. He's in charge of a sports performance facility that was built pretty much just for him to run. He always mentions this is the number one problem, going too fast on your long runs.
And I was, you know, I'm a culprit of this as well where we go after these long runs, we kind of want to measure ourselves every single day and say, hey, you know, I did this long run faster than my last long run. Well, that is not always good. Often, it's actually detrimental to our progress because we're wasting resources, both glycogen which is energy, and making our muscles more fatigued and torn up through a long run, which is predominantly for aerobic fitness.
When we use those long runs to try to improve speed, we're limiting the potential we can put into those actual speed days, where we have more acute access to that speed paradigm or that speed shift, where we can kind of tear our muscles up in a short period of time, allow them to recover, rinse and repeat and get faster. So, check your speed on your long runs. That's going to be the number one thing that causes people to not be able to get faster is going too fast.
The easiest way to do this is to check the Jack Daniels table. I always go back to this because it's a nice reference. Check the Jack Daniels table, use your latest 5K, 10K time, and then reference whatever the long-run pace is on it. If you're close to that, and you've plateaued, add another 15, 20 seconds to your long run pace, slow down even more.
Now, as Todd is an example, Todd is a 10K runner in the 32 to 33 minute range, and he runs his long run pace at seven to eight-minute pace, because he doesn't need to make his gains on those long runs. He makes them on his speed days. So, Tom is a good example of how slowing those long runs down is beneficial. So, that's the first thing to check.
The next thing you want to check with your training schedule is, are you getting enough pace variety? If you're only doing long runs and you're only doing the same route over and over and over again, then you will reach a plateau and it is unlikely you will begin to progress again. There's a saying which seems really axiomatic which means self-evident in running is that if you want to go fast, you have to go fast.
Which actually means that if you want to go faster for your race pace, you want to set a new personal best, you have to go faster in practice, which means not doing the same runs all the time, varying the pace that you're running faster, slower, medium paces, all those kinds of things.
If you don't know anything about setting up a training schedule, I have a mini-series on the channel. So, subscribe to the channel, hit that button in the bottom right-hand corner, then go check that out. I have a series on periodization as well as several different episodes of Runner's High talking about the critical workouts for 5K's and how to run your best 5K yet. So, I talked more about setting up a training schedule in that. But know that if you are doing the same thing over and over and over, that is probably a big reason you've hit a plateau.
Now, if you don't fall into either of those two first camps, you're doing your long run slow enough, you're doing plenty of speed variety, you may fall into this last camp thinking, I'm doing absolutely everything right. But you aren't, and that is overtraining. If you've pushed yourself too far, and you've not allowed yourself to recover, you continue to try to get fitness for a while, and then you head off the cliff.
You hit this plateau and you just can't get any farther because your body hasn't bounced back yet. You always kind of go in this up and down kind of pattern as you trend upwards over time. But if you're going up, and then you continue to train harder and harder and harder without that recovery period, then you can't continue to kind of wiggle your way up that chart in speeds over time.
Overtraining is a huge culprit in people that are very, very dedicated, very, very motivated because you don't want to let go of those times where you're working hard. It's easy to feel like I'm working hard. I'm doing everything I can and that's going to get me better. Yes, it will in the beginning. But there is a point when you have to step back and allow yourself to not go as hard to allow yourself to recover.
It’s kind of what Todd was talking about, that first step I mentioned, going slower on your long runs. But overtraining can come through mileage accumulation as well and bringing on too much speed too soon. So, check yourself for overtraining.
There's a lot of different symptoms; restlessness, anger, fatigue, depression, just ?? 06:41> for overtraining, you get more symptoms. But if you're overtraining, taking time off, or stepping back from the schedule you're doing is going to be the number one way to help you actually progress, which is counterintuitive because you want to train too much.
But when you bring that train back, that's when you’ll actually step forward. So, if you want more training tips, more advice from somebody much more qualified than me, check out my interview with Dr. Todd Buckingham, Episode 29 of the Smart Athlete Podcast. That should be coming on the screen shortly. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.