How to take your running to the next level
Is your running performance stalling? Maybe you’re not seeing the results you used to, or feel as though you’ve hit a plateau? For many of us, the response is to grit our teeth and train harder.
However, there are plenty of reasons why your performance may have decreased, and it’s important to understand them. Once you do, you can work with them to enhance your results and keep your running rewarding.
We’ve put together some of the most common reasons for a running slump or plateau, and what you can do about them to get yourself back on track.
1. You’re pushing too hard
It’s the curse of so many athletes: they train too much, too hard, too often. If you find yourself out of breath or completely drained after every run, it’s a good sign you’re overdoing it.
This is officially known as overtraining, and happens when your body is worked beyond its capability to recover. It can lead to depleted energy stores, performance stagnation and changes in hormones and moods.
Overtraining is common when you’ve got your mind set on a goal. For example, training to increase your pace. If you push too hard, you actually go beyond the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to your muscles.
Likewise, if you’re doing endurance training. Too many kilometres without proper resting periods can tucker the body out, and won’t allow you to recover for your next run.
That’s the thing about overtraining – it’s counterproductive. Instead of improving your performance, it can cause a plateau. In more extreme cases, overtraining can cause injury, sleep disturbance and even depression.
Sometimes, when it comes to training, less is more.
Take a step back
The first step to developing a healthier attitude to running is to know your pace. Use a stopwatch to help identify a comfortable level for you, and if you’re aiming to improve, do so in small steps.
You also need to manage your distance. As most runners will know, if you’re training for a long run, your distance needs to be built up gradually over time.
Create a running plan with a phased approach – it sets milestones and gradually increases the distance to help you reach your goal without overtraining.
The Runkeeper app is a great tool to help get you going on a running training plan.
2. You’re not getting the right fuel
For anybody, a balanced diet is crucial to wellbeing. After all, our food literally becomes our cells. But for athletes, even casual ones, one of the best running tips is to prioritise nutrition.
A balanced diet will not only provide the energy you need while running, but also help you recover and build muscle.
Complex carbohydrates help your body produce glycogen, which delivers energy to your muscles. Proteins are essential to help repair and build muscles as well as produce hormones.
Then there are fats, vitamins and minerals which, when you’re getting enough of them, will help your body to thrive.
Aim for a balanced diet
Your diet should get as much of your attention as your running plan. In addition to vitamins and minerals, your diet should be made up of:
- 60-65% carbohydrates
- 10-20% protein
- 10% saturated fats
- 10-15% unsaturated fats
To find out more about the nutrient value of your favourite foods, take a look at our Nutrition page.
3. You’re burning the candle at both ends
It’s easy to burn out, especially if you’re working hard, playing other sports or are under stress. Many of us live a fast-paced life, and we forget that stretching ourselves too thin means we aren’t at our best.
If you want your running (and life) performance to last, your body needs time to recover.
Take it easy
This one may seem obvious, but sometimes it takes more of an effort to take a break than it does to push on.
Make rest and relaxation a non-negotiable part of your life, giving your body time to repair itself and recover, so you’ve got strength for your next run.
4. You’re not getting enough shut eye
Not getting enough sleep can have a huge effect on your running performance. It all comes back to recovery – if you’re not sleeping properly, you’re depriving your body of a solid chance to recover.
Wind down before bed
This one may not seem like a running tip, but properly relaxing before bed will have a big ripple-on effect for your performance out there.
Often, we have all good intentions when it comes to getting to sleep early, but our screens and other distractions keep us wired for hours.
Take a warm bath before bed and try to relax. Another great way to wind down before sleep is to read a book or listen to some relaxing music. Try going screen-free for the hour before bedtime.
If you’re suffering from severe sleep problems, consult your doctor to see if they can help you get the rest you need.
5. You’re not using the right gear
It can be easy to have a blasé attitude to your running gear, but the wrong gear, especially shoes, can seriously hold you back.
Running in ill-fitting or old shoes (or those tennis shoes you found in the garage) can cause injury and chronic pain, as you’re not getting the support you need.
On the other hand, the right running shoes will protect your body, and enhance your performance.
Invest in quality
When it comes to running shoes, quality is a game-changer. Be specific with what you need – whether you’re running on the road or on trails, you need shoes that are specially designed for maximum support.
ASICS NZ has a wide range of running shoes and training gear, and they’re experts when it comes to finding the right fit for you. They’re also a great source of knowledgeable training advice, and are dedicated to helping you perform at your peak.
Look at the bigger picture
When we search for running tips to improve our performance, we often forget the interconnectedness of all the different parts of our life.
For improved running performance that will stand the test of time, keep in mind what’s going on around your training. Prioritise a balanced diet, plenty of sleep and a healthy body, and you’ll be back on track in no time.
This post was brought to you by ASICS New Zealand. For running and training gear designed for performance, and running shoes that will help you excel, check out their Womens Running Shoes and Mens Running Shoes.