Call it a plateau, call it a digression, call it a rut, call it a slump…whatever it is, it sticks! You put in a lot of time and hard work but no or few obvious improvements. I purposely use the word obvious because you just never know when the breakthrough will come. All athletes go through these challenging periods of training and competing (probably more than once). If you have already experienced this, you can relate; and if this sounds a bit foreign, sorry, but it will most likely occur.
I am caught in this state right now and analyzing everything running and non-running related to figure out what is preventing the faster times and progress I expected at this point. I want to share my thoughts and some ideas about what I have done in the past, what I am currently doing, and what I will do to overcome my own speed bump.
Work with a coach or someone with experience. An objective eye can pick up on things that you cannot see for yourself.
Are you overtraining/undertraining?
Running the correct workouts for your goals?
Learn from every race/workout, especially the “bad” ones!
What can you do differently next time?
What went well? Focus on the positive. Maybe you placed in your age group, maybe you didn’t get a blister, maybe your kids came to watch.
Look back and see how far you have come.
After a tough race(s), allow yourself to feel the emotions: anger, frustration, fear, sadness, pain. Then get over it and move on!
Feed off of the successes of others. Many of my teammates are running really fast, PRing, winning races, and achieving their goals and it makes me so happy and gets me pumped up! At the same time, don’t compare yourself to others. Just because your friend runs “x” number of miles per week, doesn’t mean that will serve you too.
Nutrition. This is a big one because garbage in = garbage out.
Along with nutrition, are you deficient in any nutrients? Maybe get some blood work done to find out. I finally listened to my own advice on this one and received a few surprises (more on this another time).
Ancillary activities: foam rolling, stretching, strength training, massage, etc.
Take some down time after big races and long training cycles. It is good both physically and mentally.
Run with others. Especially positive people who keep you motivated.
Run alone too. Let’s face it; it will just be you with yourself in many races so you need to practice feeling comfortable with you!
Train your brain. Mental training is HUGE! Back to the point that many times it is just you with your thoughts.
Read motivational books.
Find inspirational quotes.
Other stressors. What is going on with work, school, family, relationships, money?
Continue to set goals and dream big! It’s normal to want to throw in the towel sometimes and it’s okay to make adjustments in your smaller goals as you work towards the big one. My next marathon (CIM in December) goal time has been altered a few times but I know that it is just a piece to achieving my bigger dream.
Be open to making a few changes and then be patient.
Have fun!!! Enjoy the journey, continue to work hard, listen to your heart, and BELIEVE in YOU!