2. Vary Your Racing
Another frequent reason runners find themselves stuck in a slump is that they are always training for the same race distance. I see it often with runners I first start working with, especially those that run marathons. The conversation usually goes something like this:
Jill Runner: “I’m in a running funk and haven’t PR’d in my last three races. I need some help.”
Me: “Tell me about your last three races, maybe we can spot a trend?”
Jill Runner: “Well, I ran the NYC Marathon in November, then I ran Boston in April, and I just finished Chicago last week. Each marathon went a little worse than the one before.”
It may sound a little comical, but if we were having the same conversation, it would probably sound very similar.
Each race distance has its own specific demands for optimal performance. Training for the same distance over and over again, whether it’s the 5K or the marathon, means neglecting important physiological systems. For example, running well in the marathon requires an intense focus on mileage, aerobic threshold, and long runs. Certainly, these are very important systems to be developing; however, in the process of training for marathon after marathon, VO2max, speed workouts, and high-end anaerobic threshold becomes neglected. The longer a runner stays in this cycle of running marathon after marathon, the further diminished their VO2 max, speed, and anaerobic threshold become. Eventually the inability to improve the entire range of physiological systems prevents a runner from making long-term progress and taking their training to the next level.
What you can do:
Vary up your target race distances and spend at least one training segment per year working on your “off” distance. For marathoners, this might mean doing a 5K training segment in the winter or summer. If you prefer the shorter distances, perhaps you can train for a fall half marathon or a winter marathon to help boost your mileage and aerobic development.