General Training

Plateau Effect: 7 Ways to Overcome Training Stagnation in Running

You train constantly, follow your training plan and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but suddenly you feel like you are no longer progressing in your running training. This situation can be frustrating, but this is a natural phenomenon in the world of sports. All runners, from beginners to professional athletes, experience sooner or later a phase of stagnation in their training, also known as the ‘Plateau Effect’. Here are seven effective strategies to overcome this annoying stall in your performance.

What is the plateau effect in running training?

The plateau effect marks a phase in which athletic performance stagnates or even declines after a period of physical progress.

To improve performance and fitness, it is essential to increase or vary training intensity and load regularly. Otherwise, the body becomes accustomed to a constant routine, which can block progress.

When the plateau effect occurs unexpectedly, it’s easy to feel frustrated and unmotivated. Training efforts may seem futile and set goals unattainable. To help you get through this, we present seven effective strategies to overcome the plateau effect and start making progress in running again.

1. Intensity Variation

The essence of effective training lies in its variety. It is essential to vary the intensity in order to stimulate the body with different types of effort. In particular, there are three main training forms that can help you improve performance and achieve tangible progress:

  • Intervals: these high-intensity runs are the ideal way to increase speed, strengthen muscles and get your body and mind used to running at a faster pace than usual.
  • Tempo Runs: also known as threshold intervals, these are extremely effective for boosting cardiovascular endurance.
  • Hill runs: although running on hills can be challenging, the benefits it brings to performance justify the effort. Running on hills involves different muscles than running on flat terrain, strengthening glutes and abdominals, increasing speed and optimising running efficiency.

In addition to high-intensity training, it’s equally important to incorporate moderate- or light-intensity sessions into your training, such as long-distance runs, endurance runs and recovery runs. This variation approach will help you prevent the plateau effect and progress in your running training.

2. Recovery and Overtraining

Recovery is the other key element in your progress. The real improvements in running performance occur during the regeneration phase. However, these adaptations, known as supercompensation, require good timing. Don’t try to return to training too soon when your muscles are still fatigued, but don’t wait too long or you will miss the opportunity to benefit from the supercompensation phase. Avoid overtraining and give your muscles time to recover. Plan regenerative running sessions and make sure you have restful nights with quality sleep, as this is the best means of recovery after physical exertion.

3. Planning and Monitoring

Setting precise goals is crucial for assessing the progress of your results. Make sure your goals are realistic; although high ambitions can keep motivation high, it is best to avoid frustration due to unattainable goals. We suggest setting a series of intermediate goals that will gradually guide you towards your final result. In this respect, well-structured planning is essential to avoid the plateau effect in training. The running.COACH training plan is the ideal tool in this respect, as it allows you to set goals, plan a personalised and dynamic programme and keep track of your progress. This last component is particularly important to avoid stagnation: it allows you to constantly note the details of your runs and feelings, identifying any signs of stalling and making necessary corrections to your routine.

Create with running.COACH a personalised and dynamic training plan that prepares you for your running goals based on your current fitness level. Try running.COACH free for two weeks after your first login!


4. Changing Distances and Routes

Boredom can contribute to stagnation in training. Training must also be fun and offer new stimuli. To break the monotony, try varying the distances and routes of your workouts. Explore new roads, terrain and different altitudes. This approach will keep your motivation high and stimulate you mentally.

5. Alternative sports

Spend time on strength training. Strengthening muscles, not only in your legs but also in other parts of your body, will greatly improve your strength and stability while running. If you feel that your performance is stagnating, it is possible that your muscles have adapted to your training habits. Incorporating muscle-strengthening exercises into your weekly training will not only make you more powerful, flexible and balanced while running, but will also reduce the risk of injury.

Furthermore, alternative sports offer many advantages. When exercising other muscle groups, the pressure on the joints is reduced, which allows the main muscles to recover to a certain extent and helps to dispose of lactic acid, which in turn can improve the situation. In addition, cross training stimulates the mind and allows you to have fun while developing new motor skills.

6. Nutrition and Hydration

Nutrition plays a key role in running performance and recovery. Maintain a balanced diet and hydrate properly before, during and after your runs. Choose nutrient-rich foods such as carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats to support energy and muscle repair. Also, experiment with different food and drink combinations to find the one that works best for you, taking into account your individual needs and training goals. The aim is to maximise muscle development and cardiovascular endurance while reducing fat stores.

7. Mental stress

Often, the cause of stagnation lies not in your body, but in your mind. Situations of high stress or exhaustion have a negative impact on training performance. In such circumstances, it is advisable to take a few days off, relax and vary your workouts, making them more fun, introducing muscle-strengthening sessions or practising other sports activities. The plateau effect in running is a signal from your body that something is wrong; listen to these signals and adapt your training routine accordingly. You may find that when you return to training with a fresh mind and full of energy, you will be able to push your limits and resume your progression.

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