I have competed at a high level for quite a few years now, so I almost forget what it is like to be a beginner. I still get the excitement of starting again after a season break. I definitely get the rush when I race/workout to the best of my ability and I am guilty of making rookie errors over and over. When you first start running…..okay, maybe not the first day you run, but after your body understands what is going on, you enter a race, as that is what you are meant to do, right? As the endorphins floods your system, you understand what everyone else has been raving about. You have officially been bitten by the running bug; you are enthusiastic, nothing can come between you and your training, it consumes your thoughts, and you can’t wait for the next opportunity to see what you can do. The world is your oyster, and you start to dream of the Olympics. If you carry on at this rate, that is where you are going to end up, and you want this, BAD. No one is going to come in your way. How did you manage to go your whole life without this? If you manage to stay under control, and have luck on your side, you stay healthy, and run well until one day everything changes.
Mother nature is having a bad day, and takes out her aggression on the weather (hello NYC marathon!). You rationalize with yourself, “its okay, next time I will get back to running PRs”. Next race rolls around,and you are presented with a beautiful day, perfect running conditions, “this is it” you think to yourself, time for another big breakthrough! But guess what? You run much slower, you almost want to cry as you cross the finish line, how can this be? You train EVEN HARDER for the next race, and if you manage to dodge injuries, you stand on that start line confident, its time for another PR. You run your heart out, yet come around that final corner to see your PR come and go. What is wrong with me?! Suddenly you are stuck. Plateaued. Peaked.
You struggle to remain positive as everyone around you seems to be beaming, soaking in their post race glow. You feel deflated, your confidence spirals away, and you wonder why you put yourself through this. Will you ever PR again? Is this the best you can do?
I think most experienced runners have been through this at some point in their running career. The hardest part is how to not let it affect your future training.
I am actually at this crossroad right now. This is the second time in my running career this has happened, but as you can only do marathons a few times a year (if you really want to go at them with everything you have), so the stagnation lasts longer than it does for a 5k runner. So how can you make sure you continue to stay positive, and keep moving in the right direction when it seems nothing is going right?
Here are my 5 tips to stay motivated when you stop running PBs
Trust in your coach/training
This is absolutely critical. This is the time when it can become tempting to listen to that little voice in your head telling you to do more and more, when you know in your heart that you are already pushing the limit. You need to keep listening to your coach, or listening to your heart, to know that you just need to keep progressing at a steady pace. If you believe your coach will take you to where you want to go, they will. Trust in that relationship is crucial to your success.
If you look back on all your body has achieved, you will have a whole new perspective. How our bodies are able to adapt so well to the stress of running is incredible. Think about it. To most people, running for 1 mile is exhausting, yet you can run for an hour and consider it “easy”? Every mile you run, you put 2-3 times your body weight down onto your muscles, bones, and joints over 2000 times. When you first started running, the idea of talking during a run was unimaginable, but your body has adapted and is stronger than it ever was. If you are grateful for all your body has accomplished as a runner so far, you are more likely to relax a little, and it will be able to do what it does best; put one foot in front of the other.
Embrace the lows, so you have earned the highs.
As frustrating as it can be, running is a sport that is all about the highs and lows. Injuries come, stopping you in your tracks, and performances follow those same ups and downs. As crazy as this may sound, I am always glad my injuries happened, and I am always glad those bad races happened.
The setbacks, challenges, bad races, injuries, all the bad things that happen in our running lives put things into perspective. They mean that when you do have that race, it feels SO much better because you know what you have been through to get there. Not only that, but it gives you a greater motivation to dig down deeper and push youserlf harder than you would have otherwise when you do get the opportunity to compete. If you trust that the lows are going to lead to even greater highs, it will help you stay on the right path.
Keep doing the little things
When runners get stuck, we tend to feel sorry for ourselves. We stop doing our exercises, we binge eat junk food, and we do not get enough sleep, because we think it won’t matter anyway. This is the completete opposite. This is the time to work on these things, to make sure you are doing everything you can to get back on track. This is the time I make sure I take my Enduropacks every day, I try to focus on eating well, and stretching. The attention to detail will not go unnoticed, and even if it does not show in your immediate performance now, it will!
Often when we plateau, it is because we are trying to force our body to do something it is not quite ready for. The more stress and pressure we put on ourselves, the more we struggle. That cortisol(stress hormome) floating around your body is definitely not helping you! Step back from running, find the joy in it for what it is, and go back to basics with it. Run without your GPS or even better, run without a watch! Just run, for as long as you enjoy, and fill your time with other activities that you enjoy. Running should be a part of your life, not your life, so make sure it stays that way!
Like I mentioned before, I am also going through this plateau, so I am practicing these tips myself. I have been using them as best I can, but I have hard days too. If you would like to talk more, feel free to email me at fuelyourfuture(at)tinamuir.com.