If you’ve been training consistently and you feel that you have plateaued at a fixed level, maybe it’s time that you switched things up a bit to see if you can’t shake up your routine and get out of your comfort zone. Even great runners sometimes need to create ways to challenge themselves to ensure that you don’t hit a ceiling and there are a few ways you can do that without making any sweeping alterations.
One way to get this done is to dive in whole heartedly. If you can carve out some extra time, use it to invest in a short period of intense immersion. Adding more mileage to your route can be done in incremental stages so that you don’t go from zero to sixty and blow a gasket, so to speak. Calculate about ten percent of your route and add that on a weekly basis until you reach your set goal. If you generally run 50k a week, an extra 5 a week will be easy to incorporate. You be the judge and that doesn’t mean berating yourself if you can jump up an extra 10k in a week immediately. Try different ways to add the extra distance to see what feels best to you. Will adding another run to your day work or can you tack it onto a single route. Make sure you listen to your body for signs of strain and take a day off if you’re going to hard.
Changing your habits is an excellent way to challenge your body. If you always do interval training, switch to continuous training for a set amount of time to nudge your muscles out of complacency or vice versa. Trying a fartlek workout may be a bit more difficult without a bit of a plan but sit down and make one and give it a shot. Run hard to a milestone, then pace it down to the next one, and then increase it again for a period. Don’t rely on a stopwatch or a pulse rate to determine when you switch it up. Learn to read your body signals and adjust according to what it’s telling you. There is no better science than your body and developing an ability to respond to its cues is fantastic.
Try going off road or finding a set of hills to work out on. This will again trick your body out of its complacency and introduce a new challenge to your muscle sets. Moving from smooth ground to rougher terrain will test different skills and move you out of a repetitive route. Hills will help you to build your strength and endurance, skills you can incorporate to finish the longer distance you are striving to reach. Hills are tough, there’s no question and you can run them in short bursts of speed or begin at a moderate pace and slowly increase it over a longer distance.
Create a long term goal for your program by signing up for something a few months in the future to measure your progress. Fit in some mid-range races at regular milestones to see how far you’ve come. It’s often tough to determine your improvement without having a metric to hold it up against and races will help you to do that. As you continue to move toward your goals and see the results it will boost your confidence and drive your to greater goals!