Like anything in life, running performance tends to ebb and flow, and progress is rarely linear. There will be times when every run feels smooth and effortless, and you’re seeing improvement day after day, but there will also be times when your progress seems to stagnate, or even regress. While this is natural, it’s always a good idea to investigate why it’s happening. Your running performance could wane for any number of reasons, but here are seven common culprits for why you might be slowing down.
You’re not getting enough sleep
Sleep is arguably the most important tool in your recovery toolkit. When you sleep, your muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones have time to rest and rebuild from the run or workout you did during the day. Runners can benefit from even more sleep than the average person for this reason, and only getting four or five hours of shuteye per night is not enough to ensure your body can keep up with the demands of your training.
You’re stressed out
Studies have shown that mental fatigue can have a significant impact on your running performance. Stress from work, home or any other part of your life can exhaust you mentally and emotionally, which will ultimately slow you down. On top of that, stress has been shown to affect you physically as well, and you can carry tension in many areas of the body that will impair your ability to run well.
You’re not eating enough
Running requires a lot of energy, and the only way to ensure you have enough reserves to make it through those last few intervals or the final kilometres of your long run is to eat. A decrease in running performance is a strong indicator that you’re underfueling. You can’t expect your body to run well on a tank that’s only half full.
You’re lacking in nutrients
The problem may not be that you’re not eating enough, it could be that you’re not absorbing certain nutrients adequately. Iron and B12 deficiency are common among runners, and if your body isn’t getting enough of these it could leave you wanting to stop mid-run for a roadside nap. If you think low nutrient status may be the culprit, talk to your doctor about having some bloodwork done.
This one can be tough for many runners to accept, but the truth is, at some point in your life you will start to slow down. We know that consistent training can minimize this significantly, but it’s still bound to happen sooner or later. If this is you, try to set different goals for yourself, like personal age group records, or focus on the other reasons you love the sport. It’s difficult to acknowledge that your fastest times may be behind you, but you still have plenty of good running years left.
Have you been running the same routes and doing the same workouts over and over again for the past year? Perhaps it’s time to change things up a bit and try challenging yourself in a different way. If you don’t know where to start, hiring a coach can inject something new into your training and get you back on track.
We saved this one for last because many enthusiastic runners have fallen into this trap. After you have a less-than-stellar result, it’s easy to want to work even harder and run even more to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, you end up overtraining, which causes you to underperform even more, and lands you in a vicious cycle of doing more and more and getting less and less return. If this is the case, take a few days off and allow your body to rest, then make some adjustments to your training plan so you’re not running yourself into the ground.