A blog by runners. For runners.

6 ways to bust out of a running rut

bust-out-of-training-rutFew things are as frustrating as falling into a running rut. We watch ourselves getting faster and stronger while PRs keep coming in. And then suddenly it all stops. We plateau or, worse, get slower for no clear reason.

This happens when the body gets used to a training program. Unless you switch something up, you’ll stop seeing results. Here are six simple tweaks you can make to your regimen to get you fitter and faster — and back on track:

  1. Train for a new event. If you’re a marathoner, back off on distance running for a while. Take the time to properly train for a shorter race – a 5K, 5-miler, or 10K. Focusing on speed instead of endurance could be the ticket to faster marathon times in the long run. Or consider training for a triathlon. Many runners are shocked to learn that replacing some running workouts with bike rides and swims improves their running times. Cross-training works different muscles while still delivering an aerobic workout, so the result is often better fitness without muscle fatigue.
  2. Train differently. If you always do the same workouts week in and week out, it’s time to switch things up. If your speed workouts are always tempo runs, try intervals instead – head to the track and tackle mile repeats or Yasso 800s. If you normally do your long runs at a steady state, try a fast finish long run or running a few middle miles at goal race pace. If you typically follow the same type of training plan, try out a new approach for your next race.
  3. Get on the treadmill. I know, so many runners refer to it as the “dreadmill” and would rather not run that get on it. But the treadmill can be an invaluable training tool. It can help your body learn to run a faster pace. You don’t have to make treadmill running a habit, though – just replace one outdoor run with a treadmill run each week until you bust out of your rut.
  4. Do plyometrics. Plyometrics or “jump training” exercises – jumpees, burpees, and standing long jumps, for example – can strengthen muscles, aid in weight loss, and significantly improve athletic performance. You can get results with just two plyometric workouts per week.
  5. Hit the weight room. Strength training is an often neglected component to a runner’s training. But it shouldn’t be. Lifting strengthens our muscles and joints, which in turn lowers the risk of injury and shaves minutes off race times. Aim to strength train for 30 minutes, two days each week. If you can’t devote too much time to strength training at least do regular core work. Having strong ab and back muscles means you’ll be able to hold proper running form for a longer amount of time before fatiguing.
  6. Take time off. Unfortunately, you may be in a rut because your body is trying to tell you something. If you’ve been training intensely for months without taking a break, you may be burnt out. Cut back on your mileage and intensity for a couple weeks. It may seem counterintuitive to back off when you want to improve but some time off may be just what your body needs to bounce back.

Have you ever hit a running rut? How did you get over the plateau?

Written by Jen Matz.

Related: Treadmill workouts to get faster | Are you overtraining?