Saturday, April 18, 2009

Le Plateau

No. Not Le Chateau (that store that sells clothes that look like they may catch on fire very easily as one Chaney likes to say), but le PLATEAU...

I've had a couple of emails this week from people that all sound suspiciously similar...

"My running was going great but now it sucks! I feel slow and sluggish like I'm running under water"...OR

"I hate running. I loved running until this week, but this week it sucks and now I hate it."

Well, my fine running shoed friends, you have reached what in training terms is dubbed "the plateau". Rest assured, EVERYONE hits these from time to time and there is not a part of me that doesn't think that you won't get through this. Your best friends and allies in getting through the plateau are good old fashioned rest and mental toughness. Make good, good friends with these two. You're going to need them from time to time in marathon or half training. We are all fickle in this respect...we befriend rest and toughness when we want to and then forget about them for the majority of the time. And suddenly we realize that we really do in fact need them and want them in our lives.

The first thing you need to do is to identify why in fact you have hit a plateau. I like to divide this up into 2 categories (and yes it is possible to fit into both at once): the PHYSICAL plateau and the MENTAL plateau.

If your plateau is mental you are probably experiencing the following: abject dread at the thought of having to go running no matter how beautiful and sunny it may be, quitting partway through your runs, or skipping runs for things that suddenly become VERY important like dusting your home. Associated with these negative Nancy type thoughts is that great feeling of guilt that keeps you up at night because the race is approaching and your training just isn't there. RELAX people! There are several things you can try in order to get through this...

1. Take some days off. That's right- ALLOW yourself and your mind the rest it deserves. Tell yourself that you are taking 3, 4 or even 5 days off of running. And then don't think about it or worry about it. Give your mind and body a chance to recover and then try and come back to running. Running will not be mad at you if you leave it for this short period of time, unlike your significant other.

2. Reward yourself for running. Plan your weekly runs and give yourself a treat at the end if you stick to it...a new lulu shirt or jeans, ice cream, whatever floats your boat, really.

3. Try and find someone to run with if you are the type that likes company on your runs. A good conversation can make a run that is feeling very, very long and arduous go by very quickly. If your running friends aren't into distance, see if you can convince one of them to meet up with you for a small portion of the run.

4. Download a book to your ipod...see sidebar for a couple of entertaining suggestions for books. It kind of takes your mind off what you're doing to your bod!

5. Realize that you are ALMOST THERE. You have done almost all of the hard work. Great job. Congratulate yourself. Training for a half or full is incredibly tough...acknowledge this and be proud of the fact that you are undertaking something not a lot of people have the guts to do.

If your plateau is physical, you are probably experiencing general fatigue (even if you are getting enough sleep), muscle stiffness and sore joints (especially knees, ankles and hips) and when you go running it doesn't feel any good at all. In fact, you feel slow, sluggish and awful no matter how hard you try. Here are a few things to try to get through this...

1. Rest, rest, rest. Before my personal training course, I underestimated the healing power of rest. OK- forget underestimated, I just ignored it totally. Your body is an incredible machine doing very, very extreme things for you in this training. You need to give it the time it needs and deserves to repair and recover from the pounding it is taking. Try taking a few days off and get some rest.

2. Get a massage. I just had one this week. So very lovely. It reminded me how tight my muscles are and how much my muscles appreciate this! In this last little bit of training I would try and go at least every couple of weeks.

3. just feels so good. And it is so important to keep you running. I know it's hard to fit it in after a long run as we are all busy people, but make stretching a priority. Even if it means cutting your run short by 5 minutes to do the stretching it will be worth it in the end. I highly recommend hot yoga as I have mentioned several times before.

4. If you are experiencing PAIN that is beyond normal stiffness and soreness, PLEASE get this looked after right away. Let's be honest. We are not trying to win the race...we are not training for the Olympics...we have simply committed to the distance for our own goals and personal satisfaction. It is NOT, I repeat, NOT worth sustaining a serious injury over this! If you think you have an injury, see your doctor, go to physio, or whatever you need to do to heal yourself!

5. Make sure you are getting enough to eat...and enough of the right things to eat (PLEASE don't limit carbs- your body needs them for this kind of training), and are getting enough sleep at night.

ANYHOW- rambling, rambling, I need to sign off here and complete the various cleaning projects I've started and abandoned. Just one final are all doing awesome in your training, wherever you are...the hardest part is almost over and we will be at the taper before you know it! Hang in there- what you are experiencing is common and you WILL get over this plateau..

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