Running Staleness And How To Overcome It

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Running staleness

Running staleness comes from far too many miles and not enough recovery.

Have you felt stuck in one ability level. You keep running the same time over and over again. Do you think this is only for beginners and novice runners?

Hardly. Let me tell you, I have had more stagnation periods in my training over the years than I can count. You have to believe in yourself, your goals and your ability to jump ability levels.

Bad races are always tough but you have to place importance to failed race performances. It is the only way you are going to be able to adjust your training and change what is wrong.

I loved hearing Jason talk about Matt Frazier.

He runs a site called No Meat Athlete.

Matt dropped 100 minutes off his marathon time, from 4.06 to 3.09.

It can happen that fast, if your willing to make the necessary steps. I went to the 2007 California International Marathon a 2.40.02 marathoner and left with a 2.19.35. Keep your expectations in check and trust in your training.

The less time you spend on worrying about what you want to run the race in, the more you can spend on staying relaxed. Trust me, if you have put in the work in training, the results are going to show in the race.

Form a Strategy

How two bad marathon experiences prior to breaking 2.20.00? I formed a strategy. I looked at what was NOT working in my approach and implemented it into my own training (for me, that was doing my long runs at about 80-85% effort).

I was not running long enough at goal race pace in training. You have to keep in mind. If your goal is to hold a certain a pace for 26.2 miles, holding it in training for 4 miles isn’t really a confidence booster.

Now, if you can hold it for 16 miles during a 100 mile week, that is strength and a great indicator of  where you stand. Look at your own training.

If you are a marathoner and your goal is to run a 3.30 marathon ask yourself, ‘What pace do I need to hold for the entire 26.2 mile distance and how can I train my body differently to sustain my goal pace’. We know a 3.30 marathon correlates to an 8.00 per mile pace.

If you keep running 3.40’s and 50’s the solution to getting out of the ‘performance rut’ is practicing that pace in training as world renowned Italian long distance coach, Renato Canova says, you have to learn to run at that goal pace but most importantly, to lengthen the time you practice running that goal pace in training. 

There are Fast Runners With Limited Talent Who Run World Class Times

The Kenyans, Japanese and other top American marathoners are not just good based on talent and genetics.

I will never believe this. I ran under 2.20 for the marathon off of limited talent. I found running to be totally enjoyable and spent many years building up mileage, overcoming disappointments, injuries, coaching changes and gradually progressed to a national-class marathoner.

We all have goals. Mine is to reach the IAAF ‘elite’ level marathon time of 2.15.00.

Think ‘Long-Term’, Not ‘Right Now’

It is a long term goal I have had since 2002. Yours could be to earn a new PR, an Olympic Trials qualifying time or even make the Olympic Team.

There really is no limit but understanding that this is not an instant gratification sport is going to make you all the more lethal on the starting line.

I think about all the years I was fortunate enough to be coached by Jack Hazen who always stressed to me to take it slow.

It took me years to value the importance of thinking long-term. Results do not come overnight but the marathon is one of those running events where mass amounts of time can be dropped in one single performance.

I have Jack to thank for that. Our philosophy at Malone University was ‘hurt-adapt’. Malone was a powerhouse cross-country program many years before I was accepted onto the team in 1995.

What you have to look at in your training is the preparation first. The body will adapt to any stress you place on it. One of Jack’s methods with training was super compensation

Talent Doesn’t Guarantee Success-Heart, Will and Focus Do

I have known numerous runners over the years who were much more talented than me who never broke 2.25.00 for the marathon (they did run under 14.00 for 5K though).

There are many possible reasons for this but a talented runner who doesn’t want it or have the passion to be a better runner will never, ultimately, challenge the focused athlete with a strategy. Talent alone will not guarantee success in running. 

What you truly believe in your heart will carry over to your results. I believe in this wholeheartedly. I ran a 1.11 half marathon while I was at Malone and wanted to one day qualify for the Olympic Trials (when I was in college the standard was 2.22.00…basically putting two back-t0-back halts together in the same time I could only run one.

I finally earned the 2008 Olympic Trials “A” standard time of 2.20.00. It was something that I envisioned for years, thought and dreamt about, believed in. The great billy mills, who won the gold medal in the 10,000m at the 1964 Olympic Games said something in this video below that I have carried with me for the past 10 years.

The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality or imagination

If you are stuck in your training. Change your course! Then start working toward how you are going to create a masterpiece performance. It isn’t as complicated as we make it. I find that I get the best ideas for my training by writing down things I want to change, than make solutions and training adjustments.

I overcame a few years of not improving in the marathon by challenging what I was doing that was causing the same result. I have always had problems with taking in too little fluid and far too few calories in my marathons.

I recently ran my second fastest marathon, a 2.26.42, at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon and made some improvements in that race.

Unfortunately, I lost significant time when I had to jump in a porta john at the 18th mile while running with the leaders.

I wrote a post about this called Take the Monkey Off Your Back | A Story of Persistence

If you have had similar issues. My heart goes out to you. It is a helpless feeling when you have an iron will but you have run out of the vital component to running a great marathon or race, energy.

You can run out of energy, fail, just as long as you do not run out of the most important weapon in your own training. Your willingness to continue on when your times are not improving. The only way to see a difference is write down what is causing you to miss your mark, find a great coach or mentor, review training programs and adjust your training to cater to what will work.

Closing Thoughts

Overcoming staleness is a matter of persistence, the will to get better and most importantly, educating yourself on where others have failed and do the opposite.

Running easy miles at 10 minute mile pace will provide fitness and stamina but how is that going to help you to run a 3.30 marathon at 8.00 per mile…does that make sense?

Remember, hurt, than adapt. If the philosophy works for an Olympic coach and for someone who has endured and understands all of your disappointments, it can work with your training too.

Your body will adapt to any stress you place on it. It takes roughly 21 days or 3 weeks to adapt to the stimulus you place on it in training.

Always remember you are in control of how you handle staleness, poor races. It is tiresome, frustrating and truly tests your spirit to keep training but I can assure you, from my own experience, that a bad performance (or marathon) does not mean that your next breakthrough won’t come in your next race.

Form a strategy, execute it and reach a higher level in your racing. Think of the regrets you will have if you let one bad race get the best of you.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I hope this was helpful. Please send me your feedback as to what areas of training you are would like written about. Any area I can assist you with.

Running staleness can be prevented. I hope some of what you learned can prevent you from having to deal with it.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “Running Staleness And How To Overcome It

  1. Nate, met you after the Germantown Half Marathon last year. Hope you come back! I enjoy this blog as well as your others in the years past. I’m glad you figured out your recent marathon woes. Now, if I can only figure out mine?

    Mike B.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the comment brother. How have you been? How has your training been going and what is going on? Well, still trying to get the marathon right. I had a good chance to get closer to 2.19 than I did at last years Monumental Indianapolis Marathon but had to jump in a porta john at mile 18. It was still good to get a 2.26 despite that hiccup.

    What is going on with your marathon? Are you taking in enough calories? How about your pace for your long runs? I am interested in hearing your thoughts.. Thanks for stopping by the site. Your going to see some serious changes in the coming weeks.

    Take care Michael and keep in touch.

  3. Great post Nate, I am currently in plateau and have been struggling to move up a level. I have much room to grow and look forward to the challenge

  4. Dave,

    Thanks for the comment. I understand your feelings completely. It is so important to keep going despite what you think of as a ‘plateau’. You WILL improve. It is only a matter of time. I nearly hung my shoes after the LA Marathon. I would have regretted it the rest of my life had I done so though.

    What is going on in your training and what is causing the plateau? Too many miles? Let me know and I can make some suggestions.

    Hang in there. One step at a time brother.

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