Breaking Through Your Marathon Plateau
September 4, 2009  |  Marathon Training

When you start to train, especially as a beginner, you will see crazy results in the beginning weeks of your training. This is mainly due to the fact that your body hasn’t been trained before and adapts quickly to training of specific muscles. When the body gets used to the similar intensities of the workouts, the body gets used to it and you end up not seeing little, if any results. In weeks 8-10 of your marathon training, you might feel as if you’re not improving at all.

You feel as if you’re running hard and fighting to finish the recommended mileage every week but next week, you’re still having trouble completing that same distance. What happened??? Why aren’t you improving week by week?

In article by Coach Jenny, Breaking through a Plateau, she advised a 43 year old woman to break through her plateau.

The Question

I’m 43 and started a weight-loss program in January. I’ve lost 41 pounds and would like to lose 40 more. But I’ve plateaued and don’t know what to do. I record my calories and have been walking 2 miles a day; recently I started to add in some jogging. Can you help me get past this plateau? – Kim”

Congratulations to Kim for losing that first 40 pounds! Just because Kim has already lost 40 pounds, she has the right habits in place to make losing the next 40 pounds much easier.

The Reason

The biggest reason why she experienced a plateau is because her training is the same old thing every day. If you train by running or walking the same distance with the same intensity on all your workouts, there is no progression.

Petalphoto credit: LuLu Witch

The problem with doing the same workout everyday is that your body isn’t being challenged. Think of it like this: if you ask a 2nd Grade student, “What’s 4×4?” That student doesn’t know. If you tell him the answer of 16, he now knows. BUT, if you ask him the next day, “What’s 4×4?” He’ll say 16. You keep asking him everyday that same question and he’ll tell you that same answer. If you wanted to challenge him and ask, “What’s 4×5?” he wouldn’t know because he hasn’t learned how to do it.

This is the same with your body and running a marathon. If you ask it to run longer distances after running the same distance for the last 2 weeks, it will have issues adapting. If you were to keep running the same distance, you won’t be ready for the marathon ‘cause your body isn’t ready for that distance. By now, you’re probably thinking “that’s cool, but what do I do???” …I’m getting there.

The Solution

There are many components of your training you can change up but I would recommend the two most effective methods:

1) Don’t run back to back training sessions with the same mileage or intensity

2) Cross train to challenge yourself

Spicing Your Workouts Up

Changing your workouts is a good idea when training for a marathon. When you begin to train on alternate days and mix up the level of intensity and the distance being ran, you really keep your body guessing because it doesn’t get comfortable with a distance or intensity.

Cross Training Your Way to Tearing Down the Plateau

Cross training simply means to train the same muscles you use when running through different mediums/sports. For example, an elliptical is an option because it mimics the similar movements of running. I personally like to swim because of the pressure it puts on the lungs and challenges my endurance.

Now It’s Your Turn

Have you plateaued while training for your marathon? If you overcame it, share what you did or what you are doing now to make it a thing of the past. Also, what’s your favourite way to cross train?

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