How to Smash through a running Plateau: 4 effective tips

It happens more often than runners realise, you’re making progress, things feel good and the results are the proof that your particular brand of training plan is working.



Hey it’s not only working, but you’re faster than you’ve ever been!  Maybe there are a few PR’s in the bag now?  This is good news isn’t it?  Are you really going to tell us that we should be worried Geoff?


No, don’t worry, I’m not.

There are a lot of plans out there and most indicate that you should honour rest periods.  If you follow my twitter feed, have joined my facebook coaching group or checked out my YouTube videos, you’ll know I’m more than just keen on recovery.


For me recovery is key, never an optional extra.  Before I go into that though, let’s take a look at what plateaus actually are.

You’ve made progress, but now things have stalled, you’re slower, or perhaps can’t increase your speed, you feel less motivated about running, things that used to get you out of the door don’t seem to work the same kind of magic, your ability to run further than before has reduced, maybe stopped entirely.

The big question is WHY?

There are plenty of various pieces of advice about coming back from a running plateau, but they won’t help you until you know what got you there in the first place.

Check out my list of possible reasons and see which seem familiar.

Coaches Tip! This is another standout reason why keeping a training log is more than useful, there are many many advantages beyond the scope of this post.

  • Increasing mileage (weekly) above your previous weeks mileage (more than 10 extra miles each week)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor nutrition
  • Variation in your training (weekly)
  • You aren’t running enough
  • Speed isn’t your friend
  • Zero recovery (or lack of the correct amount) including end of season or post race recovery



So what do you do to counter this?

First here are my top quick fix tips for leaving your plateau behind, before we move on to the technical nitty gritty that will help you blitz through that plateau.


  1. What are your goals?  Have you been clear about defining them, remember the saying – if you don’t know where you’re going any road will do?  So it’s really important to get your goals written down or typed up somewhere.  Focus helps to pinpoint your training, and this will make such a huge difference to all facets of running


  1. Ok, you’ve got goals, they’re clear and you’ve got them on a post it stuck on your bathroom mirror (maybe)  Is your goal achievable?  Really spend time thinking of this.  Setting challenging goals is good and I certainly believe that this is a cornerstone of improvement, but set them too high, too soon, and you may be in for a rough ride.  You’ll get a good feel for those goals that are way beyond where you are right now, and those that, while challenging, you feel you can reach with some stretch


  1. Friends are good – pretty obvious but how many runners really take advantage of a group of friends, yep you may already be in a running club/group which is fine, but if your group is pushing you too far out of your comfort zone then there may be problems ahead. Equally, groups may well be training at one or two particular athletes levels, especially likely in smaller groups.  There is nothing at all wrong with pushing yourself to aim for a more experienced runners level, just don’t push yourself too far


That should help set a good foundation for the next step.

I gave you a list of bullet points above, what’s next?

Well, the reasons above are the causes, the effect is likely to be your plateau and the solution is up next.

Dive into the relevant parts of this article below, if not, feel free to read each and try them out, all have the potential to give your running a boost anyway, so it’s all positive, good stuff!



OK, you’re already running.  But – and I need to be honest here if I’m going to do my job as your coach – IF you want to see an improvement you will most likely need to run more than you are now.


I wasn’t sure whether to put this point first because it’s a tricky one.  There are a few provisos you’ll need to consider:


  1. If you feel you’re at your limit and that’s why you’ve plateaud – then please do not run extra miles.
  2. If you feel you don’t have the time to get in extra miles then there may be ways around this, I’ll re-visit this in a future blog but think about running twice a day (it’s not as hard as you might think, although possibly not for everyone)
  3. If you have any health reasons for not increasing your mileage, then please don’t

However, if there appears to be no reason why you shouldn’t increase your mileage then go for it.

Some people randomly add mileage to their running week, please don’t do this.  It’s a speedy way to injury.

Instead, try to add no more than 5-10 miles to your weekly total and see how that feels over several months.

To be clear I’m indicating that if you currently run 20 miles per week you should increase to 25 or 30 miles total weekly mileage for several months and see how that feels.

Faster is Better?

You won’t be surprised to find that one of the symptoms of platueaing is that your speed suffers.  It’s a logical conclusion to make, yet without speed increases you’ll never get faster.

No speed work = no increase in speed. 



Stop doing what you’re doing!


OK, not absolutely everything.

But honestly, what you’ve done so far has been great in getting you to this stage in your running, but it’s unlikely to create that quantum leap you’re looking for to take you to the next stage.


So what will?


Well for a start following the strategies here will help.  But it’s also important to think about how you are training right now.


You need to try different ways of training, different types of workout (and there are lots out there believe me – contact me on Twitter @focusedperformance or on my Facebook group YOUR running Coach and I’ll send you a list tailored exactly to your needs – for free)


You should also be changing workouts around, making sure your recovery sessions/days are working for you and adding volume as discussed above in the run section.


Drill Sergeant


Drills are quite possibly the runners least favourite friend, yet it’s here, and with strength work, that you’ll definately find huge dividends are paid out.


I didn’t always work on drills and strength, I just didn’t realise the benefits that they could give to my running.

Since I’ve started using them I’ve found changes in my balance and agility as well as co-ordination in running as a result.  To go into detail on these in this article is outside the scope of what I can cover, but do keep a watchful eye on my social media channels for more information.


I also go into detail on drills and strength skills on my website pop over and have a look for more info, and subscribe to my distribution list if you’d like to be ahead of the curve on my running strategies.


For other helpful articles subscribe to my blog, follow me on twitter for regular updates and strategies and join YOUR running coach on facebook for a community of like minded runners working to share the best info out there for other runners.

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