The Dreaded Running “Wall”

When you first decided you wanted to start running, you likely did not seek out an online running coach to optimize your performance. Anyone can lace up a pair of runners and jump on the treadmill or head outside for a little jog.  Perhaps you timed yourself to see how far you could go. Or downloaded a program off the internet that dictates how far to run each day.  In the beginning you likely found great results in your performance.  Each day you ran you reached a further distance, or finished your route a little faster.  However, after a while you started to hit the dreaded “wall”.  You couldn’t seem to run past a certain distance without dying, or your pace stopped improving.  What you were doing suddenly wasn’t working anymore, and you don’t know why.  This is a very typical progression of the “self-coached” runner.  This is also the point where a running coach will make the greatest impact.

The Cause of the Performance Drop

Trying to run a little further or little faster each day is a great way to build up endurance when you are just starting out.  Many running programs you will find online have a similar structure, leading up to a goal distance.  Unfortunately, this method of “a little bit more each day” only works with an untrained runner.  Going from no running to consistent running shocks your body into adaptation mode.  Adaptations include increased oxygen delivery to muscles and a greater number of energy producing cells.  After a period of time, normal running isn’t as much of a shock to the body as it use to be and your body stops adapting.  This lack of a new training stimulus is often the root cause of a plateau in performance.  It is also the reason why you see huge running improvements in the beginning, then less and less over time.

The Solution – Optimization!

The single greatest solution you can implement to improve your running is to use a new “shock” to stimulate adaptation.  This new “shock” should be in the form of varied training intensities. You have likely heard of the 80/20 rule: 80% low intensity running and 20% high intensity running.  It works because you are constantly giving your body extreme training stimulus opposites, and your body constantly has to adapt.

Run With Caution

The 80/20 rule of training can yield some fantastic results but can also be a fast-track way to injury.  High intensity interval training has the greatest positive impact on your endurance performance – but at a cost.  This cost is a weakened immune system and high stress on your muscles and joints. When properly managed (enough sleep, proper nutrition, adequate recovery days ect.), this training cost can be mitigated.  However, spending too much time in the high intensity zone will not only dampen the training effect of the intervals, but can also lead to injuries.

(aside: check out this article here where I outline my top 3 steps for overcoming an injury.)

How An Online Running Coach Can Optimize Performance

The role of an online running coach is to progress your training in a way to stimulate constant adaptations without overloading your body. The problem is that each person will respond differently to any given training stimulus.  Further, the training volume and intensity that could benefit one runner could also lead to injury in another runner.  Although there are many general running programs that can be found online that follow the 80/20 rule of training, they have some limitations. The primary limitation is that they do not account for normal life events such as illnesses, work/ family commitments and other physically active hobbies.  Great online running coaches do not just write a running workout.  They look at your life and deliver you a program to optimize the amount of time you have to train and customize it to seamlessly fit your lifestyle. When you can achieve a balance in your schedule between training intensities/ recovery/work/ family time and hobbies you can truly begin to elevate your performance as runner.

Amanda Regnier
Running Coach, MSc. Strength and Conditioning, C.S.C.S
Movement Specialist (FRC®)