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How to push through the plateau to reach your fitness goal


David Gillick

David Gillick

David Gillick

This week is about running and the reason for this is because last weekend, I did the local 5km Park Run in Marlay Park.

Post-run, I was asked by a participant on how to improve their times after hitting a plateau.

One of the most common issues people encounter after taking up running, is hitting a plateau. Many people start off with great enthusiasm and, in the initial weeks, make great improvements. Times get quicker and that feeling of progress is very self-rewarding. And then suddenly, they hit a wall and simply can't get any quicker.

Local road races are becoming more and more popular in Ireland and it's great to see so many people out running and walking - great for the mind and the body.

Free park runs, which take place nationwide, are a great way to get active. You can walk, jog or run by yourself or with friends and it's a brilliant way to start the weekend. 5km is a good distance to start with, and the weekly run provides a great opportunity to beat your previous best. Often, people knock chunks off their times at the start and then are unable to make further progress.

Commonly, people will get out for two runs per week followed by the 5km on the weekend. This is a good way to start, bringing results for the first few weeks until the dreaded plateau hits. At this point, you need to challenge yourself, mentally and physically. It's not about trying to run more often, it's about changing your training.

One of the most efficient ways to improve your running is by adding interval training. Intervals are a period of higher-intensity exercise followed by a period of rest. Interval training involves your goal race distance being broken down into shorter repetitions (reps), separated by timed recovery intervals.

Push yourself harder in the rep than a normal long run. For a 5km event, examples include:

• 5 x 1km (or 5 x 4 minutes) with 2-3 minutes slow jog/walk recovery between each run

• 10 x 500m with two minutes recovery between each run.

These sessions can be performed in a park, on the road, or on a local running track. By setting a target and timing each rep, you can record and track improvements. Interval sessions are time efficient and easy to fit into your day. Also, do a longer run once a week, pushing yourself past the 5km mark.

To break a plateau:

• Incorporate interval training and hill training

• Plan your week: Tuesday - intervals; Thursday - long run; Saturday - 5km park run

• Sign up for a local park run to give yourself a weekly goal.

For more, seeparkrun.ie