December 15, 2017

Breaking Through A Plateau

Jarrett Pflieger

Triathletes are in a constant battle against themselves. We go out and train, beating up our bodies, with the knowledge that all our hard work will translate into adaptations that will enable us to swim, bike, and run faster and longer. There is no greater feeling than continuously going out and improving upon your performances from the weeks, months, and years previous.

Unfortunately, this feeling does not last forever. Every triathlete eventually hits a point where, no matter how hard they train; they can’t seem to improve even a small amount, if at all. This is known as a plateau and is common among all types of athletes. There are several reasons for this and ways to get around plateaus, so there’s no need to panic.

1. Stagnant Training Routines

Many of us like to stay in our comfort zones. We get into a comfortable training routine that we like and have shown us good performance gains in the past. Just because it has worked does not mean it will work forever. Your body is very good at adapting to outside stress, so if you maintain the same routine for months without switching things up, your body will stop responding to the stress and you will not see the gains you want.

To prevent this, you need to change things around every once and a while. When building a training plan, you need to vary not only distance, but also intensity, volume, rest periods, etc. A good periodized training plan should incorporate all these aspects and keep your body constantly guessing.

2. Poor Diet

Your body is a machine and it needs fuel to function properly. This is even more important for athletes. Your performance will reflect the kinds of food you put into it. You should stick with calorically dense foods like fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, etc.) and lean protein (chicken, fish, lean beef, turkey).

Try to stay away from processed foods and sugars as much as you can. An occasional treat will not hurt, just stick with a 90/10 rule. Follow a sensible diet 90% of the time, and feel free to eat whatever you want 10% of the time, in moderation, of course.

3. Overtraining

The amount of rest you give your body is just as important as your training. Without proper rest, your body will not have time to absorb the training and make the adaptations that lead to increased performance. If you are constantly fatigued, sore, and/or not hitting your target times in training, there is a good chance you are not giving your body enough rest. Too much rest is better than too little. Just listen to your body and dial it back a few notches if you need to. In this case, less is more.

Although there are some reasons for plateaus that cannot be overcome (age, injury, genetics, etc.), most of the time all it takes is a small adjustment in training or lifestyle to keep the gains coming. Listen to your body, get a good coach, and you will continue setting PR’s and getting the most out of your training.

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