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Stop Training in the SHIT Zone





Hitting The “Wall”


Finding a running coach was likely low on the priority list when you first began running.  It’s fairly easy to jump on the treadmill or head outside for a few easy km’s. Perhaps you tried to finish a certain route a little faster each day, or slowly expand your route.  At some point, you might have downloaded a program off the internet to follow to give your training more direction. Initially, you found great improvements in your speed and/or endurance each week.  Unfortunately, over time these improvements started to get less noticeable, to the point where you didn’t really see any improvements at all. What you were doing is no longer effective and you aren’t sure why.  This is a very common situation that occurs in the “self-coached” runner. It is at this point where a running coach can make a significant impact on your ability to continue to progress.


Why The Drop In Performance?


Running longer and faster each day will certainly increase your endurance, but this method usually only works with new runners.  You will find many online programs are structured this way, leading up to a goal distance or pace. However, after you reach the end of the program, simply repeating it at a faster pace likely won’t give you the same results as the first time.  Your body needs to be constantly challenged to stimulate adaptations. Beginning to run for the first time challenges your body to adapt to the new stimulus, but you will soon need a new stimulus. By continuing the method of running a little further and faster each day ultimately means you are always running in that “middle zone”.  This lack in variability can partly explain the performance plateau.


Creating A New Stimulus


Creating more variability in your training can be one of the most impactful ways to improve your performance.  This variability comes by adding more distinct differences between the different paces you train. A very effective and popular method for determining the amount of time you should spend in the different zones is by following the 80/20 rule.  This method of training states that 80% of your training should be done at very low intensities and 20% of your training should be done at high intensities. This not only gives your body extreme differences in training stimuluses, but also maximizes physiological adaptations.


Cautions with Training


Introducing high intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the fastest ways to improve your endurance, however it can also lead to illness/ injury.  Despite the great cellular changes that HIIT training induces, it also weakens your immune system. With proper nutrition/ recovery time, you can reduce your chances of getting sick.  In addition, overtraining HIIT can also decrease your ability to fully recover your muscles and lead to muscle breakdown. Although normal day-to day training does cause muscle damage, adequate recovery will allow those muscle to regenerate stronger and be able to handle greater intensities of training.


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



How An Online Run Coach Can Optimize Your Performance


The main purpose of an online run coach is to help you progress your training to stimulate adaptations while monitoring recovery time.  Since every athlete is different, optimal recovery times are going to vary between athletes. This means that the volume and intensity of training that will accelerate the performance of one athlete could injure another.  Therefore, there are a couple of considerations for athletes following general programs online should be aware of. First, online programs do not adjust for general life commitments with work or family. In addition, things such as vacations and other hobbies/ activities need special considerations and program adjustments that are just not available in online programs.  Secondly, it is unlikely that those programs are going to be the best use of your time. As reach runner will respond differently do different training stimulus, it is important to test and retest different volumes and intensity distributions to find out what your body responds best to. Great online running coaches go far beyond simply writing a program. Finding a way to seamlessly fit training into busy lives while balancing recovery/ work and family time is challenging.  It is the job of a coach to create a program that will not only optimize your performance, but also excel is other parts of your life as well.



Written by

Amanda Regnier

Running Coach, MSc. Strength and Conditioning, C.S.C.S.

Movement Specialist (FRC)