Monday, March 4, 2013

11 Reasons You Might Be Running Slower Than You Used To

Yesterday was a 7 mile run with 5 miles at tempo pace. This was the first day in MONTHS I’ve been able to actually run in shorts since it was a balmy 44 degrees at 8:00 a.m. If I look tired, I am.

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Pre-run coffee rocks my world. And my intestines.

I am noticing a trend. While I am hitting all of my speed work, tempo and long run mileages and paces, I am working harder to hit these paces than I have in the past. I thought it might be my imagination, but when I looked at my training notes from three years ago, I saw it was indeed, the sad truth. Not to say that paces are everything, but I am still wanting to see progress.

Surprisingly, there is not a wealth of information on this topic. But, here are some likely reasons that I, and you too, may be running slower than you have in the past.

1. Too little sleep. We all know lack of sleep can greatly affect performance as well as mood. When you run, you break down your body. You actually get microscopic tears in your muscles. Rest and recovery give your body the chance to heal these tears and to build even stronger muscles. If you are sleep deprived, this process happens less, or not at all. This can increase chance of injury and just make you feel like crap. Athletes who had too little sleep report reaching a point of exhaustion 11% more quickly than those who were well rested.  More info on how sleep deprivation affects training HERE.

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Nothing wrong with a little drool

2. Not enough recovery from hard workouts. As stated above, running (especially doing speed work or other strenuous activities) causes fatigue and tearing in your muscles. If you don’t give yourself adequate recovery time, the recovery process doesn’t happen as it should. Take at least one rest day per week and incorporate recovery weeks where mileage is reduced about 20%. The number of hard efforts should also decrease during a recovery week.

3. Age. I hate to say it, but often times (not always!) runners slow down with age. Obviously this is the case or Boston age group qualifying times wouldn’t increase as entrants get older. Perhaps a reason that as we get older we might get slower is that we become more injury prone, have increased body fat, have decreased VO2 max(10% per decade after the age of 30!), have a loss of range of motion and can lose muscle mass. Certainly there are ways to combat these issues such as strength training, yoga, diet, etc. For more info on how aging affects running speed, read this informative article from Runner’s World.

4. An iron deficiency (aka anemia). At first, the signs of anemia may be hard to detect, but as the body becomes more iron deprived, the symptoms become more noticeable. Signs that you have an iron deficiency might include paleness, fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, cold hands/feet, fast heart rates, dizziness, irritability and/or possible soreness of the tongue. A quick blood test at your doctor can determine if you are anemic. Depending on the cause of the deficiency, different supplements and/or injections can be recommended. In general, women are at greater risk of anemia due to menstruation.

5. Stress. You’ve heard it a million times before. Stress takes a toll on the body and can result in a myriad of symptoms including headaches, elevated blood pressure, upset stomach, chest pain and difficulty sleeping. Naturally any or all of these conditions put an additional strain on the body and could contribute to a decline in running performance.

6. A recent boost in speed work and/or mileage. If your runs are causing soreness, fatigue and/or burn out, you may be doing too much too soon. An increase of no more than 10% per week regarding distance, frequency or intensity is recommended.

7. Diet. While running, and especially during training, special attention needs to be given to diet. The runner needs to ensure enough calories are being consumed to compensate for the amount burned (HERE is a good place to figure it out). In addition, it’s important to make sure you are getting the right amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats (40%/30%/30% is a good rule of thumb while marathon training). Lastly, hydration is key to flushing out your organs and carrying nutrients to your cells. Aim to drink 60 to 90 ounces of water per day (depending on how frequently you exercise).

8. Attitude. Are you starting your workouts with a lack of confidence or motivation? We have all heard the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.” Prior to starting any workout, especially one where you will be pushing your limits, it’s crucial to get right in your head. Replace negative messages like “I am not strong enough to do this,” with uplifting thoughts such as, “Believe! You are capable, fierce, unstoppable.” Or, whatever works for you (more mantras HERE).

9. An underlying medical condition. While this is probably a less common reason for slower running, it is always a possibility. If fatigue is persistent, see a doctor.

10. An injury. Although you may not have a full blown injury, if you are running with a nagging pain that won’t go away, you are likely altering your gait. This change in form just might be making you runs tougher than before. In addition, any pain while you are running will affect physical performance was well as mental well being. Take time off if you can’t shake an ache or pain. It could be the start of something that could become much, much worse.

11. Time of the year/weather/conditions. Heat, in particular, can affect running performance by elevating your heart rate and making you prone to dehydration. Other conditions such as wind, muddy trails, frozen sidewalks and driving rain or snow will also slow you down (duh!). Lastly, I find that winter temperatures (as well as summer heat) can wear on you after awhile. I am simply sick of starting each run freezing cold and uncomfortable. I know these negative feelings are affecting me mentally and are probably ultimately affecting my performance.

 

How long have you been running? Has your speed changed over the years? I’ve been running for 4.5 years – starting when I was 41. I think I peaked right before I got injured in 2010. Since that time I’ve been trying to get back to where I was.

Have you become faster or slower with age? Recently slower. But I’ll be back.

If you’re slower – why do you think? Now that I’ve done the research for this post – I think it’s a few things for me. Lack of sleep, stress, adding in speed work and increased mileage and being SICK of winter.

SUAR

Fine Print: This information is simply based on my research and personal opinions. I am not a doctor or nutritionist. Get advice from a professional, not me!

45 comments:

  1. Great post! I'm 48 and can relate to most of this. I think for me, the biggest factor is not enough sleep. I've started going to bed an hour earlier each night and I find it's helping a bit. Also for me, stress is a huge factor which is controllable to some extent, depending on the cause.

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  2. I've been running over 20 years. I'm actually faster now (at 43) than when I competed in college. I think a lot of it is the fact that now I run because I love it not because someone "owns" me.
    I do tend to have more injuries now (age!!!).

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  3. Agreed, great post! I too, can relate to most of this. I am 43 and started running regularly a year ago. I know I do not get enough sleep, suffer from insomnia, I am a stress case, I do eat well, but am a "binge" eater :) Knowing there are others out there who can relate to what I am going through will definitely help...it's nice to know your not alone in your thoughts ;)
    Thanks for the great read...Amber

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  4. I'm getting slower with age. Why? My age, maybe.That's what I keep blaming it on, but several of the above reasons could be me. I started running at age 48. I'll be 51 soon. I think I peaked sometime around 49/50. My 5k times are slower. I used to be able to occasionally run 5k without a walk break and I can't now. I've done 3 half marathons, all with walk breaks. All of them last year. I want to be and get better but I seem to be getting worse instead and it's frustrating. I keep plugging along though.

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  5. I definitely am at a point where I am fighting the decrease in speed. For me I think it's age, length of time I've been running (you can improve for up to 10 yrs. no matter when you start), anemia, and yes, less muscle. This has been a big one for me since crossing over the 45-yr. old mark. I have to work so much harder to maintain muscle, and I'm pretty sure this is playing a factor. All that said, I actually think I still have a marathon PR in me. At least I hope!

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  7. I love this!! I started back to running 4 years ago and I have gotten faster, but I also am more injury prone. Part of that is pushing too hard too fast at times and not getting enough sleep or rest days. Thank you for posting this.

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  8. i've felt exhausted for two months. the winter is wearing on me and my running. i have to fight my own self to put my running sneakers on lately. it has happened sporadically in the past but this feeling of runnign blah has been here way too long.
    the sun is out and today may be the day to get back on track...right after my date with coffee. great read for a monday morn as i row the same boat.
    happy running!
    nicole
    http://www.thescenikroute.com/

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  9. I have been running on a regular basis about 5 years I think. I got much faster in the fall, then got hurt (NO connection there) and now am slower while I recover.

    The Kidless Kronicles

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  10. This will sound boring, but so far in my running career (10 yrs), when I'm running slower, it's because I'm training less intensively for running. So far, all those other things seem to be less important than training, for me. (At least, so far.)

    Ah. Except anemia. I always say that the "easiest" speed I ever found was buying a cast iron skillet, eating extra spinach, and taking iron supplements...

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  11. I notice a huge need for more sleep lately- especially after heavy strength training. Last night I did a big lifting set. This morning I find myself exhausted, having had only six hours of crummy (due to coughing from a cold) sleep. I always forget that I need more sleep after lifting... My muscles are exhausted.

    Sarah
    www.thinfluenced.com

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  12. I used to think the medical condition was just something people used as an excuse...doh right up until I figured out that was my issue. I think getting enough carbs is actually important too because people have become so scared of food!!

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  13. Before my injury last year I was getting faster and faster. Now I think it's just getting over this injury and back to running, not speed, I look forward too. Who am I kidding? I'm too competitive. As soon as this injury is healed I need to plan my first marathon!

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  14. I have gotten faster with age (I started running seriously at about age 32..I'm almost 39 now). I really noticed a difference over the past year, since I added strength training and more cross-training to my weekly workout routine (I used to exclusively run). I could be wrong, but I feel like spin class has been especially helpful in getting those fast twitch muscles activated - my times really seemed to improve once I started spinning, but I started cross-training more in general across the board so I suppose it could be any combination of things. I'm recovering from foot surgery now, and hopeful I can get back to the pace I was running at a few months ago!

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  15. Love this list! I've gotten faster and I only noticed it because I take time off to focus on resting.

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  16. I only have been running with purpose for a year (51 years old) Last year I ran two 10k and one half. This year I am hoping to run a couple of halfs, one in the spring and one in the fall. Right now I seem to be in a funk...I think it is cold, wet, winter weather as well as family stress. Although, exercise helps with stress, worry is exhausting and wears me out. This blog and my running group has helped kept me going, even when I don't feel like it.

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  17. One thing that's hurt me in the past is trying to simultaneously increase speedwork and mileage - following the 10% per week for each of those actually results in over 20% more effort!

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  18. I started running again in 2007, after a 13 year break (ran in school). I will never be as fast as I was back then. Late last year, I was determined to get faster in 2013. Now, I have just accepted that my speed is my speed. I look at my dad, who really needs to have knee surgery (he is extremely bow-legged), and I don't want to cause myself further issues (I am mildly bow-legged) just for a specific finishing time. I want to run for many years- if that means slow and steady, well then I will plod along!

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  19. Since I have been running since I was 10 (36 years ago), I am obviously not faster than my college years. I will say that I am stronger! Since I turned 40, I have been running more consistent mileage. Do to the joys of aging--slower metabolism, more injury prone, sleep issues, etc..., I am very purposeful when planning my weekly mileage and quality workouts. Also, I take much better care of myself (diet & sleep). I primarily run trail races which is nice because finish times vary and I can focus on effort and place. I did hit 2 PRs last year by running two of the same races that I had run before.

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  20. Great information! I've slowed down a bit recently, and I think it's because of stress and lack of sleep. Working 2 jobs can be overwhelming at times!

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  21. I've been running for almost 5 years now. I've definitely gotten faster. Last year was the fastest I've ever been. I've slowed down again, but only because I'm pregnant. So I guess that would qualify under 'underlying medical condition' and exhaustion. ha.

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  22. I started running six years ago and I'm 38.. My marathon times have improved while my half marathon times have done the exact opposite. I feel that sleep, diet, recovery and easy workouts play a huge part in race times. As Barry Wright posted....an increase in mileage AND speed/hill workouts is 20% more taxing not just 10%! I must say that I have a hard time taking my own advice.
    Also, I couldn't agree more with AmandaRunToTheFinish. People have gotten terrified of consuming food for fuel. I know there are so many differing philosophies on this topic. Some elite runners claim running on empty yields a better performance. Different strokes for different folks but this girl needs fuel. =)

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  23. I am still getting faster, I think. I didn't have any incredible PRs to measure myself against so that helps. I'm still learning, all the time, how to train better and I am putting it into practice. Also I have taken many short and long breaks from running. I think that helps.

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  24. Over this winter, it's seemed like i've gotten slower...but i had an epiphany today. I've decided I've gotten comfortable during my runs ~ I'm running a pace that feels good. So halfway through my 10k run this morning, I came up with a mantra - Be Uncomfortable. Anytime I felt like I'd slowed down, I'd tell myself Stay Uncomfortable, Get Uncomfortable. And it worked! Even though I wasn't especially fast the first half, I made up for it in my second half, with one of my fastest 10k times I've had all winter. Yay! ~K~

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  25. I started running when I was 10 years old. I ran continuously all through high school but then became an on-again off-again runner after that. I think I was fastest at 18. I'm 44 now. I did run my fastest half marathon in 20 years 2 years ago and I'm trying to beat that time this year. I ran my half-marathon PR when I was 18. I think I'm alot slower now because I don't do as much speedwork as I should and I just have alot more committments now so sometimes I don't sleep much and I don't eat as well as I should.

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  26. Considering I'm 40 and have only been seriously running for <4 years, I'm actually getting faster (Hello speedwork!) But lack of sleep, one of the easiest things for me to actually do something about, is my worst culprit for feeling (and being) slow. Though, during my one-and-only marathon training last fall, I swear I was a little anemic. I upped my iron-rich foods and that helped bunches.

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  28. OK My Wife ran all her PR at age 46 and 47, and since you have been running for less years, you are what we call a young runner, so if you had a coach who was there every day to kick your butt when if was needed, and to hold you back on other days... (I'm not saying change your program) Then maybe a group to train with we could have you running faster and faster...

    Good luck with the training and we hope you break though to the next level and running becomes easy and fast again...

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  29. Ultimately, it all boils down to reason #3. Everything else is variable. Started running at 29. Got progressively faster for a decade. Marathon PR at 35. One of my best races (an incredibly tough nine-mile trail race where I experienced unalloyed joy hiding behind the pain) was on my 40th birthday. After that, with time, I slowed down. At 44, I thought the wheels were falling off. At first it was depressing. Then I embraced the reality of it all and discovered that I could still run with the same effort and intensity, and enjoy all the rewards that come with it.

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  30. I saw amazing improvements in my race times (anything from 5 to 42km) after I spent 3 months running very very slow, e.g 65% of max HR, for 75 minutes, 2-3 times a week. After those 3 months I felt fit, strong, light-footed and very motivated.
    I think if your times stagnate (or training paces for that matter), you need to go two steps back before you are able to move three steps forward.

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  31. I've never been very fast, but lately I'm even slower than usual… I feel like I'm suffering from Winter blues or something. If only Spring would spring!

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  32. I started running when I was ten years old. I run all through high school and then become a intermittent running, intermittent. I think I'm the fastest at the age of 18. I am 44 years old now. I run my fastest half marathon in 20 years and 2 years ago I was trying to beat, this year's time. I ran my half marathon pr when I was 18 years old

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  33. Nice post.thanks a lot for this knowledgefull post. Carryon boss. Thanks to all. Warning! You May Be Addicted to Stress!

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  34. I just started running a week ago and i began to run slower and slower which turn to jog and than walk . I'm 14 this year , i run everyday but it didnt improve infact it get worst .. Why am i running slower and slower as day past ?

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  35. Thanks for the post. I guess all the reasons you mentioned can be implied to me, but OMG I'm so addicted to running. Can't at this moment slow down or do less! The endorphines still beat the pain

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  36. I came up to your post googling !why I am getting slower! ... I used to run under 8 min/miles in training, this morning my 6mile run averaged an 8.40 min/mile. I think that's the slowest I've ever ran and I was thinking, while running, to be at a (sub!!) 8min/mile pace... I'll check my iron tomorrow!!!!!!! :(

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  37. I'm 52, life long runner- average 4 miles a day, and feel a decrease in speed and endurance over the last few years. I also do heavy lifting, to the tune of 300 lb squats, 420 lb dead lifts, etc. My point is that aside from age I suspect the heavy lifting is further tiring me out.

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  38. I wish I knew why I am slower. I was a state medalist last year and am struggling to keep up with the JV this year. It's embarrassing and depressing and I don't know what to do. My parents are taking me for medical evaluation but in the meantime, no one on my team understands and I frankly, neither do I.

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  39. This Article and your discussion friend :D give me the unique ideas :D Thanks :D

    Running for weight loss

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  40. I feel that my recovery has gone better after a work out because I'm giving my body a ton of good things including minerals and vitamins to rebuild with.

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  41. thanks for posting this....I started my running back up and was doing great! I was able to run 5-6 miles with one or two recovery days every week...since the holidays have started with the crappy diet, drinks, holiday stress, and no sleep..it has really taken a toll on my running. Its a beautiful windy day at 60 degrees outside needless to say its a perfect day to go run... but it took everything I had to get my shoes on and get outside, and I think I made it just two flipping miles to where I walked my butt back because honestly I was just soooo tired....Im hoping to get out of this funk soon!

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  42. Just found this post when doing some research on anaemia and running. I had such a successful year of running last year and since the beginning of the year I've felt like I'm running into a brick wall, my pace has dropped dramatically and I'm struggling to finish a 10k when last year I was running ultras comfortably. Hopefully a blood test will come back with some easily curable answers and I get my running mojo back from that. Glad I found your blog - some fantastic reading in here!
    Iona

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  43. I am so glad I found this post! Since finishing Boston last year I've gone through 3 injuries (ITB and piriformis syndrome) and so my training of course has suffered. I actually wasn't able to run a fall marathon as I wanted to but I was ok with it knowing that I needed to properly recover. However, I started training in January for a spring marathon and even though I'm still recovering from the piriformis syndrome I am struggling so much to keep up and it is becoming extremely frustrating!! I ran Boston at an average of 8:19 min/mile and right now running a 9 min/mile pace for 10 miles is HARD! I don't understand what is going on, especially since my last physical exam showed normal results but I believe my doctor didn't specifically test my iron levels so this is definitely giving me a hint. Thanks for sharing, I hope you can also get back to where you want to be.

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  44. Great post!! so glad I found it. I can relate to most of these. My pace have dropped from 10min to close to 13 =( its very frustrating. But now I can address it. I'm anemic(those time of the month are killing me, not sleeping well and went on a low carb. Thank you so much for the post.

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