Running is an excellent way to stay healthy and fit. Training days can be filled with joy and satisfaction as you witness your body’s transformation and put yourself to new limits.
However, some runners will experience a gradual decrease in their running pace over time- leading them to ask, “why is my running pace getting slower”? This article will explore possible reasons why your running pace may be slowing down rather than speeding up. With some understanding, you’ll know how to combat it and keep reaching your goals.
Top 17 Reasons: Why is My Running Pace Getting Slower
There are a lot of different underlying reasons that could be causing your running pace to slow down, but these are some of the most common ones:
1. You Hit a Plateau
Plateaus can happen when your body gets accustomed to running at a certain speed and distance. To progress, you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone by increasing your workouts’ intensity, environment, or duration.
To avoid plateaus, keep variety in your training program with longer runs, shorter runs, and different paces, adding hills, interval training, and different surfaces to your routine. This will help challenge your body and keep it guessing (and your mind interested), which can lead to faster running times.
2. You’re Overtraining
Overtraining is when your body doesn’t have enough time to recover between runs. This can lead to fatigue, discouragement, and a decrease in performance. Make sure you allow yourself enough rest days in-between workouts with complete rest or cross-training days (depending on what your body needs).
Note: See more tips for combatting overtraining symptoms below.
3. You’re Not Fueling Properly
Fueling your body properly is essential to performance. Make sure you eat a balanced diet with carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins to fuel your runs and aid recovery. How many calories you will need on a daily basis will depend on your training volume, gender, and age.
In general, focus on eating more whole foods (produce, grains, legumes, meat, dairy, etc.) and less processed food. Any small switch toward better eating should help boost your energy levels and running speed.
4. You’re Not Hydrating Enough
Proper hydration is key for running—not consuming enough water can lead to dehydration, cramps, and poor performance. Drink plenty of fluids before your run and rehydrate after your workout with electrolyte-rich drinks. Keep an eye on your urine color, which should be light yellow to clear, to ensure that you’re hydrating appropriately.
5. You’re Not Stretching/Strength Training
Stretching and strength training are essential components in any runner’s training program. Adding dynamic stretching, yoga, and resistance training (of the core, upper body, back, and legs) can help you become stronger, prevent injuries and keep your muscles, joints, and other connective tissue in optimal health.
6. It Just Might Be the Season
Weather, outdoor temperatures, and sunlight all affect your running performance. For example, temperatures can become so hot in the summer that reaching your usual performance levels might be hard compared to cooler times of the year. The same can go for cold, dark winter days when your energy (and motivation) is low.
Take into account how the season may affect your pace and adjust accordingly. Consider adjusting your schedule to run at cooler parts of the day or indoors—in a gym or treadmill—to keep reaching your goals.
7. Your Sleep Habits Could Be Affecting Your Performance
Good sleep habits are essential for performance. Sleep deprivation can lead to slower reaction times, reduced coordination, and higher fatigue levels. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to ensure your body is rested and ready to tackle the next workout.
Keep in mind good sleep habits should also involve a high-quality bedtime routine. It should include avoiding blue light (electronics) 30 to 60 minutes before bed and sleeping in a cool, dark, and quiet space.
8. Too Much Stress in Your Life
Stress can affect not only your mood and motivation but also your performance. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can interfere with sleep, digestion, and energy levels, ultimately limiting how hard you go in each workout. Make sure to take time to relax and prioritize reducing stress as much as possible in your busy life (easier said than done, but so important for overall health too).
9. Changes in Your Body Morphology
You might have seen changes in your body, such as weight gain, muscle loss, or reduced energy levels due to factors like age, health issues, and hormones. These can all affect your running performance.
10. Hormone Changes
With each decade of life, our hormones naturally change and can affect how our body responds to exercising and running. For both men and women, fluctuating hormone levels (testosterone and estrogen) can seriously damper your running and other lifestyle goals.
Specifically for women, try tracking your cycle and energy levels during each phase of the month—that way, you can adjust your workouts accordingly for optimal performance. If you are menopausal, speak with your doctor about ways to manage any symptoms.
11. Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency, or anemia, can lead to fatigue and low energy levels—not exactly the best combination when it comes to running. Pregnant women, women on their period, or anyone with GI tract issues are at the highest risk of developing anemia.
Try incorporating iron-rich foods into your diet (such as spinach, beef, and lentils), and speak with your doctor about a blood test (to confirm) and taking a supplement if needed.
As we age, our bodies naturally change, and that can include a reduction in running performance. That doesn’t mean you need to stop running altogether; it just means you may need to adjust your training program to accommodate any age-related changes.
For example, as we get older, our recovery times increase, so make sure to give your body enough rest between workouts to prevent injury and burnout. Additionally, strength training can help build muscle mass and even improve aerobic performance. So don’t give up running; adjust accordingly. If you keep the other reasons in mind above, you can also keep pushing your boundaries with running times (after all, age is just a number).
13. Worn Out Running Shoes
Running shoes provide support and cushioning that can help protect your body from injury (although running mechanics is more important). If you’ve been running in the same pair of shoes for a while, they may no longer provide the necessary support or cushioning.
Try to keep track of how many miles you put on each pair of shoes and replace them when needed. Also, try to buy the best quality shoes that fit you well and offer the cushioning you need for your running surface (e.g., road versus trail). Finally, if you’re unsure what shoe is best for you, speak with a professional at a store specializing in running gear—they can give you recommendations.
14. Mental Burnout
If you’ve been running for a while, it can be hard to find the motivation to keep going. This is normal and should be expected, so don’t be discouraged if your interest in running has been waning lately.
To get out of this mental slump, mix up your routine with different runs, join a club, or sign up for events. If running still feels like a chore, take some time off to reset and refocus. During this downtime, try doing something else you enjoy (like walking, biking, or swimming), as any type of physical activity can help boost your mood and energy levels.
15. Changes in Running Technique
If your running performance has been declining, take a step back and reevaluate your technique. If you haven’t been focusing on proper form (such as posture and stride length), this could cause a decrease in speed or efficiency.
Find a running coach or trainer to help you assess your current form and provide feedback on improving it. They can also teach you drills and exercises to help with the transition, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help if needed.
16. Past Injuries
If you previously sustained an injury, keeping it in mind when running can help prevent future aggravation. Pay attention to how you move and how your body feels, and adjust your running accordingly.
For example, if a previous knee injury is causing discomfort after a certain distance or speed, slow down or shorten your runs until the pain subsides. Additionally, consider strengthening exercises for the affected area to help prevent future injuries. If you’re unsure what exercises to do, speak with a physical therapist or doctor for more guidance. Lastly, be patient as you work through any lingering issues—pain and discomfort can take time to heal.
17. Ultimately, You’re Not Listening to Your Body as Well as You Think
The most important thing to remember when it comes to performance is to listen to your body. Honoring the signals of overtraining, fatigue, and soreness will help prevent injury and keep you running strong.
If something feels off or if an activity is causing more pain than usual (muscle soreness is normal), take a break and rest. Additionally, be mindful of your nutrition and hydration levels, as proper fuelling can help keep you energized for your runs. Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of running again, it might help to take a step back from training and focus on recovery. That way, you can hit the pavement with renewed energy and enthusiasm when the time comes.
Remember, age is just a number—you’re never too old to start running! You can become a better runner at any age with determination, consistency, and proper technique. And who knows? You may even surprise yourself. So go on out there and have
Slow Running FAQ:
Let’s review some commonly asked questions related to running:
Why do we plateau in running?
Running can be challenging to master, and many runners find themselves hitting a plateau—or maxing out their potential—at some point. This can happen for several reasons, such as not pushing yourself hard enough or being too focused on the “perfect” run. To break through this plateau, try changing your routine by running different distances and speeds, varying the terrain, increasing your workload gradually, or joining a running club.
Why am I not getting faster at running?
Improving running speed can be a long and challenging process. Before focusing on increasing your speed, make sure you have the proper form and technique down first. Additionally, give yourself enough rest between runs—pushing too hard can lead to overtraining or injuries that will set you back in your progress. If you’re still having
Why am I getting worse at running?
As discussed extensively above, getting worse at running and having difficulty maintaining your pace can be caused by many factors. First, nourish your body with nutrients, water, sleep, and self-care. Then, pay attention to how you move and how your body feels when running, and adjust your routine accordingly.
Conclusion: Why is My Running Pace Getting Slower
You may feel frustrated if you’re running slower than you’d like. However, this change in your running pace is your body’s SOS signal to make a change. Rather than force your training volume, keep your lifestyle and environment in mind. With a bit of reflection, rest time (if needed), and adjustments- you’ll be back to crushing your running goals in no time.