Fatigue & Its Role In Performance

Is It Possible To Be Getting Fitter And Slower At The Same Time?

With Coach Kelvin, Online Running Coach for We Run and the We Run Virtual Running Club, and 1:1 Running Coach for Leeds and surrounding areas

Hi folks, Coach Kelvin here. This video was prompted by a question from Virtual Running Club member Steve about becoming progressively slower and less fit, and what the possible causes could be. There are a few factors to consider, and I’m going to share my thoughts on carrying fatigue, as it’s something many people overlook.

Understanding and Managing Training Fatigue

After a tough training block, you might find your runs more challenging than before, feeling slower even though you are actually fitter. This phenomenon is due to carrying a certain amount of fatigue, which is essential for driving fitness. We stress the body and don’t allow it enough recovery time before stressing it again. This cycle usually lasts for about three weeks before we take a deload week.

When you complete a longer run that feels particularly tough, with your pace against heart rate slower than before, it’s often not due to a lack of fitness but rather because you’re carrying a lot of fatigue.¬†That’s precisely why we taper before a race. The taper aims to make you as fit as possible while carrying the least amount of fatigue.

Optimising Training Cycles and Tapering

In training, it’s important to recognise when to challenge yourself. For example, I often schedule the toughest workout at the end of a build week one, following a deload week and an easy week. This allows for an almost two-week taper, providing a clear perspective on where the runner is in terms of fitness.

Shifting the toughest workout to the start of the training cycle, rather than at the end when you are most fatigued, can be highly beneficial. It’s an approach not commonly seen in off-the-shelf training plans but can be crucial for achieving peak performance.

Evaluating Performance and Adjusting Training

Even when you’re fitter than ever, you might not perform as well historically due to the fatigue you’re carrying. For runners who don’t compete often and are constantly building up fatigue, it’s advisable to taper now and then. Give yourself a challenging workout after a taper to see how you feel and what the stats say.

If, over about three months, you notice a performance decrease even when placing the tough workout at the start of the cycle, it’s time to review your training. Assess whether you’re under-stimulating or overstimulating, under-recovering or over-recovering, and make necessary adjustments.

Final Thoughts

I hope this sheds some light on the relationship between fitness, performance, and fatigue in running. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. But for now, Happy Running!

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