Why Can’t You Run as Far Anymore ?! (5 Major Reasons)

As distance runners or endurance athletes, we often push ourselves to see how far we can go. We sign up for races that cover longer distances than we’ve ever done before, just to see if we can do it. A 5k runner might decide to upgrade to the 10k, or a 10k runner might decide to take on the marathon. There is no end to the number of options out there for long distance running events. There are ultramarathons, 24 hour competitions, and even races that will take you across entire continents (Source).

However, at some point, we all get to a spot in our athletic adventures where we aren’t able to run as far as we once could. Few things are as frustrating or disappointing as finding out we can no longer do something we once used to do.

It would be great if our fitness levels never decreased, but that’s just not reality. All of us will have dips in athletic performance throughout our lives.

Even professional athletes have moments in their training cycle when they are less fit than they used to be.

There are many factors that could cause decreased fitness, but there are also lots of possible solutions. This article will talk about the top 5 reasons why you might not be able to run as far, and what you can do about it.

Also check out our post on 6 Things “Not” to Do Right After a Run (Potentially Damaging!)

1.      Overtraining

The first possible explanation for not being able to run as far as we could be experiencing fatigue from overtraining. In this state our bodies are run down, weakened, and unable to perform at our best. Being overtrained could mean that we can’t run as fast or as far as we used to.

Sometimes we can push things too far in our exercise routine. We want to get faster or stronger, so we think we need to go all out in each and every training session. That tendency to work out too hard can lead us into a state of overtraining.

It’s easy to give in to the temptation to try and improve ourselves as quickly as possible, even though experts all around us say that we should strive for small, incremental gains. Workouts should be staggered, where we do a hard work out one day and take it easy on the next day to allow for recovery.

So how do we know if we might be overtrained? Here are some of the most common symptoms of overtraining.

  • Mood Swing
  • Elevated Moning Hear Rate (RHR)
  • Struggling with Training
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Muscle Soreness
  • Lack of Focus
  • Frequent Colds and Infections
  • Persistent Fatigue
  • Sleep Issues

If you are experiencing any of these issues, then it might be time to take a step back. The best way to get out of the trap of overtraining (and to avoid getting into it in the first place) is to rest. When we are overtrained, our bodies are shutting down because they are exhausted.

Give the body the rest that it needs so it can recuperate and recover. Once the symptoms of overtraining have faded away, you should return to your previous fitness level.

We also recommend that you check out our post “Is Running At Night Bad? What Road & Trail Runners Should Know!

2.      Illness/injury

Being sick or having an injury is another common reason that someone may not be able to run as far.

Much like overtraining, when we are experiencing illness or injury our bodies are in a weakened state. Some people have the mindset to “tough it out” and “run through” whatever malady they may have.

Generally, this is a very bad idea, especially if you are experiencing pain. Forcing ourselves to run will likely result in making the problem worse than it was before.

A better course of action is to back off of training for a while until the issue has subsided. You may even want to seek out professional medical advice to help speed up the healing and/or rehabilitation process. Once you are back to feeling 100%, then you can go back to training and running long distances.

Also, check out our post “Should Beginners Run for Distance or Time? Brief Training Guide!

3.      Poor Diet

Endurance athletes require quite a few calories from healthy food sources in order to have enough energy to complete a distance workout. A poor diet could be another reason that we aren’t able to run as far anymore.

The foods that we eat are converted into the fuel that we need to be able to get through the day. If we eat a poor diet consisting of a lot of junk food, then we don’t have a lot of quality fuel for our activities. A poor diet will barely give us enough energy to do everyday tasks, let alone have enough left over to fuel a long distance run.

We often hear people say, “You are what you eat.” I interpret this to mean “You are fueled by what you eat.” Endurance athletes should eat a balanced diet consisting mostly of carbohydrates and completed with lean proteins and healthy fats. Fueling up with this ratio in mind will give us plenty of energy to be able to go out and do our long runs without fear of bonking. [source]

4.      Out Of Practice

Another possible reason that we can’t run as far anymore is that we are just out of practice.  Our bodies are instruments that need to be kept in tune if we want to keep our desired level of fitness. If we neglect that regular maintenance, our ability to run as far will decrease.

If the longest run you’ve completed in the past year was 5 miles, it would be very difficult to push yourself to run 10 miles. That’s quite a stretch, even if you used to go that far every weekend in years past. Even if you were able to force yourself to run that far, the results of that run could be disastrous. It is very likely that you’d find yourself in the illness/injury category mentioned above.

Rather than trying to vault back up to your previous level of fitness, the safer route to get there is to take small steps. Try to increase your long run by a mile or two each week, and give yourself plenty of time to rest and recover afterward. Before you know it, you’ll be running as far (or further!) than you could before.

5.      Maybe It’s The Shoes

If you find yourself feeling fatigued during your long runs and all the other issues above have been ruled out, you might want to look down at your feet. If you have been running in the same pair of shoes for months, they may be holding you back from running as far.

Running shoes are specially designed to be able to hold up through the rigorous pounding and stresses that occur as we train.  However, shoes have a limited lifetime and will eventually wear out. Even really expensive shoes will wear out after running in them for 300-500 miles (500-800km).

If your shoes are newer, another possibility is that they are the wrong type of shoes for your running style. Shoe manufacturers make shoes to support many different types of runners. It is important to buy shoes that match your gait, or else you could be putting yourself at risk for injury.

We highly recommend that you check out this previous article for more information on running shoe selection.

So now you know the top 5 reasons why you aren’t able to run as far as you used to. The great thing is there are ways to regain that fitness. You only need to be smart about your training and strategic about how you approach any obstacles that may come along. Once you have managed to get yourself back on track, you’ll be able to run far once again!

Brad Birky

Brad Birky is an endurance athlete and trained chef who has qualified for and completed the Boston Marathon as well as multiple Ironman distance triathlons

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