Why Do My Legs Fatigue Before I'm Out of Breath?

Your legs may not be keeping up with your cardio for a variety of reasons. Here are a few, and some options for tweaking your regimen to move faster.

Run less often and with higher quality. When I started running in my 20s, I could train on back-to-back days, teach a step class in between, play a softball game at night, celebrate with the team afterward, and repeat it again and again without much fatigue. If I tried that now, I’d be sore, tired, and unable to run at my best for days. If you run by what your body is telling you, you ebb and flow along the way. For instance, I run four times a week, but all of them are high-quality runs. In many cases, runners who are over 40 do really well with fewer runs per week, but higher quality (e.g. a speed workout, tempo run, long run, and easy run). This gives your mature running body time to recover before you hit the next run and in doing so, allows you to run harder, faster, and stronger than if you ran on back-to-back days.

Train with the flow of your life. Some runners can suffer in performance if they are training by pace rather than by what their body is telling them on the given day. For instance, you head out to run at your normal easy pace of 10 minutes per mile, but you’re tired from traveling, not eating well, and not sleeping, so your 10 minute pace feels like a moderate effort and it delays your recovery. If you continue to train by pace, it can lead to tired legs—your breathing is fine, but your legs are unable to take you any faster due to fatigue. When you train by effort and feel, you end up running your easy days easy so you can run your hard days harder. Some days your hard days may be at a slower pace because of your life’s flow, while other days it may be faster than you’ve ever imagined. When you let the pace be the outcome of the run, it opens you up to higher quality workouts that allow you to train harder and recover more easily.

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