If you’ve been running and racing for a while, having the post race blues is something you’re probably all-too familiar with. If you’re a first time racer, or just getting serious about racing for the first time, though, the letdown following a major running event for which you’ve been training & focusing can come as a bit of a surprise. Having gone through various forms of post race blues many times, and given that we’re heading into the peak marathon season in the US, I wanted to share some tips that have worked for me to break out of that “it’s all over” feeling.
Recovery is key.
I’ve written before about how important it is to have a good recovery plan to bounce back after a race. If you’re prone to feeling down in the dumps after a big event has ended, imagine how much worse you’ll feel if you add physical pain or discomfort on top of that. Especially for longer endurance races, your body is getting beat up during the event – if you don’t pay attention to your recovery, you’ll probably be feeling more sore and sorry for yourself than you need to. Remember these key points:
- Keep moving for a while
- Rehydrate and refuel as soon as possible
- Use ice and compression for added relief
- Stretch while you’re still warm, foam roll when you get home
Visualization is your friend.
A great tool for any runner or athlete, visualization can be key to not only planning for how you want your race strategy to play out, but is a big step in believing you are capable of achieving your goals. Visualizing yourself feeling strong and able, pushing through the tough parts and crossing the finish line feeling like a winner, can make it seem less overwhelming when you line up on the day.
But don’t stop there! If it works for the event, it can work for after your race is over, as well. Visualize yourself reuniting with friends and family and how good it will make you feel to see your support team. Think about what you want to do immediately after crossing the finish line (hint: see ‘recovery’ above) and visualize yourself going through those steps. You can even go so far as to think about how it will feel to run again after the event, how your muscles will feel, what feeling and pace you want to shoot for in your recovery runs or workouts. Knowing you have a plan in place after the finish line can help negate any post race sadness.
Training for after your event.
Likewise, while you’re focusing on training for your big event, take advantage of your training schedule to practice for after your race as well. On your easy run, or recovery run days, focus on how your body feels and think about whether this pace will feel good as a recovery run after competing. Use your long run or hard workout days to fine-tune your recovery. Just like you can experiment with what mid-run fuel works during your training, you can also use your training to determine what food and/or fuel works for refueling your body afterwards, or whether you’re a foam rolling or a massage type when it comes to easing your muscles.
Plan to have fun.
You plan for every workout and run leading up to your race. You plan your social engagements around your running schedule. You plan your race strategy for the big day. Then, it’s all over and….no more plans. It can feel oddly like a letdown to wake up the day after the race and realize that you have nothing you’re still working towards; nothing on your calendar.
There’s a reason (apart from being fun & romantic) that couples take honeymoons after their wedding day – it gives you a chance to rejuvenate after a long, stressful planning time, and it’s a fun way to kick off the next stage of your life. Likewise, why not make plans to have fun after your race? Can’t afford a vacation? Planning a celebratory get-together, dinner out, meeting friends for coffee, drinks, movies, whatever, can help you transition back to not-training-for-anything-specific life.
Remember, as well, that running is fun. (Right? Otherwise why do we do it?). There’s probably been a shortage of just-for-fun runs in the lead up to your race, so why not plan a couple of fun running adventures? Try a trail run, plan to go out somewhere beautiful (without your watch), or meet up with friends to catch up while running.
Set goals throughout the year.
Want to avoid the post race blues in the future? Try planning out your racing calendar for the year, so you have more than one big event to look forward to, as well as having set training programs at specific intervals throughout the year. I’m the first to admit I’m not great at doing this. I tend to have one, or maybe two, races in a year for which I really care about being at my most trained and in peak condition. Maybe this is because I think of a goal race as one I want to PR – but a goal race doesn’t have to mean that much pressure. To take the stress of training for a personal best time, consider these ideas for goal races throughout your year:
- A destination race (vacation built in!)
- A relay race, or an obstacle race, with a group of friends
- Pacing a friend through their first race, or to a PR (unless your friend is faster than you! )
- Running for a cause – make your main goal the fundraising rather than your time
Have you experienced post race blues before? What did you do to recover?
More ideas and advice to add? Leave them in the comments!
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