Running Tips: Post Race Blues

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.

Real life strategies and tips on how to deal with post race blues.

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
Running Tips - Post Race Blues

NYC Marathon finishers are kept walking…and walking…and walking after the finish line, armed with ponchos, water and snack bags, to aid with the recovery process.

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.

Running Tips - Post Race Blues

We organized our summer vacation for right after my half marathon in June – I ran on the beach, I (*ahem*) rehydrated by the pool, & I enjoyed family time, all of which definitely helped keep the post race blues at bay.

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! πŸ˜‰ )
  • 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! πŸ™‚

Check out these past Running Tips articles you may have missed:

Running Tips: Starting From Scratch

Running Tips: Using Walk Breaks to Run Faster

Running Tips: Running for Weight Loss

Running Tips: How to Run Faster

Real life strategies and tips on how to deal with post race blues

Comments

  1. Great tips! I try not to get too upset after a race that doesn’t go well. I just sign up for another one to redeem myself.
    Lacey@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…The War is On……..My Profile

  2. I tend to have this a lot as I have to choose my races very carefully to make sure I am able to peak for the ones that matter. I am glad recovery was the first one you mentioned, as that is where people often slip up….they are too excited to get going again, and end up injured. I have learned that lesson many times myself too. I love that you said have fun and do other things, as I think that is important to make sure we do not define ourselves purely as runners. Thanks Carly πŸ™‚
    Tina Muir recently posted…25 Must Have Items for Race Day- An Elite GuideMy Profile

  3. Yep, I go through this a lot and I was really worried about how I would feel after Spain. Luckily, I was in Portugal for my recovery and it was amazing. However, I feel like I’m only NOW feeling the effects of the post-race blues since I have a half coming up but I haven’t been laser focused training for. I’m planning on upping my game come January, so I’m trying to keep that in mind whenever I start to feel anxious!
    Allie recently posted…Biggest Writing Announcement Ever! I’m in a BOOK!My Profile

  4. Good tips! I like to keep my medal where I can see it for a few days as a little reminder of “congratulations for finishing”
    Karen recently posted…14 miles and FALLMy Profile

  5. What great tips! Oddly, I’ve never experienced post-race blues. I’m always so freaking relieved and happy to have the race done and move on to something else. I love your tip about visualizing the after-race. After my first Boston I climbed over one of those metal barricades (don’t ask me how) and found myself in Boston Common (nowhere near the reunion area) leaning on a tree trying to put on my sweat pants. Took a loooong time to reunite with my family. Haha! Never made that mistake again!
    Marcia recently posted…NYCM Training Week 10My Profile

  6. I was just thinking how hard it’s going to be after I’m finished training for Chicago. I’m actually looking forward to a 20 miler this weekend and I’m going to miss the long runs when they are over. Your tips are very helpful! I’m thinking about signing up for another race (a 10 miler) so that I have that to focus on after the marathon is over.
    Angie @ A Mother’s Pace recently posted…Johnston’s Half Marathon Race RecapMy Profile

  7. As you know I don’t race much these days. I have more blues/funk leading up to the race and I know it’s because I don’t run much or do hardcore workouts.
    Kim recently posted…My Wife & Her Birthday (A Husband’s Reflection)My Profile

  8. How very timely! I’m going to use these tips in the next couple of days. The hoopla of RTB is over and I think I may need something new to focus on to prevent the Post Race Blues.
    Melissa Burton recently posted…12 Things You Learn From Reach The BeachMy Profile

  9. Retweeted this and pinning it to remind myself! I have post-pregnancy plans to run my first race and I will appreciate these tips after it’s all over!
    Jessica @ Absurd, She Wrote recently posted…Theo Chocolate Review: Cat Tested, Husband ApprovedMy Profile

  10. LOVE these tips! I had no clue what I was doing for recovery after my half and I paid for it! I think recovery can be just as important as the training. Thanks for writing about this!
    Caroline recently posted…Balance Your Life 4: A Creative Space [swap week]My Profile

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