Without fail, after every major race, I experience a bit of a dip in mood. It’s not depression per se, but I just feel a little flat. Training for an endurance event requires focusing a substantial amount of time and energy in one direction, to build towards a big race. I suppose it is natural to feel a void when you are no longer working towards a specific, measurable goal.
The week before the race, I’m usually full of nerves and excitement. Before the Chicago marathon this year, I had a very hard time focusing at work. I kept thinking about my goal for the race, if it was attainable and what my approach should be. Would I plan to stay consistent? Build in a fade? Try to negative split? How’s my diet? What will I eat the day before? The morning of? This is all especially challenging when traveling for a race. There’s so much to consider.
As race day approaches and you’re as prepared as you can be, all you have to do is execute. Still, for me, race day is usually a roller coaster ride. There are moments filled with pain and agony and others full of elation. And then, just as I cross the finish line, there’s the thankgodimdoneimneverdoingthatagain feeling that washes over me. After my immediate needs are met (water, food, getting off my feed, showering), it’s time to analyze my race and then celebrate!
My post-race celebration includes a free pass to eat whatever I want and usually indulge in at least 1 beer. If you’re like me in past years, you continue celebrating by indulging in any number of snacks and sweets. You think, “I deserve it, right?” Until eventually, I’ve lost my running base and jogging a mile feels like hell again. At which point, it is usually just getting cold enough for me to throw in the towel and hibernate for a few months until spring rolls around. Knowing when to stop celebrating is a learned skill, one that I’m still working on. Trust me, it’s important. Treating your body like crap only makes the post-race blues worse.
So, to avoid all of that, which will mean you’re happier and far more likely to train throughout the winter, here are 3 tips for avoiding the post-marathon blues:
1. Set a fixed duration for your celebration. This year I gave myself a week of eating whatever I want and limiting my running. I think 3-5 days would have been sufficient, to be honest. Then, stock your fridge with healthy, delicious foods. I prepared them in bulk at the start of the week so that they are as easy as pre-packaged foods to grab and go. This helps the healthy foods compete with all of the snacks lurking in bodegas on every corner.
2. Call in reinforcements – rally your best training buddies to help you get motivated to pound the pavement again. You can even incorporate more cross-training or strength, if those are activities you enjoy. Here’s a photo of my Mom’s in Training team. I leveraged them for accountability to re-start my workouts.
3. If all else fails… simply register for an event that requires winter training. This is exactly what happened this year. I have my sights set on Lake Placid and the immense amount of training that I will soon be undertaking so I cannot afford to goof off for too long.
What are your strategies for fending off the post-race blues and staying motivated after a big race?