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How to Beat the Post-Race Blues

The race you’ve trained for months for has come and gone. Here’s what to do when it's back to reality

You would think if you ran a marathon after 17 long weeks of training, hit a PR or achieved your goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon without getting injured, you would be happy. Thrilled. Satisfied. It's time to take it easy and go on living life, right?

Yes... but no.

It's not that easy when you're a endurance athlete. You have that day-after elation (or crushing sadness) of achieving (or not achieving) your goal. You tweet, Facebook and blog about your race and respond to messages like these for days: "Congrats! Well done!" or "You made the right choice to DNF, I've been there, it's okay," or "Heal up quickly! You'll come back stronger!" After that, you get an email from the marathon photography company notifying you that your race photos are ready and you laugh/reminisce while browsing through them online ("that must have been near the end, look at my face! And what am I doing with my hands? I would never pay $50 for these!").

But then, eventually, the post-race fun ends and it's back to reality. Other than that finisher's medal you have pinned up with the others in your office cubicle and the participant shirt you sometimes wear while doing chores around the house, it's like it never happened. You feel like you just go back to being regular you, not I'm-training-for-a-marathon-or-triathlon you.

So what do you do to beat the post-marathon blues?

You start browsing the Internet in search of the next race you're going to do. But since you already beat your last goal, you need another one. Something harder. Something more epic, badass and challenging. You finally feel alive again as you submit your online registration form for said epic race. You can't wait to go back to being the I'm-training-for-a-100k/triathlon/Ironman you.

And then you train. Then race. And the cycle starts all over again.

According to Billy Strean, a professor in the faculty of physical education and recreation at the University of Alberta (as quoted in this article in the Globe and Mail), "any time you have a significant achievement or something where there’s been a lot of buildup, you can experience a letdown.”

So what else can you do, besides signing up for race after race until one day you find yourself at the starting line of an Ultraman event?

Just like you had a 17-week long training plan to get you ready for your marathon or triathlon, make sure you have a post-race recovery plan ready to go for after your race. Having something structured in place for after your race can help you focus on what you really should be focusing on, which is giving your body time to recover, instead of feeling like you need to sign up and train for yet another race.

Depending on when your next planned race is, your post-race recovery plan may need to help you maintain your fitness level for another few months or shift focus to rest, strength and flexibility so you can avoid injury and get even stronger and faster for next year’s challenge.

Here’s what a post-race recovery plan might look like for someone who just finished a marathon (uninjured) and isn’t planning to race for another six months:

Week 1 after the race
Monday – Rest
Tuesday – Rest
Wednesday – 3 km walk or other light activity
Thursday – 5 km easy run or yoga
Friday – 5 km easy run, hike or yoga
Saturday – Active rest
Sunday – 5 km easy run or walk

Week 2 after the race
Monday – Rest
Tuesday – Yoga or cycling
Wednesday – 6 km easy run
Thursday – Yoga
Friday – 5 km easy run, hike or yoga
Saturday – Active rest
Sunday – 6 km easy run

Weeks 3-5 after the raceIncorporate strength training
Monday – Upper body workout
Tuesday – 5 km easy run
Wednesday – Lower body and core strength workout
Thursday – Yoga
Friday – 5 km easy run, hike or yoga
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – 8 km easy run





 

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