Tips for Beating the Post-Race Blues
We’ve all been there. You spend weeks and months preparing for a goal race, living and breathing training and recovery. And then race day finally dawns, bringing with it an exciting mixture of nerves and anticipation. It’s just you against yourself, pushing your limits and chasing the clock. But then, before you know it, it’s all over. You have a shiny finisher’s medal around your neck, and, if you’re lucky, a matching new PB. And then what?
Suddenly, after taking a week or two of well-deserved rest, heading out the door feels … pointless. There’s no big goal to get you moving, and no more fire in your belly. It’s too soon to jump head first into another full-on training cycle, because the last thing you want to do is injure yourself. But you also don’t want to float around aimlessly, right? So what’s the solution? Just exactly how do you beat the post-race blues? Here are some tips to get you started.
Rest and enjoy it
Depending on the distance you’ve raced, take enough time off to properly rest and recover. (You can find more info on exactly how long to rest after each specific race distance here.) A twelve-week training block, coupled with a hard race effort, takes a big toll on a runner’s body. So it’s only in your own best interest to respect that and take time to rest and heal.
And, while you’re at it, try to enjoy this well-deserved break too. Have that piece of forbidden chocolate cake. Enjoy sleeping in on weekend mornings. Give in to a late-night Netflix binge or two. And enjoy just putting your feet up for a change. You’ve earned it.
Long hours spent training for a goal race often also means that other priorities, like family time and friendships, have taken a bit of a back seat. So use this time of rest after a race to invest some quality time with family and friends. Spend the time you would have spent on long runs over weekends on fun family activities, and remember to thank your support structure for the role they played in your race-day success.
Learn from your race
Once you’ve spent sufficient time on rest and recovery and can start bearing the thought of running or racing again, jot down a few notes and lessons from your race. What did you do right? And what could you have done better? Did you start off conservatively and clock a negative split? How efficient was your fueling and hydration strategy? Did the particular brand of fuel used at the race work for you? And how about your gear? Was there any chafing or wardrobe malfunctions?
Make sure that you learn from your race. Build on the positives, and write down action steps for improving on the negatives. Don’t fall in the trap of racing just for the sake of racing. Use each race as an opportunity to improve and grow as a runner.
Slowly ease back into it
It’s also important to, once you’ve enjoyed sufficient rest and recovery, slowly start easing back into a running routine. While enough rest certainly is vital, you also don’t want to completely fall off the wagon! So, keeping in mind the general guidelines, gear up for a short, easy run when your body feels up for it. Take it slow, and remember to listen to your body. And if you feel heavy and lethargic, consider taking a few more days of rest.
Set a new goal
Once you’ve settled back into a regular running routine, start giving some thought to a new goal to give your training direction. While a big city, goal race might still be too far off to guide your immediate training regime, why not consider pinning down some smaller, intermediate goals? And why not inject some fun into your routine while you’re at it? An obstacle race is something fun and different to try, or why not involve the whole family and sign up for a family event with the kids? Aiming to join one of the parkrun milestone clubs is also a very good way to ensure consistently getting out there over weekends.
Many runners find that it’s easier to train consistently with both short and longer term goals in place, so identify something that tickles your fancy and gets you moving.
And, if setting new long and shorter term goals doesn’t quite do the trick to get you out the door, then fire the old flame with a bit of (running) retail therapy. The good news is that runners are usually very easy to please. Even something as simple as a new pair of running socks goes a really long way in the motivational department! Or, for a more serious kick in the behind, perhaps it’s time for a new pair of running shoes? Whatever you decide to splurge on, nothing quite brings the twinkle back to an unmotivated runner’s eye like the smell of new running gear.
And, lastly, one final trick for getting back into it, is to enlist the help of a running friend. Being accountable to someone always makes it easier to get out the door. Plus, it’s good to have someone who can give you a bit of a push in the right direction when you need it! So schedule a weekly running date with a buddy, or, if you don’t have one, meet up with a local running club for their weekly time trial. Sometimes just being in the company of others who love running can fire up our own enthusiasm as well.
And there you have it. Six easy tips for beating the post-race blues. Remember that the ultimate goal is to keep your running both enjoyable and beneficial over the long term. So go ahead, revel in your race accomplishment, take a well-deserved break, and then get back into it. It might not feel like it now, but the passion will return. And, when it does, you’ll be armed with a well-rested body and some fresh running and racing lessons to take you to the next level.