You did it! You committed to run a race. You got up early and trained tenaciously. And you finished your race! Now what? It’s common to feel a little down after a race. I call it Post Race Syndrome, or an emotional condition that sets in after you finish reaching a goal. You spend weeks or months diligently training for a target. Every workout has a purpose and you are following a schedule that tells you what to do each day. At some point it’s like clockwork and you simply follow along feeling stronger with every week that goes by. Then, after you cross that finish line and take your selfies a feeling of sadness sets in because of the lack of direction on your path. Some runner mistake this with missing training, but it’s more about not having a regimen in front of you. This is especially true if you’re a Type A person. The solution is in the planning. When you go into a race, have a recovery plan for several weeks post race. This allows your mind and body time to defrag and recover from the demands of the training progression through the season. It also aids in bringing clarity to what you may want to do next. When I interviewed Paula Radcliffe, the World’s fastest female marathoner, I asked her how she recovers from her racing season. You might be surprised to learn that she takes one month off of training and rests, cross-trains and runs shorter and easier to heal. There is great motivation in the recovery phase post race and when you plan it, it can become quite the joyful time in your life. It allows you time to do the things you haven’t had time to do because of training. You can weave in activities you may not have wanted to do while training. Set out and run without a watch during the week and find a new course. Get into biking, start trail running or try an obstacle race. Having a runway of recovery time allows you time to really tune into what inspires you. Plan out a period of time post race where you focus on healing. This doesn’t mean inactivity, it means keeping things easy and short early on and then opening things up to more activity as you go. For instance, if you jut finished a half marathon, you could take one week and cross-train and rest during the first five days post race. Then start to weave in short 30-45 minute runs through the next week. From there, add activities you want to do and keep them shorter 30-60 minutes during the week and maybe a longer one on the weekend (90 minutes). The idea is to make this a play phase of your year to recover and rejuvenate for the next goal. When I was racing marathons, I’d invest the rest of the fall season post race to mountain biking. It is my passion and it’s a great time to be on the trails. You might enjoy swimming, or dancing or running trails instead of the road. The key is in being aware of the emotional drop that can happen post race, and instead of filling it right away with another race, take time to recover and see what inspires you next. When you flow with a schedule of training, racing and recovering, you avoid burn out and maintain your motivation throughout the year.
ImageCoach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.