I suspect you know what I’m talking about. Even if you don’t race, you have had something in your life that you invested yourself in. It took me many years to realize this feeling of post race (or post season) blues was normal. That it actually makes a lot of sense. That many (most?) athletes deal with it.
The blues don’t care if you are fast or slow, young or old. They don’t care if you won. Or DNF’d.
And it appears the blues don’t particularly care that I am not as invested in training and racing as I once was. Of course you shouldn’t believe me if I say I don’t care about these races. I always care about the race. As an athlete, it is part of my DNA.
Why do we feel this sense of letdown, lack of motivation and general “I don’t care about life-ed-ness” after a significant event or the end of a season? Think about it: You have been focused on this future event, working your hiney off to get to the start line. You have fears and hopes and dreams for the event. Everything is unknown; so anything is possible. The endorphins are flowing freely. Everyone is excited for you. It’s a big build up.
And then: It’s over.
You have the immediate rush of accomplishment, you feel amazing. For a day.
Maybe you met your goals. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe you are happy with the outcome or maybe you aren’t. It doesn’t matter. It’s over. Your body is spent. Your endorphins are somewhere on the race course. You are an emotional wreck because you are just so physically tired. That finishing glory won’t see you through the weeks to come.
I have some ideas on what to do and what not to do. I have more experience with the what not to do, unfortunately, but I’m learning.
Do: Keep moving.
Don’t: Jump right back in to structured training.
Yes, keep moving. Get out there and get the blood flowing, but do it for the fun of it. If you don’t love swimming (pick me!), don’t swim. If you miss tennis, play tennis. If you only love to run, run. But resist the urge to create structure right away. The length of time you do this depends on the event and where you are in your season, of course. It might be a week, it might be 6 weeks.
Get out in the sunshine. I think it is impossible to be depressed in sunshine.
Do: Chill. Rest.
Don’t: Stress about all the things you should be doing.
It’s normal to feel completely unmotivated after a big event. Give yourself a break for feeling this way. Understand that you need to rest. You haven’t all of a sudden turned into a sloth that will never accomplish anything again. You are just damn tired. Go with it as much as you can. It’s hard. And it doesn’t mean sitting on the couch and sinking in to a deep depression. I like to set myself lots of simple tasks to complete. It makes me feel like I’m doing something, without feeling like I have to do everything I put off for months, today.
Do: The things you haven’t been able to do. Within reason.
Don’t: Stress about not having a training plan to follow.
If you were training for an Ironman, for example, your family probably forgot what you look like. Now is a good time to remedy that. Try to turn off the I MUST TRAIN mentality and be willing to just go have some fun.
Do: Create new habits.
Don’t: Let this opportunity disappear.
Have you been training through a variety of nagging injuries and pain? Well… now is a good time to at least start to do something about that. I find this is one of the harder items for me to do. There is not a lot of endorphin release from rolling on a lacrosse ball. It’s that old delayed gratification thing. I suck at it. And maybe you do to. But if you can commit to just a few minutes a day, it’s a start. And maybe it will stick. And maybe, just maybe, we will all be rewarded with that delayed gratification someday!
Do: Eat clean.
Don’t: Drown your sorrows in more chocolate and peanut butter.
I speak from deep experience when I tell you that extra dark chocolate dipped (smothered) in peanut butter is a true comfort food. However, last night I had to put my foot down. Before I ate yet another chocolate bar + jar of peanut butter. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but not much. I don’t even want to calculate the calories in a jar of peanut butter. It’s just better not to know. The problem with comfort eating is that it feels good for about as long as it takes to shove that food in your mouth. And after that it doesn’t feel good and you wonder why the hell you thought you needed that whole chocolate bar (with peanut butter). If you find yourself doing this, like me, my advice is to force yourself to be really strict for a couple days. Often if I do this, I can get right back on track. It’s easier said than done, especially if you are really fatigued. And it’s ok to cut yourself some slack in the immediate race aftermath, just make sure that doesn’t go on too long.
One thing I have found that helps is trying new recipes – giving my body something new after eating pretty much the same things for months on end, helps. And, of course, not buying the chocolate and peanut butter works too. I just figured that out.
Do: Plan what’s next.
Don’t: Jump into something too soon.
I love to plan. Unless you were in it for one and done, then I think this post race blah period is a great time to start looking at your next season or your next race. Just make sure you are realistic. Set some goals. Make some plans. Give yourself that next thing to work toward and soon you won’t even remember these blah days.