Once the journey is over and you’ve told your tales of victory and defeat over a few well-deserved post-race drinks, you may be left feeling a little lost. After training, thinking and planning for so long, what do you have left to look forward to?
What’s going on?
Hitting your goal is an amazing feeling that is often followed by a real comedown. Completing a race you trained hard for can leave you asking, What purpose does my training now serve? Also, if you’ve stopped running, you might be missing all those feel-good chemicals that were feeding your brain.
How to cope
Enjoy your break: You pressed the ‘go’ button for so long that it’s hard to power down. But that’s exactly what you should do. I know plenty of runners who experience a vague sense of guilt when sleeping in after a race, but R&R is what you need. Even if you have something else big planned in the future, it won’t set you back if you take time to pay attention to other things you have neglected in life. So turn off the alarm for a few mornings. Hang out with friends. Catch up on your reading. In general, recharge before you hit the road again.
Reflect: Think about your race performance – what worked and what you can do better next time. However it went, it’s worth analysing why things went the way they did. You’re stocking up information for the next time you’re standing on the start line; it’s all fodder for positive thoughts or better planning. Avoid the trap of letting others bring you down, especially if you’re already feeling a tad disappointed. If someone asks about your time, tell them you finished and it was great. If you didn’t finish, tell them you’re happy with your effort. Don’t indulge in comparisons that leave you feeling like you somehow came up short.
Set new goals: After you take a break, consider hitting the accelerator again. If you feel burned out, dedicate yourself to something new. Set your sights on a different distance or even a new cross-training activity. Having a new passion project can stoke your love of the road. And a fresh perspective is never a bad idea.
Excerpted from The Runner’s Brain: How to Think Smarter to Run Better by Dr Jeff Brown, with Liz Neporent (Rodale)