Take a moment to picture yourself the day after you have completed a long-term goal. You have just crossed the finish line of a big race, won your grand final, handed in your thesis, got a promotion, bought your dream house, moved out of home or achieved any long-term dream. You did what you set out to do. You did it spectacularly well. Your teammates are in awe, your coach can’t stop smiling, your family is proud as punch, you have done it. The big question is “Now What?”.
Reaching and achieving a long-term goal is an emotional situation in any scenario. It is especially intense in a sporting scenario, and many athletes struggle to bounce back and refocus after completing a spectacular marathon or ironman training plan, or any other program that has led up to a pinnacle race.
Today, we will discuss the the very common emotional stage known as the Post-Race Blues. Although there is no medical or psychological diagnosis for this, it is a reality that many athletes face. This normally occurs when you accomplish a big goal that you have been working on for months or even years. This goal has generally built to the point that you set the rest of your life around this goal. Then there comes the moment when you have met your objective and suddenly there is no big goal to look forward to.
It must be considered that to successfully face a big race such as a Marathon, a Triathlon or any big race in your program, your life often needs to go through some changes. To achieve these types of goals, you need to consider incorporating the correct nutrition plan, ensure regular sleeping patterns, and ensure that you receive the best social interactions by surrounding yourself with like-minded people who strive for health, fitness, and a happy life. Training becomes a lifestyle on your journey to a big goal, and once this is over, your mind and body react to it with a sense of feeling lost.
To know if you are entering the Post-Race Blues, you can begin to identify certain behaviours that you may be presenting. Some emotional symptoms that can develop are a feeling of boredom in most situations, feeling down, disengaged or generally out of energy to do many day-to-day tasks. On the other hand, this can be accompanied by the urge to set new challenges or new races as soon as possible.
Every athlete has gone through this emotional event at some time in their life. And there are many ways to counter the effects of this very common and misunderstood emotional situation:
Reconnect with different styles of training
As much as we can get to love endurance sports and the training sessions involved, sometimes we need to give it some time and reconnect with any other fitness activity you enjoy doing such as HIIT, strength, boxing, hiking, yoga, or team sports.
Plan your season ahead
Being at the end of a big event is normally the end of your season as well. Discussing your next goals with your coach can be beneficial to feel motivated again. Even if the big events are still far away, the act of setting a plan in place gives meaning and accountability to your training.
Take the pressure off
On your way to a big race, you will get used to swimming, riding, and running at specific paces, heart rate zones and power outputs. Taking off the watch and training easily just for the love of doing so will help you get back into the sport and shift to a more comfortable position.
Assess your progress
You can sit down with your coach and revisit your past training. Discuss what went well and what can be changed for next season and beyond. This can allow your mind to stay on the topic without putting your body under unnecessary physical stress.
Spend time with your family and friends
When training for a big event, there are times when your friends and family take second place to your training schedule. Take the opportunity of this post-race period to regain that quality time with those around you.
Focus on group training over individual training
Part of the emotional phenomenon involved with post-race blues is feeling isolated and lonely. Connecting with your teammates in a squad environment will be crucial to get back into your normal routine. Even if you don’t have a local squad, clubs such as Davey Black Triathlon have interactive online sessions and online social groups to share and communicate. Any of these types of social interactions will help make your comeback to training much more enjoyable.
Ultimately, you need to put the focus back on your wellbeing and on those who have helped you during the process of racing again. Be sure to thank them all for their effort and support and be sure to enjoy different activities while you restart your training program slowly and easily. Finally, monitor your emotional state, there is no need to rush your comeback to training. Focus on enjoying your process and regain strength back into your program. To help you tie all these things together, talk to your coach. A skilled and experienced coach will always find a way to make training fun, diverse and accessible for any athlete.