Post Marathon Blues

Today’s blog topic is a request (possibly my first ever topic request!) and is focused on the Post Marathon Blues.

This doesn’t just need to apply to marathons, it could equally apply to people who have trained for any big sporting even (half marathon, 10k, big swim or cycle, triathlon, a show, a tournament- anything where all your focus for several months has been working towards being in your peak physical form and at the top of your game for one specific event).

How we feel after an event is not something we tend to focus on.  We put lots of thought into preparing for things and on the day itself and even on the immediate recovery in the hours or days after a physical event.

But many people report feeling a bit down in the weeks after a marathon or other big event.  Words like lost, aimless, flat, down, void, lacking in motivation come up in conversations.  It’s a lot like that feeling you get when you come back from a holiday and the realities of normal life hit you and now because the holiday has been and gone you don’t have anything to look forward to.

This is due to both physical and psychological reasons.

Physically the day itself will probably have left you feeling extremely tired, a cumulative effect of weeks of training hard and the extra effort of the day itself and you may have picked up blisters, bruised toenails and niggles which don’t help make you feel great about yourself.  Your endorphins will have been high during the event and as you settle back into normality this can have an effect of how you feel as you struggle to replicate the high you felt in that moment again.

Mentally, you no longer have the event to focus on and that can leave you feeling like life has no meaning or focus after months of everything you do revolving around training (can’t go out Saturday have a long run on Sunday morning, can’t eat that as I’m in training and so on).  It can make it harder to you to motivate yourself to eat well or train as you no longer have that reason for doing so.  Many of us thrive on routine and having something meaningful to us to work towards and once you reach your goal where do you go from there?

Thankfully, these feelings tend to only last a few weeks and people normally spring back to their normal self but there are things you can do to help yourself feel better in this situation and feel the positivity you probably expected to feel after your big achievement.

Celebrate

Plan to do something nice to celebrate your achievement – a massage, spa break, celebration meal.  Take time to congratulate yourself for what you achieved so it doesn’t feel insignificant now.

Book something nice

Similar to above, you could consider booking a weekend break or holiday- something to focus on that is nice and not exercise.  This is bound to improve your mood

Reflect

Think about what you achieved, all the positives and even what you would have done differently in hindsight.  Think objectively about whether it’s something you would like to repeat or if once was enough.  That way if you choose to train for the same event in the future you know what pitfalls to avoid and if not you know you can confidently say once was enough.  Sometimes reflecting on your feelings can give you more ownership on how you feel and help you both make decisions and manage your emotional responses better.

Recover Properly

Get a sports massage, continue to eat nourishing food (and enough of it) to help the body recover, stretch, get some good quality sleep and take some time to just sit and chill.  Any sporting event which take a toll on your body requires some proper mindful recovery in the days after to help you feel better physically which in turn will help you feel better mentally.

Do some low impact exercise

Don’t feel like you need to be back training he day after.  A week or two off could be exactly what your body needs.  If you feel the urge to exercise though try and stick to low impact options which place less strain on your CNS.  You may want to try some yoga or similar during this time.

Don’t run for a couple of weeks

Similar to above, a couple of weeks not doing the exercise you have just trained hard for can be beneficial, both in allow you to physically recover but also give you that little bit of excitement when you do go back out for that first run after a couple of weeks.

Find a new challenge

After a couple of weeks when your rested and refreshed this could be the time to think about what comes next.  Another run of the same distance, a step up to the next distance (Ultra anyone), maybe looking at trying something new instead.  Setting your next goal will give you a renewed sense of focus.

Above all, don’t stress about feeling a bit blue after a big event.  It’s human nature and being sensible and kind to yourself is the key to letting it subside.

Equally, if you suffer from depression anyway, don’t let the idea of post event blues put you off training for an event.  Research has shown that having something to aim for and the training and self care associated with that training can be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of depression and as long as you are mindful that you might feel a bit down immediately after the event and have your coping strategies in place this should have a generally positive impact on your mental health.

Race Day Eatings

Yesterday I ran my first long distance run for a year.  I used to run quite often so had my race day routine finely tuned to suit me so found it relatively easy to get myself back into the swing of things even after some time.

This is what I did to fuel my body on race day.

Breakfast:

2 Turkey rashers, 2 poached eggs, 1/2 avacado, mushroom, asparagus and grilled tomato; Pint water; Coffee

My race was at 2 pm so I had a late / leisurely breakfast around 11 am.  I’m a fan of a reasonably big breakfast before a race, and if I’d have been running for over an hour would have added some more carbs, such as some toast or a bagel but for a 10km run this filled me up well and remained within my calorie goals for the day.  There can be an urge when you have a race day to eat lots and lots because, well you’re running a long way, but you need to bare in mind that run won’t burn more calories than your training runs or normal training sessions in the gym so you need to be mindful not to over estimate how many calories you need in comparison to normal.

Tip: Eat one of your normal breakfasts – before a race is not the time to try something new – you want to know your stomach can handle running on what you eat.

Tip: Have plenty of water the day before and when you get up to hydrate then don’t drink for an hour before you run so you don’t need a wee half way round!

During the Run:

Water 

I sipped about 250ml water on the way round to stay hydrated.  It wasn’t very warm and I was running for an hour so there was no need for any additional fuel as my body was already well fueled.

Tip: Gels are not necessary unless you are running for over an hour if you are sufficiently well fueled and hydrated leading up to the run.  For longer runs an energy gel after the first hour may help, but try them in training runs first and stick to the brand you practiced with on the day (again you don’t want to risk your stomach objecting!). Jelly babies act similarly to gels in giving ou a boost on longer runs.

Post Run:

TGI Friday’s Sesame Chicken Strips with fries, Frozen Irish Coffee, 500 ml water

After a run you want to eat a soon as possible – ideally within a 30 minute to an hour window.  I planned to eat at home but ended up facing an hour wait for my train so found somewhere in the station to eat.  I ideally look to replenish with a meal that has both protein and carbs.  You always want to eat something that feels like a treat after a race too so my go to post run meals are chicken and chips or a roast dinner.  No roasts around in the station so this was the best thing I could find!  Alcohol should be consumed in moderation – although it’s always nice to have a celebration tipple, but try and have some water as well.

Tip: Look to eat asap after you run, and to get something with carbs and protein in it.  Chips are not the devil.

Recovery:

Pint water with electrolytes

When I got home I made sure I drank lots of water and the first glass I had I added a scoop of electrolytes to replace any salts lost.

Tip: A hydration tablet or similar product can aid recovery.

 

 

Love, Hate, Running and Me

I hate running.

And yet for someone who hates running I sign up to a lot of runs.

So it’s a lie to say I hate running really I suppose.

I like running. I’m just slow.

I can run for long periods of time at a steady pace.  I’m never going to get a sub 2 hour half marathon time but I’ve completed a number of half marathons, a number of 5 and 10k runs and one marathon.

What I really mean when I say I hate running is I hate training for runs.

I like going out for a road run- but for 15- 20 minutes, perhaps half an hour.

I like being in the fresh air, feeling the sun on my face on a nice day or the fresh feeling on a cold or wet day.

For me this type of running is less about keeping fit and more like therapy.  A time to either think, or to clear my thoughts, to stick on some cheesy music and just be present and take in my surroundings.  I tend to run down a cycle route close to my flat and like to people watch and look at the graffiti in the tunnels as I run.  If I stay in a hotel I always try and go for a morning run because I like running in different surroundings – sometimes pretty, other times less so.

So when I try and add training for an event into my schedule I struggle.  In part this is because my teaching schedule makes long regular runs hard to fit in without overtraining.  But it’s also because adding in set distances and set aims detracts from the enjoyment I get from running and I start to put it off.

So inevitably I go into every race I sign up to bemoaning my own lack of preparation and knowing it’s going to be a tough slog.

Normally once I get started I’m good.

This is because I also enjoy organised races. It’s  a mixture of the different to normal route, support from the crowd, the atmosphere, getting a goodie bag at the end.

Whilst short training runs fulfil my need for a mental break from life, organised runs leave me with a sense of achievement and push me to do the longer distances I know I’m capable of but rarely push myself to do in training (as someone once said to me I’m a bit of a match day player- I need that pressure to make me perform).

Yesterday I took part in the Great Manchester Run – I did the half marathon distance. The last four years I’ve done the 10K but last year they added in a longer distance so I decided to step up for my fifth year at this event.

My longest run in the run up to the event had been a 10K the week before. I taught five classes the day before so had definitely not rested my legs.  My diet had not been top notch during the week and I hadn’t hydrated well.  On the day it was HOT!

I ran at a steady pace and completed the course in 2 hours 21 minutes.  Given the heat I was really pleased with this time and felt pretty good throughout the run – even managing to run through a stich at around 5 miles.  At times I hated it, at other times it felt good.  The sprint across the finish line felt brilliant and although my immediate reaction at finishing was never again I know deep down that these type of events provide value to my life and I get something out of them.

I also know however that my training is never likely to be more than the odd 20 minutes run when I feel like running.  But I have decided that this is probably OK.  I know I can run up to 13 miles at a steady pace when I choose to, my general level of fitness allows this, and as long as I accept that I’m not about to set a world record my preferred training runs and my enjoyment of structured running events can coincide quite happily together.

Whatever training you enjoy doing – find a way to fit it into your life so it suits you.  That may mean readjusting your outlook on it or changing your goals, but if this means you enjoy it when you do it then it will add so much more to your training regime and make sure you continue to enjoy what you do.