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.
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
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.
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.