Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Conquering The Post-(Big) Race Blues

Having the right plan can help
to ward off those post-race blues.
Photo: bostonmagazine.com
"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The post-race blues are a real thing.  And the longer the preparation time and more significant the event the more dramatic these feelings tend to be.  There is a way, however, to minimize or even prevent the phenomena.  It can be done with just three steps.

Step #1: Own It.  Learn From It.  Move On.
Race performances are almost always viewed through the narrow prism of "success" or "failure".  And often the greater the sacrifices in pursuit of these outcomes, the more pronounced the emotions.  Both pride and regret require an incredible amount of energy to maintain and ultimately neither will serve you well going forward.  The first step to beating the post-(big) race blues is owning the performance, learning lessons from the experience, and then moving on.

Own It
No matter what the outcome was or how you got there, you must take personal responsibility for what happened.  Growth is only possible if you acknowledge that it is you, and you alone, that determines your fate.  

Learn From It
If (secretly) the reason we challenge ourselves is for the number of "Likes" on our social media accounts after the event, then we potentially miss out on an incredible opportunity to achieve higher levels of performance.  What we learn from these experiences is far more significant that what we achieve from them.  Kudos, PR's, and trophy's only serve to bolster our Ego and keep us idling in place.  But if we can learn from the experience then we grow.  And with growth there is development both as an athlete and as a person.  

Move On.
This is often just as difficult for the athlete that viewed the event as a "success" as for the athlete that viewed it as a "failure".  But once the lessons are learned and cataloged, both need to tie a bow on the race and move on.  The longer an athlete commits energy to maintain the emotions of the outcome (positive or negative), the more exaggerated the eventual post-(big) race blues will be.

Step #2:  Get Back To Activity
For the same reasons the taper caused feelings of restlessness, sleeplessness, and anxiety the post-race period has the potential to do the same.  See my recent article on tapering and endocannabinoids.  The sooner you can get back to being routinely physically active the sooner you'll be able to balance brain chemistry and start to feel like yourself again.  You don't have to be running to take advantage of the mental benefits of exercise.  In the week following the race choose cross- and complimentary-training activities that limit or avoid impact.  Examples include cycling and strength training.  Keep the consistency high but the intensity and duration relatively low.  

Step #3:  Create A New "Why"
For the last six months or more, every training session had a purpose.  As athletes we crave a "why" for our efforts.  It gives the tough training sessions more value and motivates us to push through fatigue, scheduling challenges, and discomfort.  After the big race has concluded the "why" fades away in the distance.  We find ourselves struggling to find motivation to do much of anything.  The last step in conquering the post-(big) race blues is finding your next "why".  This may be your next race but it may also be your next cycle of training.  Whatever it is, finding your next focus will help set your intrinsic cause and effect mindset toward action again.