You set a big goal. You did the training. You went to bed early, laid-off the alcohol, ate healthy meals, and you had a great race. So why is it that when nobody's telling you to get out there today and, say, do 10 x 800 repeats, it's less of a relief than you thought it would be?
Welcome to post-race depression. Don't worry, you're not alone in experiencing this feeling. "These major events become the central focus of our lives," says Lucy Smith, coach for LifeSport Coaching 19-time Canadian champion and internationally ranked athlete in triathlon, duathlon and distance running. "Without even knowing it, almost every fiber in our body is thinking about this event that's coming up—from planning what you're eating today to thinking about the next long ride or run, and all the other things that have to line up so you can get to the race on race day."
Of course, there's a hole when that emotional investment is gone. "Once you can wrap your mind around the fact that it's a totally normal feeling to have and it's neither good nor bad, it doesn't become such a big deal." But that doesn't mean you have to sit around and just wait for post-race depression to go away. There are constructive ways to feel better, or prevent it in the first place.
Know What's Next Before You Cross the Finish Line
"I have people start thinking about what's going to happen after the race before they even get to the race," Smith says. "The race doesn't stop at the finish line. If you want to continue to improve and be healthy, the plan goes for another 4 to 6 weeks and includes very specific plans for recovery."
Design Some Post-Race Goals That Aren't About Racing
"Goals don't have to be race-specific. There are other things in your life to plan for and achieve, and after a race is a great time to shift the emphasis there," says Earl Walton, head coach of TriLife in New York City. What about the shed you wanted to build with your parents or the painting classes you wanted to take with your daughter? Now is the time to re-ignite your enthusiasm for other things and make them happen.