I ran my first half marathon about two weeks ago. I had planned to run the 10km event but about 2 weeks prior to the race, one of my trainers convinced me to do the half marathon with her and I was crazy enough to agree! So let's just say it hurt...a lot! Especially that last 5 k's but I crossed the finish line without stopping (or dying) and that was a big achievement for me. I had never run that far before so I had no clue what I would feel afterwards; physically or emotionally. Once the initial muscle soreness and joint pain you'd expect from pounding the pavement for 21k's had worn off, I thought I'd get back to Wollongong and get straight back into my normal cross training... How wrong I was! I could barely be bothered getting to the gym at all let alone lifting heavy things once I got there. I was completely unmotivated and felt really weak on top of that. What a downer it was after the high of crossing that finish line.
This feeling was totally unexpected but the silver lining was that I got a true insight into the physical and emotional experience that my clients feel after a big race or event. I started asking around and doing some research on this and it turns out that it's totally a thing... "the post-race blues" is real.
As someone who was blindsided by this notion, here's my advice to you if you're planning your first (or any) big race or fitness event...
1. Be prepared to feel like I did. Enjoy the endorphins and celebrations after your event and lavish in that for as long as possible (I certainly did #champagneshowers) but be prepared that when you go back to reality, your body will need a break and your mind might feel a bit lost. Be kind to yourself and know that's it's normal and you're not lazy; you just need to let yourself recover before you focus on some new goals.
2. Allow at least a couple of weeks for rest and recovery. I'm talking restorative yoga (Yin is my fave), massages, foam rolling and stretching. Don't just jump back onto the squat rack and expect to pump out a PB. Be kind to your body because it's done some serious work, not only during your event but also for the months leading up to it. There's not many times in life that we feel justified to pamper ourselves so lap it up baby!
3. Live a little. Depending on what you were training for, you may have missed out on a few things like catch ups with friends, social events or trying that new restaurant you didn't want to hit up for fear of sabotaging your event with all those extra calories. I'm not saying you should get buck wild and start going off the rails every weekend but enjoy this time while you're in recovery mode. Eat, drink, socialise and let your mind take a break from focusing on training plans and macros. Just live a little.
4. Don't stress about weight gain. If only I could stop you from stressing about weight gain just by telling you to! Depending on your body type, you may put on a couple of kilos when you stop training and take some time to relax. Guess what, it's totally normal and it's totally OK! If you've been smashing out long runs every week and fueling your body with lean proteins, it's inevitable that you may see a shift when you take some time off training and start eating different foods. Be reassured that once you're back to your regular training routine, your body will adjust and you'll feel refreshed and regenerated from allowing yourself to recover properly.
5. Start writing some new goals. Half marathon- CHECK! What's next? An iron man comp, a full marathon? Ok, let's not get too crazy! I might go for something a little bit smaller on the scale next time like improving my squat and deadlift performance. It's important to write new goals to work towards that will get you back into training with a purpose. if you're a runner, it may be another race but for someone like me, I'm ready to get back into strength training and give running (and my poor knees) a rest for a while. Either way, make sure you allow your body to recover properly before you take off again and allow yourself to ease back in to avoid injury, Getting sick is also common post-race if you don't allow your body to rest properly so be kind to yourself and go eat a burger... STAT!
Here's to the happy, healthy and balanced runner in all of us... (deep down ;-) )