Post-Race Recovery: The Comedown

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Aside from the more ubiquitous post-race recovery checklist: hydration, rest, eating well, active (light running/stretching/activity) & passive recovery (sleeping-in, day naps, and chillin’ in my sweats with multiple snack bowls), there’s another big component to our recovery that’s oftentimes neglected; that is, the comedown.

Call it the comedown or post-race blues, the experience to me, is a familiar one; it’s the steep descent of euphoric feelings that accompany an accomplishment; it’s feeling ‘meh’, confused, and oftentimes disoriented. We anticipate feeling amazing after our race, but it can be quite jarring (especially for the first time), when we just feel down.

While managing these negative emotions is still a work-in-progress for me, I’ve now come to anticipate this inevitable slump and rather than sit and bask in it, I’ve started to take a more proactive approach to move through this unpleasant transition phase sooner. I’ve outlined a few of my favourite strategies below:

Race post-mortem

After a race, I like to carve out some time to analyze and journal about my experience. What went good? What went not so good? What factors were outside of my control? What unexpected surprises came my way?

While all endurance events have ups and down, by writing out our experiences in as much vivd detail as memory allows, we can uncover some of the more special moments in the race that we may have otherwise forgotten—helping us garner more appreciation for the overall experience. For my most recent marathon (BMO Vancouver), it was chatting with a woman from NYC at the gear check who had a goal to run 50 marathons before she was 50. She lost a few years because of COVID and was travelling to a new country almost every weekend to accomplish her goal; it was the peaceful time along the seawall at 30-38k where my mind went quiet and I got into a steady groove where the miles flew by; it’s when realized that I left my Garmin at home—forcing me to look up and enjoy the beauty surrounding me; it was running the whole marathon by feel and not pushing so hard that I felt sick—giving me enough oomph at the end of the race to sprint at the end for a strong finish; it was having a member of my Instagram community create some beautiful signs for me with his two sons around the Burrard bridge—even though I missed them during the race, seeing the photo made me tear up. It was truly touching. Just the act of writing this all done via a blog post, stirs emotions in me and evokes memories from the race. It makes the experience so much more visceral.

Plan your next challenge

This is one needs a caveat. Past me would sign up for a new race too soon—I wouldn’t allow myself adequate recovery time and this eventually caused me to burnout. I was addicted to the external validation and praise accompanying a race—an insatiable appetite for more. Planning another challenge after a race can be a really good thing; it can give us something new to look forward to, however timing is key here. I still do plan races, but further out (my next one is in July). I also like to intermingle other non-athletic challenges was well. In May, I want to focus more on developing blog/social content, book marketing to help get my new book Find Your Stride in the hands of more readers, and crafting a keynote speech for a conference I’m attending in June. While I did feel a bit ‘meh’ earlier this week, having some new challenges to focus on is certainly helping me move past the slump.

Plan social stuff

In the days leading up to a race, I become quite anti-social—basically I’m a recluse. After a race, I become human again and proactively make plans with friends. Seeing those closest to me gets me out of my head and enjoying deep connection with my pals. It’s a highly effective, welcomed distraction.

Final thoughts

If you’re feeling down after a race, just know that you’re not alone. It’s very normal and common to feel blasé post-endurance event or any big accomplishment for that matter. What’s helped me the most is anticipating these feelings and dealing with them as they come up. Everyone will have their own coping mechanisms, but the strategies mentioned above have been the most effective for me.

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