5 Ways to Tackle the Post marathon blues

You feel so fantastic after crossing that finish line of the marathon, and it tides you right through  to …ooh, about 24 hours later. Then the blues hit. Here’s our guide on how to avoid it – 

After spending 12 to even 20 weeks training for a marathon, and pretty much the last fortnight leading up to the marathon obsessing over every little detail, it’s small wonder that the majority of runners spend the next week feeling really down.

It’s partly because you are left with a huge vacuum where all that training and obsessing used to sit in your diary and your mind. Now real life prevails and any of those problems you have been pushing to that side of your brain marked, ‘deal with later,’ will rear its head.

Not a big deal if that was ‘see friends.’ Not so great if it was, ‘sort out job, I hate it,’ or relationship woes.  But the other reason for such a slump is purely to do with your body’s physiological response to running that far and the impact this has on your body’s hormone response.

During the race itself, you are in fight or flight response,  cortisol flooding your body. The result? BIG comedown. Added to that, all those ‘rundorphins,’ you get from the flood of serotonin, that is released with exercise is suddenly gone.

So, how do you avoid getting the post race downs?

Go for a run

You may think, ‘Ouch, are you kidding?’ but a gentle run will not only help you ease out your muscles, particularly if you foam roll first (see our how to videos on YouTube here), but it will help to boost your mood. No heroics though! Your body does need to recover so don’t go off on an interval or tempo session.

Meet up with your non run friends

Running can get obsessive, no more so than when training for a marathon or ultra when it takes up so much time. The temptation when you’re on the post race high is to jump straight back in again and sign up for another one. But remember, there’s a whole world out there of friends and amazing things to do, and see with them.

Reconnect and go to that exhibition that you kept meaning to go to but never had the time, or for a drink to that amazing cocktail bar that you knew you’d just fall asleep in if you’d gone during your training. It does you good to keep perspective – just don’t spend the entire night regaling them with tales from every mile of your marathon.

Eat well

After a marathon, the post race ‘I can eat what I like,’ can sometimes extend for days, if not weeks. Doughnuts still for breakfast anyone?  Yes, your body needs carbohydrates to help replenish your lost glycogen stores but not to the exclusion of all else. Plus, this is likely to be contributing to your post marathon blues.

Sugar is a dopamine hit, causing more of that serotonin to be released followed by a massive slump. Eating a well balanced mix of proteins, slow release carbohydrates and healthy fats is the best thing you can do to help your body to recover and to help you pick yourself back up.

Streeeeetch

No, your leg stretch against and foot hanging off the kerb calf stretch straight after the race is NOT what we mean. Try a good yoga class of if no time for that,  try some of our free yoga recovery sets on our YouTube channel.

Yoga is a form of mediation and creates a relaxation response, working with the parasympathetic nervous system. Parasympathetic stimulation causes a slowing down of the heartbeat, lowering of blood pressure, increased blood flow to the skin and viscera, and peristalsis of the GI tract.

This will help your body to recover more quickly as well as helping to undo the harmful effects of stress.

Enter an inspiring race!

Now, this is the one that most marathon finishers do almost immediately, but we’re going to caveat it by saying THINK about the race that you really want to enter before you get carried along on the tide of endorphins and press, sign up.

All too often we see runners sign up to another road marathon, quite soon after the one they’ve just finished and burn out.

Think back on your training and all the things that you thought when you were doing it…were you dreaming of hitting the trails? Then sign up to a jaw dropping, sight seeing trail run. Got fed up with run training during the training? Then check out a triathlon, sportive or a swimrun such as BrecaSwimRun.

And then check your diary…can you fit the training in, are school holidays in the middle of it going to make that impossible, what about your work/family/life…are you giving yourself enough time not just to train but to be able to juggle everything else in your life?

If you can say yes to all of that, go for it! And do share what race you’re going to be doing next.

#grtwproject26.2 ‘I said never again but….’

With just two weeks to go before the Virgin Money London Marathon, our project26.2 first time marathon runner, Catriona Ward Sell reflects on the unexpected discoveries she’s made on her marathon training journey….

 

Easy running is difficult!

Tara, my coach at GRTW, has probably found my tendency to run too fast concerning. Maybe I can contain my pace on the day – but maybe I can’t. I know she’s right, though; blowing out on pace early on at London will mean disaster.

I take encouragement from the fact that I managed my pace well in the Oundle 20 miler last month – despite other females speeding off, I raced my own race, managed to catch many of them to finish 3rd female. But it’s difficult, some days, 5-minute kilometres feels like walking, and I struggle in the moment to believe it’s beneficial. Other days, especially after a heavy gun run session (Ed: Cat is in the Army) or a long run the day before, 5 minute kilometres are exhausting. If you’d told me at the start of marathon training that I would have struggled at this pace, I’d have walked away with dented pride. BUT I’ve learned that slower running is not to be ashamed of, and is necessary.

There’s so MUCH slow running

Tara has taught me that 80% of my running should be kept at that conversational pace, with 20% hard running. Previously, my training would have been the other way around – I love fast and hard sessions. But running slower has made me appreciate and feel the benefit of harder sessions more. It’s been hard sometimes to stay motivated to run slow, but it is proving worthwhile, and has taught me to look at the bigger picture.

Marathon training is SO expensive

When I was starting out, someone said to me they were disenchanted with running as it is now “a rich mans sport”. Then, I laughed – how expensive can putting one foot in front of the other be? Now, I agree.

Running has become a lucrative industry, and someone like me could be easily be priced out. The one running watch I’ve ever owned is a freebie I won last year – I wouldn’t own one otherwise. It’s fit for purpose, if you don’t mind it taking 250 metres to catch up. Compared to the mini computers that other marathoners wear on their wrists, displaying everything from lap splits and recommended recoveries to virtual pacing in real-time, mine is a cute child’s toy.

Similarly, I’ve jogged past many runners sporting the latest waterproof shoes and wind cheaters, and can’t help but note that my Karrimors have seen me through all my marathon training (and more). When it rains, I put plastic bags inside my socks. As for waterproof jackets – well, skin is waterproof, right?

None of this equipment is necessary, but it helps, and the surprising cost of marathoning must put people off. But I’ve chosen to deal with this through seeing a flip side; however misguided and arrogant this is, I take a pinch of pride in knowing that others may have gear, but I have very well-trained legs. It sounds obvious, but if I was to give one piece of advice, it would be to stay away from industry magazines which review all kit with a 8/10, and avoid comparing yourself with others: use your energy to concentrate on simply moving your legs forwards.

Weight gain

I appreciate this is my own fault, but at the start of my training, I turned vegan, logged calories, and quickly lost several kilograms – which I needed to. As mentioned in my last blog, I was feeling light on my feet and hitting my paces easily. A review of my diet mid-plan, and I started to concentrate on eating healthier rather than calories. Three weeks later, and I’d lumped all the weight back on.

When you’re eating healthy food AND logging ridiculous miles, it’s so easy to overeat – it seems justifiable. But healthy food has calories too.  As for the confidence to wear a running vest, let’s not go there, or I’ll cry.

Weight gain, dodgy sunburn and freckle lines, blistered feet, veiny knees, marathoning, surprisingly, can hugely negatively effect your body-confidence, even if your running confidence is stronger than ever. No race photos, please

I’ve entered another one!

I’ve said multiple times on Instagram NEVER AGAIN. The relative tedium of longer slow running, the frustrations at my lack of running equipment, the embarrassment at my own body, the sore knees, the lack of time in a day for multi-hour runs, the friendships it strains, there’s been plenty of times I’ve sworn I’m never marathoning again.

And yet… the other day I found myself googling the Waterford marathon, Ireland. To return home to take on such a big running feat would be a homecoming like no other. To race in the beautiful town in my home country, which taught me to love sport in the first place,  well, there’s something romantic, exciting and slightly terrifying about it.

So I’ll leave you with surprising fact number 5, and a part of me is still in disbelief: marathon running, for all its sins, when coached in good hands, is addictive. Who would have thought?

 

Girls Run the World offer personalised one to one virtual coaching. For more details click here

And don’t miss our NEW digital training platform which puts you in charge of your own training, providing a range of online products and services to make you stronger, fitter, faster, injury-free and more flexible. Check out the new platform here. 

#grtwproject26.2 ‘Five things that have helped me through the taper terrors.’

If you’ve still got a few weeks before your marathon, read about how our #grtwproject26.2 runner, Marie Knight coped with her first experience of marathon tapering

Reviewing all that I’ve achieved

Looking back at my training plan on Training Peaks, which GRTW use for virtual coaching, along with my weekly updates on  Instagram has helped reinforce how prepared I am for this race…and how far I’ve come in 13 weeks. Six miles felt like a Long Run in the week after Xmas and soon I will be running 26.2 miles

Yin Yoga

Despite my doubts about this yin yoga at the start of my training (I usually need yoga to be more dynamic otherwise I get agitated which is probably the very reason why I need to do more of this kind of stuff!) it has been really good for settling the noise in my head and reminding me to focus on one thing at a time. (PSSST! Check out our 30 Day Recovery Programme launching May on our online training platform – want to sign up for an exclusive discount? Do it here).

The Girls Run the World mental strategies worksheet

This has helped loads. I was asked to write down specific runs which went well and why, and ones that didn’t go great and how I’d change my strategy to ensure the outcome was different if I did it again. Reviewing this has helped me focus on strategy and gain confidence in remembering everything that I’ve done well and that there are reasons when things didn’t.

A hot toddy with lots of whisky

These were medicinal to start with to help with a cold but appear to have have continued since the cold cleared….:o)

 Relaxing baths

I’ve spent a small fortune on fancy bath oils and Epsom salts over the past few weeks.

 

 

As with many marathon runners, another main driving force for Marie is that she’s running it to raise money for a little girl who is close to her heart. You can read about her story here. GoFundMe site for Team Ufi

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