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.

Welcome to the new wave in women’s running

Two things happened last week which made us all cheer (and swear a little too) at Girls Run the World HQ.

Firstly, Jasmin Paris became the first woman to win Britain’s most brutal race, The Spine Race, beating the the overall course record by 12 hours.

If you don’t know much about this race, here’s some facts; it’s 268 miles taking in the Pennine Way and has over 37,000 feet of climbing and you have to carry your own kit.

It took Jasmin 83 hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds, with just seven hours rest, during which she also breastfed her 14 month old daughter Rowan.

It is one of the most outstanding achievements in female ultra running, even more impressive when you consider the fact that Jasmin is not a pro runner. While she is sponsored by Inov-8, she works as a vet and is currently studying for a PhD.

Reading this, you are probably wowed by her achievement but may also be thinking, ‘I could never do that.’ But to our minds, she’s an everywoman.

 She fits training in around her lifestyle, and entered the race as a way of gaining motivation and inspiration after having a baby.

Maybe as a consequence of contentment, my motivation to train took a definite nose dive,’ she said. ‘I found it harder and harder to leave my bed for the cold darkness outside, and realised that I needed a new focus.’

And how did she manage the training? Like most of us. Juggling all the demands on our time.

A lot of running has taken place really early in the morning so that’s kind of the how I squeeze it in and still balance it with spending time with my daughter.’

Jasmin is indicative of the new wave of female runners who have the confidence to aim high, set their goals and work towards them.

And the other news that showed that female runners are now demanding more and believing in their ability  is the response that Ironman UK received when they launched IronGirl UK, a 5km evening ‘fun run’ last week.

In a statement to announce the event they said: ‘This particular event opens up the Ironman weekend to even more people – not everyone wants to do an Ironman but some might quite fancy a 5k run with their friends.

It caused outrage across the UK, amongst runners including ultra runner Susie Chan. One female runner responded on the organiser’s event Facebook page:

On a day a woman has not only won, but beaten the course record, in the MIXED Spine race, you decide we are only good for 5ks? This woman had a baby 14 months ago and was pumping milk at rest stops by the way.’

Other, such as Jackie Hassan Twitter poked fun with this comment:   “Ooh fantastic! Can I stop half way to do some knitting and put my husbands dinner on? I may need to redo my hair ribbons and make up too! Absolutely shocking concept. Sort it out.’

And they did. Kind of, rebranding it as a 5km evening run for everyone.

But this notion that women are only capable of a ‘fun run’ and that we don’t like a challenge is endemic amongst many race organisers. Just take a look at Rat Race UK’s event Girls Get Fizzical.

A 5km or 10km race with ‘top flight’ obstacles, which judging by their website includes wading through soft balls like at a baby’s soft play area. But hey, that’s alright because you can finish with a glass of Prosecco. God forbid we might actually want to race for the challenge and sense of achievement.

Thankfully, things are beginning to change. Maverick Races for instance are doing their bit by having a female trail running division to help encourage more women to hit the trails.

And it’s why we launched our virtual Queens of Speed Challenge this month, inviting women to become the best runners they can be with our online training to improve speed over the month of January.

But as female runners we can do more and make our voices heard by using our feet, and running in the kind of events that challenge and help empower us while inspiring other women to participate.

Jasmin Paris is an inspiration to us all and illustrates exactly what you can achieve if you define your goals, take ownership and work towards them.

(Psst. And as the temperature drops around the UK, it might be worth knowing what Jasmin wore in her race, which can see lows of -20 Celsius and 45 mph winds – it was the Inov-8 Long Sleeve Half Zip Mid-layer, £55 under the Inov-8 AT/C Protec-Shell Waterproof Jacket, £270.)

How was your weekend running?

There were some big hitters in this weekend’s races, such as the Chicago and Chester Marathon. But what caught our eye was an event that helps put on the agenda the question of how much waste is produced by running events… 

So, Mo Farah won the Chicago Marathon this weekend in a time of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 11 seconds, his first marathon win. Meanwhile, on European shores, the Chester Marathon took place. This is an event where age group recreational athletes are invited by English Athletics to compete for their country. If you think there is no way you could ever represent your country, it is worth taking a look at the qualifying criteria and applying if you are interested because it IS possible.  For more details, click here.

(By the same token, if you have your heart set on running the London marathon, or any of the other Majors, it is worth looking at the qualifying times you’d need to get for your age. You have to be in it, to win it as the saying goes and our virtual marathon training can help you get there).

Elsewhere in the UK, our core GRTW team were also taking part in events. Tara Shanahan, our Brighton and Hove Co-ordinator took fourth woman at the Bright10, a ten mile flat road race in Brighton in a time of one hour, 2 minutes and 37 seconds while co-founder, Dawn Buoys took on the Downlink 38 mile ultra. Elsewhere, we had lots of runners at the Oxford Half marathon – well done!

But it was an event run by one of our community, the Penicuik House Trail 10km, a new race that takes place in the grounds of Penicuik Estate in Midlothian, Scotland that caught our attention. Obviously, a beautiful part of the world to run in Autumn but it was the medals that caught our eye, made of wood that had from the Estate while the the first lady and man home received hand carved bowls from trees from the estate.

At at time when so much is being written about the waste in the fashion industry, perhaps it’s also time to turn our attention to running races. How many plastic bags are given out at a race finish, often containing lots of useless items including at least three printed leaflets. Then there are the t-shirst? How many of us really wear them again?

So, we applaud any event that introduces a way to prevent the waste of materials and plastic.  And if you’re interested in this subject, do check out the community interest company, Re-Run. Set up by ultra runner Dan Lawson and his wife, Charlotte, they are prolonging the life of running kit by re-purposing old race medals or event t-shirts to make new items which they are selling and using the profits to go back into supporting running projects.

How was your weekend running?

Summer is a time of trail races and those with a bit of a twist…

I didn’t race this weekend as I was busy checking out  more routes for the Girls Run the World Trail and Yoga Retreat this coming weekend (July 20-22), and it sure was a hot one! Which is why I headed off for an open water swim in the beautiful Weirwood Reservoir rather than run again.

But elsewhere, there was lots going on in the trail running stakes, not least the spectacular Gran Trail Courmayer, with distances of 30, 50 and 105km to choose from…the winning woman of 30km took 3 hours 50 mins, 47 seconds while the 102 kms took 18 hours, 51 minutes and 12 seconds. That says it all about the elevation, eh? Still, it’s a race that’s on my bucket list.

Closer to UK shores, literally, was the Beat the Tide 10km in Worthing on the South Coast. This is a great concept, where you run an out and back along the beach, trying to beat the return of the tide to avoid getting wet feet.  One GRTW runner who took part, Tanya Taylor said this about the race: ‘It’s always fun when you do a race that’s a little bit different to the norm- and running with a few hundred people across the sand definitely felt more fun than not. Well organised, relaxed & beautiful scenery- win, win.’ One thing to remember though, wet sand…it’s a little tougher to run on but definitely not as tough as soft sand! And of course, this weekend saw the 100km Race to the Stones, along The Ridgeway. Did you run it?

And for those The other big race of the weekend was The British 10km in London, which goes right through the heart of London. Did you run it?

 

 

 

 

How was your weekend running?

Sleep, or more widely, how to maximise your recovery has been on my mind this weekend. This is partly because I was chatting with Jonathan Robinson, exercise physiologist at the University of Bath at the recent Elevate conference, and because it appears to have then cropped up in numerous conversations with clients over the weekend.

Time and again, as runners – and particularly if we ‘re also mums and runners, we tend to focus on running only as our training, and perhaps if we’re really good, a bit of foam rolling and yoga. But this is NOT what we mean by recovery, and if we got this right, we’d optimise our performance, prevent injury and avoid mental burn out.

All the research points to how recovery is the cornerstone of your training, not an add on. Ignore it, and you effectively undermine all those hard training sessions that you’re doing.

So, what do we mean by recovery strategies? 

What might come to your mind are compression socks, ice baths, recovery footwear and the like, but according to scientifically proven studies, your foundations for recovery are simple -sleep, body management and nutrition.

Grantham and Jarvis 2005, Recovery Pyramid

 

Sleep

When we sleep, our bodies get to work, helping our muscles to repair and adapt to grow stronger. According to research in the British Journal of of Sports Medicine  cognition, metabolism and tissue repair are critical physiological processes that contribute to training capacity, recovery and performance and are all positively affected with the right amount of sleep.

What you can do? 

Start tracking your sleep to see how many hours, on average you’re getting. I have a Garmin 920XT watch which tracks not only my sleep, but the quality of my sleep. It’s a helpful reminder to show when I’m not. If you are consistently getting injured, or not seeing improvement despite lots of training, take a look at your sleep patterns.

Body Management

Simply put, this means how you are managing your body. Are you only running or are you adding strength training, yoga and foam rolling?

Recovery methods, such as at home yoga, stretching even for 20 minutes per day can help promote blood flow to the muscles and improve range of movement, which in turns helps you to run with better economy, which means less stress on the body.  Moreover, focused, good quality strength training not only helps prevent injuries. Research shows that the fitter and stronger you are, the less time you’ll need to spend on recovery strategies.

What you can do?

Try a Yin Yoga class, try to remember the poses that are the most challenging for you and do those ones on your own at home. Strength wise, we have lots of free exercises on our YouTube channel that you can follow to build stability. Our more dedicated month long gym or at home strength workouts will launch in a few weeks for our dedicated Virtual Training Hub members. Pre-register here.

Nutrition 

Follow the three Rs, rehydrate, refuel, rebuild. Running is BIG business, and nutrition has kept pace with this resulting in the proliferation of products from protein shakes to beet and sour cherry shots. Some of these can be useful if you have a very heavy training load or are short on time.

What you can do?

You can get all the nutrition you need from the food you eat or drink, whether it’s a chocolate milk/almond milk shake after a run, foods rich in polyphenols, such as beetroots (grated in a salad or juiced with ginger and apple) to help with inflammation, fish, meat or pulses for a protein kick and green leafy vegetables and fruit for a vitamin kick to boost your immune system. It can be useful to keep a food diary for three days, noting what you eat and when you eat, plus when you run. That should be enough, without any expert advice for you to evaluate whether you are eating right for running.

We’d love to hear how you manage your recovery strategies, and if you have any tips that are useful for super busy women.