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.
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.
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.