Whether you’re a new runner or a veteran racer, you might identify with this feeling: For the last six months, you’ve been training. Whether it’s for one big raceday, a marathon attempt, a few 5Ks where you’re hoping to set a new personal record or a trail run that scares you half to death, for better or worse, when it’s all over, you wonder: So what do I do now?
DON’T FREAK OUT
When a race or the season is over, even if it went amazingly, it’s natural to feel an emotional crash, says Dr. Simon Marshall, co-author of “The Brave Athlete.” It can feel weird and a bit like a letdown. This is a similar feeling to right after a wedding, for example: It’s great to finally be married but the planning, the prep work, the big day, the honeymoon — that’s all behind you now and it’s back to life as usual. Know that this feeling will pass and that it’s perfectly normal.
As soon as you can, spend time jotting down your reflections about a race or the season. Include the high points and the low points, noting things like niggling toe pain or that weird cramp you got after the third aid station of a race. The more information you can record quickly after it happens, the better. Then, let some time pass and write another journal entry after you have a bit of distance, and jot down notes for things to work on next time.
TAKE A BREAK, BUT DON’T GO COLD TURKEY
If you just completed a major goal, like your first marathon, the temptation to shut it all down after the race is over can be tempting. Especially if the race, or even the last couple weeks of training, felt particularly brutal. But if you’re committed to the sport, you’ll resume running or cross-training soon after.
DON’T DRIVE YOUR FRIENDS CRAZY
It might be a good idea to take your friends and family out to dinner to thank them for bearing with you. There’s a chance that your BFF, husband/wife, kids, dog, co-workers, goldfish, barista, whoever, might be a little tired of hearing about your running. While it’s fine to be proud of your accomplishment, make sure you’re not oversharing.
DO YOGA, SWIM, HIKE, LIFT
See #3. Mix up your running with some new activities, like starting up a strength-training regimen or yoga practice. During intense training, it can be hard to find time to go out on casual bike rides, go stand-up paddleboardng with friends or even get out on long, reflective hikes. Use a few weeks post-season to try any of those bucket list sports to stay active and see what you can easily integrate into your training.
HAVE A PLAN
That doesn’t mean you need another goal race in mind or that you need to sign up for one the second you cross the finish line. But having something to look forward to can mitigate the after-race/postseason freak-out and let-down. It might mean making a list with your family of fun activities you want to try together or having a vacation already booked for the next month. Even having a pedicure or massage scheduled.
PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK
It’s OK to take a moment to wallow in the feeling of accomplishment instead of getting stressed about what’s coming next.