Sure, it’s early in the racing season, but this “now what?” feeling could happen to you sooner than you think. Picture it: You’ve trained for weeks, months or maybe even a year for this race, but what happens after you finish?
Whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, it takes quite a bit of time and energy to properly train for any running event. After checking off the distance or getting that personal best (or not), many runners don’t know what to do next. We don’t want to admit it, but there can be a letdown after that initial euphoria and sense of accomplishment.
Turns out, it happens to more runners than you might think.
“It’s super common,” says Justin Ross, psychologist and co-founder of MindBodyHealth. “We call it the ‘Marathon Mondays.’ One of the biggest reasons this happens is because running [a marathon] takes a big commitment. After it’s done, people feel a void and wonder what do I do now?”
You might start asking yourself: Should I sign up for another race? Try to run faster? Try to run farther? This can be helpful at first, but eventually you may not be able to get any faster or run any farther. Conversely, once you reach your goal, you may lose your motivation for running altogether.
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IT’S OK TO TAKE A BREAK
It may be helpful to take a break, though, especially if you put in a long period of training. Studies show your immune system is actually weaker for a few hours after running a marathon, and the stress hormone cortisol is released after a long period of exercise. Your glycogen levels also become depleted during continuous periods of exercise (you may have heard of “hitting the wall” or “bonking” during a race?), and that’s hard on your body. Lastly, just the act of running for an extended time taxes your body, too. Using the marathon example, you will take between 30–50,000 steps over those 26.2 miles, and while most people aren’t going to get injured, just about everyone is pretty sore for at least the next couple days. This means that “rest” is not a dirty word. So go ahead and sleep in — you have our permission.
TAP INTO WHY YOU LOVE RUNNING
Once your body has recovered, Ross recommends taking time to reflect on the experience. Think about the underlying reasons you train and race. What does running (or racing) do for you? Maybe it boosts your confidence or your self-esteem. Maybe you do it for that runner’s high. Or maybe just being in nature is relaxing. “Think about the experience and ask yourself if you want to pursue that again,” says Ross. “What did you get out of it and what did you learn about yourself?”
When you focus only on hitting the mileage or checking a race off your to-do list, you won’t gain that same sense of accomplishment as if you focus on the intrinsic motivators. “It’s a good strategy to have consistency in runs/week or miles/week or days/month, but thinking about the internal motivators will help you develop far more long-lasting habits,” Ross explains.
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Other tips for making goals more rewarding include:
- Set smaller goals along the way, instead of focusing all of your effort into one big event.
- Find a running buddy or community. Having friends to run with can keep you motivated and encouraged.
- Try a different challenge. If you started running and signed up for a race to consider another challenge like a triathlon.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN