Overcoming Post Race Blues and Depression
Overcoming post race blues can be tough, Learn how to reframe negative thoughts and turn them into positive action.
Many athletes in the Northern hemisphere are coming towards the end of their race season and transitioning into the off season.
While some can manage this transition, others experience what is commonly known as post-race blues, or post-race depression.
Post-race depression is a term that is used to describe the feelings that so many athletes experience after finishing their A-races with no scheduled races on the horizon.
Symptoms may include:
- A lack of motivation without a race to train for
- Feeling lost because you no longer have a set training schedule (i.e., early morning runs, long rides on a Saturday or Sunday)
- A general feeling of lethargy
- A lack of direction in your life
For example, after a race, we take more time to relax, sleep and recover. Whilst on the surface, this can be hugely beneficial, it can also have negative effects. If short term goals are not added back into the schedule, the healthy habits of waking early, training and eating well may be replaced with unhealthy habits such as lethargy, eating convenience foods and similar.
This in turn will affect your mood and can lead to a downward spiral into the post-race blues. It’s up to you to figure out how to break the cycle.
If a.) you haven’t yet finished your race season or b.) know from experience that post race blues affect you, it’s time to plan smaller goals to work towards after your race/season comes to a close. This will keep morale and motivation up.
Set short term goals
Set daily and weekly goals.
Write down a daily goal, one that can help you kickstart your day the right way. Review this goal at the end of each day to ensure that you are honoring your new plan. For example, set aside 15 minutes each morning for a mindfulness meditation session. Another daily goal can be as simple as staying hydrated throughout the day.
A weekly goal may be to get to the pool three times per week. If you start to see a dip in motivation, change the association in your mind from a negative to a positive. Do this by recreating your enjoyment for swimming. For example, simply swim for as long as you like, using whichever stroke you enjoy and stopping when you so choose. Out of the three trips to the pool per week, approach one or two sessions like this for a month and you will notice a difference.
This is also the same for the bike, run and strength and conditioning.
Set a medium-term goal
Ideally, set a goal that isn’t too taxing as your off-season structured training will begin again in the coming weeks/months. This goal should provide a new focus. It may be a trail race, a 100k cycling sportive or similar.
Whilst we can’t control our thoughts, we can choose what we focus on. If you are already experiencing post-race blues and bad habits have formed, realign those habits with your new goals. It is as simple as identifying which habits have a negative impact on your mood and then substituting them with healthy habits.
Spend time with your support structure
Whilst following the above steps, it’s also important to remind yourself just how important having the support of our loved ones and friends is on this journey.
You will now have more time on your hands so dedicate time to friends and family.
Neil Edge is an experienced triathlon Mental Performance Coach, working with age groupers and pros. He works with triathletes to overcome fear of open water and fast descents, setbacks including a less than expected performance and injury, increasing motivation, removing performance anxiety and building confidence and resilience. You can learn more about his mental performance courses at www.neiledge.com