Even if your training went perfectly and you had the race of your life, after you cross the finish line, it can be very easy to fall into some common post-race traps, that can land you injured, burnt-out, or out of touch with all the fitness you worked so hard to gain.
Here are some steps that you can take after your big race that will help you leverage your fitness and preserve your joy of running for the long term.
See how the other half lives. in the week after the race, rest and run easy. But most importantly, spend time enjoying your non-running life. Read books. See movies. Take a vacation. Catch up on sleep. Spend time with your friends and loved ones. Go out on a weekend night and sleep through the pre-dawn hours that you’d normally spend logging a long run. If you don’t give yourself some down time when you have the opportunity, you might set yourself up for burnout halfway through the next training cycle. While it can be scary to let loose a little bit, think of it as giving yourself the mental and emotional nourishment you need to buckle down for the next race.
Learn your lesson. If the race and your training went well, you likely learned a lot along the way. If your race and training went terribly, you likely learned even more. Take some time to reflect on the preparations for the race, and what happened on the big day. Review your training log. What worked? What didn’t? If you had to do it all over, what would you change about the way that you trained and the way that you raced? Investing some time to consider these issues now will help you avoid repeating any mistakes, and help you build on your success going forward. And you will likely gain valuable insight about what your next challenge should be.
Go a different distance. Many people tend to sign up for the next race within 24 hours of crossing the finish line. If your race went well, you might want to see how much you could improve your time on a different course or under better weather conditions. If you had a race-day disaster, you might want to find a second-chance race ASAP. That can be fine. But it’s best to take at least two weeks of rest and easy running before racing again. And if you’re nursing injuries and strains, you’ll want to see a doctor, and take enough rest and time to feel healthy, before you race again. If you do have the urge to race again, you might consider racing a new or different distance. See how the fitness you developed for your goal event translates to a race of a different distance. Finish a marathon? Do a 5-K. Finish a 10-K? Try a half-marathon.The variety will help prevent burnout, and may help you figure out where to set your sights for your next running goal.
Be a beginner. The days and weeks right after a race are a great time to explore another sport. Use the fitness and confidence you gained during your race training to try a new activity that you can integrate as cross training into the build up to your next running race. This will give your muscles and your mind a break from the repetitive motion of running. Always wanted to try stand-up paddleboarding, rowing, cycling, or swimming? Sign yourself up for lessons as a reward for all the hard work you did training for your running race.