Although my race calendar has been non-existent this fall marathon season, I have so many friends who have competed and reached some pretty amazing goals. After having all of these race highs, what’s next? It is quite commonplace to cross a finish line and start immediately thinking about what you are going to do next (even if that thought has you sitting on the couch eating cheetos). Give yourself a little bit of time, as there are a few things you should really do first:
Take time off
Depending on your body, this can range from a few days to a few weeks (and hey, a few months for some people!). My body gets little aches and pains after a marathon, and I make myself take a mandatory week off of all exercise, and then another week off of running. I’ve tried in the past to get back into running faster, and I ended up with a nasty IT band issue which turned into hip and back pain. I know for me, time off is key. Some people can run a marathon one weekend, and another one the following weekend – I am just not one of those people. My body can’t handle it. Don’t be afraid to take time off. Your body will lose some fitness, but will end up coming back faster and stronger in the end with a little bit of rest and relaxation.
Food intake leading up to a big goal race is usually pretty calculated. Other than those people with cast iron stomachs (more power to you!), most of us are pretty diligent with our diets during training. Getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t work is key. After crossing a finish line, I always like to reward myself for the accomplishment. I tend to eat anything, as long as it comes with a side of french fries and a soda.
And Then Refuel Properly
Cupcakes and pizza are great and all, but they aren’t going to give your body what it needs to build back the muscle fibers you just broke down during your race. Have your congratulatory meal, and then get back to nutritious foods. The vitamins, minerals, and lean protein found in veggies and other healthy food is what is going to get you back running faster
Think about the Race You Just Ran…
Each and every time I finish a race, I can’t help but break it down. Did I fuel correctly? How was my pace? Did I start too fast or too slow? What was the course like? Did I see any spectators with memorable signs? After spending 3+ hours on a course, it is hard not to think about it after finishing.
But Not Too Much
Thinking about the race is normal, just try not to break down every last mile, especially if it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. Find the main culprit and then move on. Focusing on the negatives will only get you more upset about your performance. Remember, you just finished a big goal race! That is a big deal in itself!
Tell Everyone What You Just Did
I’m kidding about this one (sort of). You can probably leave out those random strangers on the street, but fill in your training buddies, friends, and family about your recent accomplishment. Goal races tend to take up a good portion of our lives, so you know they are wondering how it went!
Think About What’s Next
Give yourself a few days (or weeks!) and start thinking about what your next goal is going to be. Take the time off your body needs, and then get back to it. Putting a goal out there to achieve is the best way to stay active and keeping reaching for the sky! If your only goal for the next few months is to stay active and not race at all, that is perfectly ok. Just stick to what you set out to do.