Some 43,000 runners will hit the streets Sunday, Nov. 7, for the annual ING New York City marathon. By Monday, those runners will be in recovery, not just physically but emotionally as well — it’s only natural to feel a sense of letdown or emptiness after a long-awaited momentous event. Here’s a tip, runners: what got you through training will also help carry you through the post-marathon blues — careful planning. (More on Time.com: How to Lower Your Risk of Catching a Cold: Work Out).
According to sports psychologists, trainers and professional runners, an episode of mild depression is fairly common in the aftermath of a major event, especially one that you’ve spent a considerable amount of time and energy planning for. Brides have postnuptial depression after their wedding day, for instance. According to sports psychologist Dr. Jack Lesyk, director of the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology:
Some of the disappointment of the post-event letdown can be alleviated by knowing that it’s normal and to expect it. For months, your life has been organized around this singular goal. Now, suddenly it’s over and the disciplined, intensive efforts are no longer required.
This is the time to pause, reflect and enjoy other aspects of life that may have been neglected during intensive training. Sleep late; spend more time with family and friends. Do things you wanted to do but sacrificed for your training. Plan ahead so that when the big event is over, you don’t face a vacuum of too much time.
The key is avoiding too much empty downtime. Starting up a new project with new goals can help. Runner’s World magazine suggests that making even simple plans after the marathon can be useful. (More on Time.com: A Formula to Help Marathoners Avoid Hitting the Wall)
That plan doesn’t have to culminate in another marathon, or even another race, but it should contain some meaningful goals, such as maintaining a specific weekly mileage or just making sure you run a certain number of days every week. Of course, it’s important to be flexible with your goals to avoid injury. But after running a marathon, you’re at a very high fitness level, and with the right training focus you can make the most of it.
Whatever you do, make sure you take the time to savor your major accomplishment. And give your body some time to heal. As Healthland posted earlier, running 26.2 miles takes a temporary toll on your heart.
More on Time.com:
Marathon Running Can Damage the Heart — But Only Temporarily