It happens to all of us. We get a little overzealous and end up pushing it to an extreme. We’ve planned this weekend for so long and, when the long-awaited day finally arrives, we get caught up in the moment. It's not the least bit shocking to have a bit of a hangover afterwards. And, no, I'm not talking about St Paddy's Day weekend.
I'm talking about the week after your goal race.
Post-race hangovers can be just as tough to get over as those of the more traditional variety. Here are some tips to help clear the cobwebs and get you back in the groove so you’ll be ready to roll on to your next training extravaganza.
Clear Your Head
All too often we make rash decisions based on the emotions of the moment. We start plotting our next race—and training plan—while still in the hubbub of finish line emotions. It's as though we are trying to re-run the race we just finished. Why? Because no matter how well or poorly we run, the moment we cross the finish line, we are suddenly struck with an epiphany: This is what I need to do to run the race of my dreams… right now! But we shouldn’t be so quick to abandon our last race, even though it’s over. We need to make sure we appreciate the moment and what we just accomplished. I often tell my athletes to identify both what they did well and what they'd like to improve upon in their next race. It’s a good way to keep from being too aggressive simply because we were happy or upset with out last race. We need to look at our next goal objectively to avoid setting ourselves up for future failure.
Kick Your Feet Up and Relax
A big race can take a lot out of us both physically and emotionally. That first week after a race should be a relaxing one. I tell my athletes not to force themselves to run or work out. The week after a race is your time to let your body refuel, recharge, and rebuild after an intense race effort. Far too often we try to jump right back into training and end up hurting ourselves. We need that post-race week or so for our bodies to recover and get ready to resume optimal training.
Okay, so this one really does sound like a hangover cure you've been given before. The truth is that most all of us will have taken our bodies pretty deep on race day. More than likely, our hydration levels are down. By making sure we do a good job of rehydrating, our body will work more efficiently to repair all of the damage we did on race day. Proper hydration will help our blood to be less viscous, and therefore, allow it to carry the tools our bodies need to quickly and efficiently rebuild our muscles. Along with rehydration, we must focus on refueling as well. Don't cut back on fuel intake just because you have a week or so off. Your body needs carbs, proteins, and fats to bounce back quickly.
Make sure you get plenty of sleep in the days following your race. Your body releases human growth hormone (HGH) during deep REM sleep to help repair itself. Slacking off on your sleeping regime because the race is over will significantly lengthen your hangover blahs. Be deliberate in going to be early and getting a full night’s rest in the days after you cross the finish line.
So, we've relaxed, we've rested, we've refueled, and we've recovered. Now what? After that week or two of vacation from training, it's time to plan what’s next. We are goal-oriented people. We need a carrot to get our derrieres off the couch. We need to resume a training routine—otherwise we risk falling back to “start over” mode. Check out the FLEET FEET Race Calendar to find some smaller “stepping stone” races to quench your thirst until you choose your next big goal race. These tiny goals will go a long way in preventing a return to square one—and we all know that the headache of starting from scratch makes race day hangover seem like weak sauce.
Hopefully these hints and tips can help get you through the part of the race that no one talks about. The race day hangover does not have to be debilitating. Use it as a time to recover and to relive the rollicking good time you had earning it. So go on. Enjoy that post-race hangover until you earn another one!
Good Luck and Happy Racing!
Tim Cary is FLEET FEET's Assistant Training Manager, coach of the FLEET FEET-sponsored Runnababez Elite team, and manager of the FLEET FEET Racing Team. Over his 20 years of coaching, Tim has coached athletes to three national team championships, five national individual championships, two national records, and numerous All-American and All-State honors. Click here to receive Tim's weekly article via email.