The post Ironman blues are a well documented phenomenon, athletes in training spend every waking moment thinking about their race; training, planning and worrying, drawing up various scenarios in their head and spending most of their disposable income on products that promise to get them round in a faster time. This is completely natural and I’d be concerned if an athlete didn’t give much thought to their race, but after we cross the finish line and the elation has subsided, people end up with a large M-dot shaped hole in their life.
This is often inevitable, but affects different people in different ways. Some people feel a bit empty for a few weeks, other feel destitute, thinking that any training they do would be pointless now they’re an Ironman.
The best way to prepare for this period is to plan in advance, just like you are doing for your race. This doesn’t mean sitting down with a calendar and creating a strict itinerary for the month following the race, but take ten minutes to sit down with a pen and paper to list all the things you’ll have to look forward to with more free time and pencil in a few plans. Here are a few suggestions.
Spend more time with your family/partner
If you’re lucky enough to have a partner who is completely on board with your training, they’ll have been proud to support you, and no doubt been very patient with you and long days alone in the house while you put in the big miles, this is your chance to make them feel special again by spending more time together. Take them out to dinner without worrying about what you’re eating or when you have to be back, enjoy lazy Sundays mornings in bed together and treat them with a long weekend away without packing your bike or running shoes. This will help butter them up for when you announce your plans to complete another Ironman next year!
Catch up with friends
I hate to break it to you, but if you’re in training for an Ironman you’re probably neglecting your friends to a greater or lesser extent. You may not feel like you are, but the times you politely excuse yourself early from a party early or turn down an invitation for a night out in the name of training has probably led to you falling off their radar somewhat. This is your chance to reach out to them, flash around your finishers medal, tell a few heroic stories and remember what it feels like to stay up putting the world to rights into the small hours. Friends are a vital part of your support network so make sure you invest time in them while you can and remind them you care.
Finish that project
Whether you’ve been putting off pressure washing the patio or finishing that art project, these things tend to fall by the wayside in the post workout glow as you fall into an accidental nap on the sofa in front of the antiques roadshow. These little projects are a great way to keep that results orientated side of you in check, replacing the sense of achievement you get from a high average speed with a clean car or finally fixing the the shower.
The next step
This doesn’t have to be Ironman orientated, but having something booked for after your Ironman can help you pick up your feet in the weeks following the race. A cycle sportive is perfect as it’s low impact, affordable and gives you the chance to enjoy a new part of the world without worrying about performance. Give yourself at least a month between your Ironman and next event, to allow you to recharge your batteries both physically and mentally. Whether you ever want to complete an Ironman again is a question only you can answer in the weeks following the event, but having a small goal will help you keep focus.
Remember it’s good for you
Life is all about balance, and months of intensive training must be balanced with periods of total rest. All the best coaches talk about the need for an off season for athletes to get unfit, put on a bit of weight and live like normal people. This will slowly be replaced with gentle, recreational exercise if you start to get itchy feet after a few weeks, and slowly turn into a new base period. If/when you decide to return to training you’ll do so with renewed enthusiasm and energy.
Chat to your coach
The debrief following an Ironman is perhaps the most important conversation you’ll have with a coach all year. This could be your coach or a coach you’re considering hiring, but they’ll help you analyse your performance, look at how it went objectively and help you plan your next move. There are always things that went well, and always areas to improve, your coach will ask the right questions and help you reflect on your race in a constructive way. It’s all to easy to beat yourself up about areas that didn’t go well, but putting things into perspective and help you move forwards.
A temporary drop in mood is common in all walks of life following an achievement, and can be attributed to a fear of being unable to recreate the success, however if you feel you are struggling following a race, during your training or at any point in your life and need someone to talk, you can call The Samaritans free of charge on 116 123 for confidential support.