Sweet Excess and the Post-Event Blues

Me - Potomac River Marathon Finish

Being a creature of habit, I did not take a day off after running last Sunday’s marathon. I stoicly made my way to the gym for a core class. It would be a perfect post-marathon workout, I thought, as it would not involve the legs too much and I could continue steadily on my path of fitness.

I was correct in assuming the class was not leg-intensive. However, I overlooked that my run the day before had been pretty impactful on my body, especially to my core/abdominals.

On some level I knew this, but I felt so awesome after the run that I did not want the feeling to end. I figured the only way to keep the endorphin rush going was to head to the gym for more activity.

Everything started out okay, but about 20 minutes into my 45-minute class, my energy began to seep out of me. I made it through that core class, but only by gritting my teeth and gutting it out (literally).

After leaving class, fatigue continued to wind its way through my body. The intense activity during the last 45 minutes had tipped me over the edge of exuberance into a pool of post-event exhaustion.

The rest of the day I spent feeling oddly languid. Nothing bothered or stressed me. I reveled in my post-event accomplishment, content from having completed the marathon and exceeding my time goals. I signed up for another marathon that evening. Man, I love post-event bliss.

However, post-event bliss always ends, and this time was no exception. The next day I felt even more fatigued. A pain in my right quad was hanging around. Frustrated, I took the day off from the gym.

Wednesday, I ran a low-key three miles. My breathing was often ragged, as though I was pushing myself too hard. My heart rate was messed up, pounding from an easy effort. My quad, which I thought would feel better through the run, complained softly throughout and never loosened up.

I also lost control of my diet around mid-week, grabbing quick-energy sugary foods and fatty cheese. I even broke down one day and munched a few potato chips. That bummed me out even more.

What was wrong with me? I had been doing such a great job with my diet, just achieved my personal best marathon time, and here I was stuffing myself with junk while my body ached. Post-event blues.

The post-event blues happen to me almost every year around this time. I am inspired and invigorated by all of the physical activity of spring, and it suddenly morphs into something else.

I know the post-event blues are coming on the heels of post-event bliss, but not exactly when. Upon reflection I understand what’s happened… after I’ve eaten the junk I didn’t really want or need and tried to push myself when I should have taken a rest day. Or two.

Do others experience this? If so, how do you manage it? Is there any way to ward it off? Suggestions welcome.

I would like to do a better job of handling the post-event blues. I believe they are quite common among those who participate in endurance events. After all, many of us are avidly pursuing the endorphin rush only achieved through sweet excess.

8 responses to “Sweet Excess and the Post-Event Blues

  1. Classic and common symptoms. I had quite an interesting talk with a doc who suggested my heavy training load might contribute to periodic bouts of depression. That’s an extreme version, but slumps are par for the course under physical and mental stress: and however much of a buzz we get, training and competition are stressors.

    • I’m somewhat reassured to hear that they are common. Yes, it’s like a roller coaster, especially around the brevets! Combining the marathon training with the brevets was fun, but I see now that it took a toll on my body, both physically and emotionally.

  2. Yep. I get it too so I always allow myself to sleepand eat as much as I want the day after a big race. And I definitely don’t train. That usually gets me set to start light training the next day … maybe a walk or gentle ride

  3. I allow myself time to recover after a tough event. After all, physiologically speaking, its during the recovery that we make gains. Plus, I’ve earned it. Taking a few days (or as long as it takes) off of the training schedule to sleep, heal and yes even enjoy some off menu food brings back motivation much faster than slogging through a post event workout just to get it done. Then during the recovery time, I start thinking about the next adventure or event and that adds to the motivation to get back with the program. Buddha once said, (or if it wasn’t him he should have said) that suffering is about wanting what is to be what it is not (or something to that effect). So I try to accept the “is” of post event recovery and find things to enjoy about that period as well because it too will pass.

  4. I think you’re beating yourself up too much. And you rode your bike to and from the marathon! Most people have a high and then a low after significant endurance events. I experience the same with 300K and longer bike rides. What training plans do you follow for marathons? Most experts will suggest a week off from running (and I would assume any form of intense exercise) after a marathon. Walks and hikes are fine or light spinning on the bike. To paraphrase Iron Rider and Buddha, “It is what it is.”

  5. Rest is a very important part of any good training plan. Take a day or few to let your body recover from the awesome effort of your marathon – you deserve it!

  6. Thanks to everybody for the feedback. Based on what you all have said, I think that I will try to schedule in rest after more intense events. AND not feel guilty about it. You’re right that recovery is important and, like Iron Rider says, rest does bring back motivation. I also should have focused more on sleep, too.

  7. I’m really good at resting and taking it easy for several days after a big event. And eating lots. That doesn’t always keep the blues from setting in, that’s a bit normal because you were building toward a huge goal and suddenly you find yourself without one. I’m suffering from some post-50K lethargy and space-brain today …

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