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Develop a Post-Race Mental Recovery Plan

Develop a Post-Race Mental Recovery Plan JoAnne Barbier Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Contributor

Leading up to a race there are a mix of emotions such as excitement, nervousness, and happiness. An athlete’s mind is preparing for the unknown, which can cause normal levels of emotions that are experienced to be at a higher level. This can naturally cause athletes to feel a little uneasy or anxious. In comparison, there are the post-race emotions. Athletes should develop a post-race mental recovery plan.

Once the race is over, most athletes experience a surge of emotions that is powerful and euphoric! Many athletes describe this surge of emotions as experiencing a “high.” After some time passes, the emotions begin to regulate, and reality starts creeping in. Athletes put in months to years of training, and after the race…. it’s over. This let-down feeling can cause feelings of depression that can last a few days to a few months. When you develop a post-race mental recovery plan, the focus on mental health is critical!

Some athletes might have experienced signing up for a similar race in hopes of experiencing the same feelings and emotions only to find that they did not occur. The truth is, this euphoric feeling is challenging to replicate! This fear of replication can cause athletes to go from an extreme “high” to a low rather quickly.

This post-race blue period could occur a few days after the race or even a few months later.

What Are Examples Of Post-Race Blues?

Many athletes describe feeling the following:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Feeling lost
  • Losing the sense of motivation to train
  • Experiencing disappointment 
  • Turning toward isolation
  • Desiring something to look forward to but unsure of what that might be

It is challenging to predict when an athlete might experience these blues, but it is vital to have a game plan established to proactively manage post-race mental recovery.

Suggestions For Managing The Post-Race Blues

  1. Learn to celebrate downtime. After a rigorous training program, giving your mind and body the appropriate rest it needs is essential. Although you might want to keep grinding, do your best to embrace and enjoy this downtime. It might be uncomfortable, but it is necessary!! You can even consider cross-training with a sport or activity you always wanted to try but maybe never had the appropriate time.
  2. Create a post-race plan. Being proactive for your post-race mental well-being is vital! Just as you most likely established routines for the race, it is equally important to have routines after the race. Routines allow your mind to recognize normalcy and feel comfortable. When experiencing these blues, your mind could feel uncomfortable- especially if it is not the norm. Having a post-race routine established will help you in this process.
  3. Make self-care a priority. Celebrating after a race with specific rewards is essential. Maybe it is a special meal, getting a massage, going on a trip, etc. Whatever it might be, incorporating self-care is critical in the recovery process! Once the initial emotions after the race calm down, it is equally important to include self-care modalities.

Most importantly, do your best to prepare in advance. Whether a novice or experienced athlete, you could experience these post-race blues. Recognizing that it could happen is the first step, but try your best not to let these thoughts flood your mind before race day. Do your best to understand that if you experience these emotions, it does not compromise your abilities as an athlete. Understanding that these emotions can exist is essential, but know that these emotions and feelings do not signify your efforts and skills as an athlete.



Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology

JoAnne Bullard is a Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She serves as a tenured Associate Professor at Rowan University and is the owner of Absolute Fitness, LLC.  Her goal is to provide a holistically applied approach for clients through performance psychology consulting. She has experience working with athletes of all ages, including endurance athletes, in individual and group sessions.  Her research areas include mindfulness, performance anxiety, goal setting, coping strategies, and mental well-being of athletes.

She has completed five marathons, numerous half-marathons, and is always looking for her next race.