The Post-Training Guilt

guilt_got-guilt-buttonA bit like the post-race void of emptiness athletes get when training no longer commands their life, there’s also something of a post-training guilt.

It varies from person to person, but this guilt usually appears in one of two ways (or both in my case).

  1. Distance guilt.

During training, 10 miles a day was the norm. You took off days because you should (and were tired enough to need them). Yet even those felt weird because in our training conditioned minds, there were miles to be run. Once training ends and the race is over, we go back to whatever “regular” weekly miles are (usually 30-40 for me).

Then the guilt sets in. What was once 10-milers turns into the more normal 3- and 4-milers. But I feel guilty because 3 miles seems so short (it’s not, but we’re distance runners and we view things oddly). In my mind, I’m usually thinking something like “well obviously I can do 10-milers, so why am I just doing 3.” Herein lies the issues.

Athletes, of any kind, seem to have this built in guilt mechanism when it comes to our sports. We feel guilty having off days, even though we should. We feel guilty having easy days, even if there’s a reason for them (like an upcoming race). We even feel guilty when we compare our workout to our friend’s, like this past weekend I ran a measly 10-mile long run while several running buddies were tackling a 20-miler.

Our minds disregard logic. We need off days. They keep our bodies going optimally. We need easy days. They help our bodies rest and prepare for running awesome races. And we shouldn’t compare workouts, especially knowing that each runner has different goals and are at different places. Those friends? They were doing 10-milers when I was doing my 20s. Because I was in training and they weren’t. Now they’re in training for a marathon that’s 6 weeks away and I’m not. It’s as simple as that.

Talk to a runner about their workout. Notice we often add in words like “just” and “only” before giving our mileage for the day. I did “just 10” on Saturday.

(On a side note: while my distances have been significantly shorter than during training, I seem to have alleviated some internal guilt by going faster. Not intentionally mind you, but maybe in a subconscious attempt to “make up” for only going 5 miles instead of 8, I’ve been running minutes faster than what I did before training. Though this may just be that I’m conditioned too…)

2. Food guilt.

Maybe the worst of all guilts any athlete can have. The dreaded food guilt, which is pretty self-explanatory. We come off of training and racing where we can barely eat enough to cover the exercise we’re doing (or in my case, I can’t. Pattern seems to be that I lose 5-10 pounds during marathon training, no matter how much I attempt to eat).

Once you transition back into a regular running schedule, there’s still this massive craving (for me) to eat everything in sight. But I’m no longer running the ridiculous miles per week that I was, so the balance is thrown off. Admittedly, my food guilt is much less than my distance guilt no matter the situation. I love food too much to be guilty all the time about eating it.

But at some point post-training, you have to decide that eating everything in sight has to stop and you return back to your regular eating schedule too.

This may seem slightly random, but I’ve noticed my distance guilt rearing it’s head in the last couple of days. Even this morning when I went out for a 4-miler, in my mind I was going through my route options because I felt like I needed to run at least 6 or 7. Hopefully, hitting some solid mileage weeks that aren’t reverse taper will help me settle back into the non-training mentality.

Do either of these guilts hit you?

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The Post-Race Void

It’s interesting that we spend all those months of training looking forward to THE Race (caps intended). Especially as the mileage ramps up and the event itself is so close, yet still not quite there, where we want it to happen only so we can spend less time training. Finally, the weekend arrives and all the excitement is focused on having a good time and a great race.

Then suddenly, it’s done. The training is over. No more rearranging our days to get all the miles in. No more planning weekends around long runs. No more intensive mental preparations to make this race the one we’ll always remember (though truthfully, we’ll remember every single one).

You take the few days after off. Instead of running, they’re spent recapping with friends, responding to posts of congratulations, putting up pictures of our triumph, and basking in the glow of achievement. Then it’s time to reverse taper back into a semi-regular schedule. Training no longer, simply running because it’s what we enjoy.

End_of_the_Road_Wallpaper_y3v85Yet even then, it feels like there’s a hole. A gap in our existence. Without another big race on the horizon, we lack the purpose of the past many months. An empty void in our lives. A beautiful void (we’ve been waiting for this moment, for the training and the race to be done), but a void nonetheless. And it feels weird. I think “shouldn’t I be training for something? and “shouldn’t my days be consumed with my workouts and the end goal of a race?” It’s hard to re-adjust to the mentality where my life isn’t all consumed by this event somewhere in the near future that’s steadily getting closer, while never being quite close enough.

It seems weird, but I especially feel bereft after completing the Marine Corps Marathon. I met my goal! Not only did I break the time I set for myself of 3:40 so long ago, I went a step further and ran a Boston Qualifier time. While I did not believe I would never run one, I also didn’t really expect it to happen so soon. I sort of expected more years building up my race experience and improving my training before it happened. Now, I simply have to wait until next fall when registration for 2015 opens.

Luckily, not all is an empty void in my future. I’ve plans for a half marathon just before Thanksgiving. There’s high hopes in my mind coming off this marathon that I can go on to PR my half marathon time as well. Plus, somewhere in the next 2 months I hope to run a 5K as well in the hopes of another PR. (All that success going to my head.)

While that void has been in my mind, it’s been good to get back out and just run. Plus having smaller events and goals to run towards is helping me keep from becoming completely distracted.