Battling the Post-Ironman Blues
After my first Ironman in 2010 and my most recent one in August, I figured post-Ironman I could keep the momentum going and snowball my fitness levels into training for the next Great Big Bad-Ass Event. I’d kick ass, take names, polish my six-pack abs with a ShamWow, all that good stuff. And like clockwork, after each season I got hit with the Post-Ironman Blues pretty hard, proving once again that I am my own worst enemy.
The first time around, I was training for a December marathon and ended up getting injured with Achilles tendinitis. With running removed from my fitness equation, I became unmotivated and depressed, packing on weight and working on my TV tan. My 2011 season was uneventful, and I vowed to crawl out of my bunker and bounce back with a fantastic 2012.
My 2012 season was mostly fantastic–I slimmed down, improved in all three disciplines, and had some great race PRs (and even podium’d at a couple races thanks to being a big fish in a tiny pond). As with 2010, this time I promised to keep the momentum going and segue into another fit season where I’d be even slimmer and faster than ever before…
…and here I am, unmotivated, tired, unfocused, chubbier. I had plans to aggressively train for a marathon in January in hopes of qualifying for Boston after my BFG managed to qualify for the 2014 race at Portland. That January race got pushed to February as my training became more and more inconsistent, and now it’s postponed to sometime this summer. I read my teammates’ status updates about all of the great workouts they’ve been doing lately and ask myself why I feel less energetic than them, why I’m struggling to find motivation after having the grit and determination to push myself to complete an Ironman while injured.
I wonder if I’m less “tough” than my seemingly superhuman friends who can easily bust out one, two, or even three Ironman races a year. I struggle to understand why I feel depressed and lethargic at the end of every season while others seem to bounce back quickly, always happy to train for their next big race. I make lofty goals but drag my feet when it comes to getting started. It’s been a confusing few months where my body and my brain battle against each other for supremacy.
It’s not that I’ve not enjoyed my time off from constantly training and exercising. My race season started back in March, after all, and it didn’t conclude until the end of August. As such, I’ve greatly enjoyed the copious amounts of eating and drinking the past four months, though I’ve not enjoyed gaining 18 lbs from my most svelte state (about 10 lbs since Ironman Canada). But I always marvel at those who spring out of bed after just a couple short weeks of rest and are ready to get back in action while I still feel somewhat lost and unfocused for 2013.
Maybe 2012 was harder on me, both physically and mentally, than I thought. Maybe I needed this extra time off to truly fully recover as I tried to restore a sense of balance to my home and professional life instead of tipping my focus in triathlon’s favor so heavily. Maybe I’m having a full-on Jessie Spano caffeine pill freakout now as I try to organize home projects, find happiness and satisfaction at work, figure out this whole “living like a grown up” thing, and hit all my workouts. (Side note: how the hell do you folks with kids juggle all this shit? I can barely take care of myself on a regular basis, let alone a brood of rugrats.)
I talked to Coach T about my post-Ironman blues and she assured me that it doesn’t just happen to me, that despite the fact that I oftentimes feel like the only person in the world who’s struggling, it’s common for other athletes (both mediocre and elite) to feel this way. So we adjusted my schedule in an effort to ease back into the swing of things without buckling under the weight of goals that may seem too lofty in my current state of fitness.
Right now the only race on my radar is Ironman St. Croix 70.3, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely thrilled about it given the fact that I’m currently large and not-at-all in charge. It’s going to be hot, humid, and challenging. The Beast may very well kill me. And I shudder at the mental image of me in a bikini right now. But I have four months to train for it, and as long as I believe in myself and start focusing now, I should be okay come race day. Whether or not I PR remains to be seen, but right now I’m trying to scale back on the amount of Asian Mom Pressure I’m piling onto my own shoulders.
After that, my season is pretty much up in the air. I’d really like to try to finally run a respectable marathon, and I think I do have it in me to qualify for Boston if I train hard and stay motivated. But maybe I need to ease out of my funk instead of get abruptly yanked out of it. To do that, I’ve started dabbling in some activities that will help me get back on board the Fitness Train and reintroduce the “fun” element into my training (like trail running, and maybe I’ll give hot yoga a try again, although this time I’ll skip the carpeted Swamp of Sadness location). Because for me, I’m more successful with my fitness when I’m training for something, an end goal vs. just doing it to be healthy. But there’s a fine line between training for something and feeling accomplished and getting burned out from feeling like I’m training all the time and not having fun doing it.
For the past four months I’ve felt burned out, but I’m ready to start having fun again. Here’s hoping 2013 contains exactly that.
*Note*: I had to republish this post after my hosting company accidentally ate it. I was able to recover the content but not the comments, so apologies for the comment graveyard (I had a bunch for this post, so losing them sucks donkey nuts).