Ironman-induced Depression?

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Ironman RaceYou have crossed the finish line and you finally hear the words that you have been dreaming of for months if not years. “You are an Ironman™”…..But what now?

Finishing an Ironman™ regardless of your time is quite an accomplishment. You most likely have spent a good chunk of a year dedicated to your training and have invested a great deal of time, energy, resources, and money to get you to the finish line, so it is understandable that after the last .2 miles has been run and the finished line crossed that you can suffer from what some have termed as the “Ironman Blues.”

Going through a bout of moodiness after your big race is actually quite common place. The weeks following an Ironman some complain of irritableness, lack of appetite, restlessness, unexplained anxiety, insomnia or hypersomnia, and a general feeling of helplessness.

From a biological and neurological perspective, these symptoms make sense. For months, you have gotten a daily dose of endorphins from exercise, so to pull the plug completely and not do anything but put your feet up and relax after your race is quite a jarring shift for the body to handle.
Psychologically, this also makes sense. As I mentioned above you have been very invested to preparing for this one day so that have that day come and go can be some what anticlimactic.

Before you start reaching for the Prozac™ bottle though here are some steps to help prevent and get you out of this jag:

  1. Plan another race: You definitely need to take time off after a marathon or Ironman™ but have something planned for later on in the year after you recover. Having another event on the calendar is comforting and tells you that it is not the end of the road. There is more fun to come.
  2. Explore another hobby: While recovering, take this time to start another project to consume your time. Whether it is playing Dungeons and Dragons or quilting, doing some non-triathlon related activity to occupy your attention can help balance and stabilize your mood.
  3. Go easy on the junk food. Yes, you have completed an Ironman, which burns a lot of calories, and you deserve to not care about calories for a few days but after a week, return to your normal, clean eating routine. There definitely is a relationship between food and mood, so eating cleanly will help keep your mind fresh and sharp. It will also make training easier when you do get back to training.

Train Hard,
Coach Chris and Kev