The past couple of years have been all about the fitness challenges, whether they be home workout goals or, since society reopened, road races. But what happens once you’ve completed a fitness challenge?
We all know that having a specific goal in place can be crucial to sticking with a fitness regime. That goal may be to reduce how out of breath you feel walking up the stairs to your flat, or to run a sub-one hour 10k in the next year. Whatever it is, simply knowing that there’s a point to your training is key to doing it.
But what happens once you’ve achieved that target? If you’ve spent the past few months doing Couch to 5k, working towards a one rep max or training for a hike, you may now have actually completed the task in hand. There’s nothing like the feeling of crossing that finish line or managing to lift that weight to make you feel invincible! But once you’ve met that goal, a weird kind of post-achievement blues can set in.
Given how many of us have signed up to fitness challenges recently, that’s a feeling that will be increasingly familiar. By June 2020, over a million people had downloaded the Couch to 5k app – a 92% increase on the year before. This year’s London Marathon was the biggest marathon ever staged anywhere in the world, with 100,000 people taking part worldwide. And on Strong Women, we’ve seen a huge hike in interest for home-based fitness challenges, such as the month-long wall sit challenge and 100 squat challenge for beginners. Clearly, we’ve been crying out for an opportunity to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
But now that we’re coming to the end of race season, and many of us will have finished the challenges we set out to achieve, how can we get back that sense of purpose?
One person who knows that post-challenge feeling only too well is Susie Chan, ultra-marathoner and Peloton Tread instructor.
Beating the post-race blues
“The post-race blues are a real thing,” she tells Stylist. “You’ll be on cloud nine after the race for a couple of days, then suddenly, it’s all over!”
She suggests ensuring that you have a celebration lined up a week or two after you’ve completed your goal. That might be a drink with mates, revisiting a favourite training spot or a meal out. And yes, she does recommend bringing your medal (if you have one) to show how proud you are of what you’ve achieved.
Once the shine wears off, it’s time to set another goal. “This could be a new race (this is how it started for me…!), and that next race goal doesn’t have to be another marathon or road race; it could be shorter or on trails, or a totally different fitness goal,” she says, going on to explain that variety helps to keep you motivated. You don’t have to keep improving in the same sport or distance.
“Having the right people or community around also is a huge encouragement,” she says. “The Peloton member community thrives off celebrating achievements and encouragements. That definitely helps having a continued fitness journey.”
How to ease yourself back into fitness after a challenge
Given that Chan is a multi-marathoner herself, what does she do after a race? “I do keep running, but after my first marathon, I had a good break. For me, the key is to return when you feel ready, and that is when you feel you want to go out to run, rather than force it.”
She’s keen to stress that after completing any kind of challenge, the most important thing is taking care of your body and getting slowly back into the swing of training. She swears by yoga and walking as the perfect activities to get moving again.
If you’ve been working towards your fitness goal or challenge for a while, the chances are that training has become pretty serious. Maybe you’ve been in the weights room most mornings before work or your 10k running plan has involved committing to four days a week. Whatever the end result, when you’re locked into a plan of action, fun often takes a backseat. Chan says: “I’m a firm believer that fitness and running can be fun,” and recommends that when trying to get back into a fitness regime after a challenge, fun should be at the front and centre of your activities.
Finding fun in fitness again
After months in lockdown, the surge in people trying fitness challenges might explain why activities such as dancing are having such a big revival. We want to celebrate and enjoy moving our bodies without having to take fitness so seriously.
If you’ve managed to complete a fitness challenge recently – whether that’s a marathon, a 5k or a gym-based goal – now’s the time to get back to finding the joy in exercise. Autumn is the perfect time to explore what it is you love doing, before the festive season comes and overwhelms us with commitments.
Still looking for a challenge? Pop over to the Strong Women Training Club where you’ll find strength-based training plans for every level.
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.
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