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Prof tells runners how they can stay motivated

Cindra Kamphoff

Runners: Don't despair over postrace blues, sport psych prof says.

By Jessica Girdwain, Runner's World Correspondent [published in Runner's World, Emmaus, PA, December 2011]

Becky Brudwick met her goals and then some in her second marathon, in 2010, clocking 3:29, her personal "fall-on-your-knees-at-the-finish-line-and-cry" time. Then the teacher's motivation faded. "I felt like, Well, I've spent all this time working toward one goal, and it's over," she says.

"Now what do I do? I needed something else to get excited about." So Brudwick, 45, of North Mankato, Minn., decided to try trail running. The twists and turns of the off-road gave her the jolt she was looking for, and she upped the stakes again: In May, she'll run the Ice Age Trail 50 ultramarathon.

Whether it's after your first race or your 25th, you may experience postrace blues. The finish line comes down, the crowds go home, the adrenaline high disappears, and you might feel down afterward, like Christmas is over.

"It's totally normal," says Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., owner of The Runner's Edge, a runner-focused sports psychology practice in Mankato. "You had this clearly defined goal and made it a priority. Maybe you ran the race of your lifetime, or maybe you were disappointed. Either way, you wake up the next day and don't have the goal to work toward or the training you've become accustomed to, and you may feel a little depressed." Avoid a postrace slump by borrowing one or more of these motivation strategies.

You finished your first 5-K, which you entered on a whim. You're eager to race again—the sooner, the better.

YOUR NEXT MOVE: Find a structured training plan and set a new goal.

WHY IT WORKS: Crossing a finish line for the first time leaves many race newbies starstruck by the enormous sense of accomplishment. Challenging yourself with new goals can boost your running. But in a rush to hold on to that feeling of pride, don't make the mistake of aiming too high (I'm ready for a marathon!), too soon (Next month!). Overextending yourself invites injury and disappointment, says Jennifer Burningham, a running coach in Portland, Ore. She suggests hiring a coach who will develop a personalized training plan and guide you to your goals safely without injury.

While you usually run alone, last Sunday's half-marathon sure felt...long (and lonely, despite the other participants).

YOUR NEXT MOVE: Join a club.

WHY IT WORKS: "A group can introduce you to different training techniques, mental tricks, or persuade you to try races or distances you hadn't considered," says Kamphoff. What's more, "running with others pushes us to go harder and faster in workouts, which will naturally help you improve come race time," she says. But don't just stick with one or two buds; branch out and talk to a variety of members who will offer a wide range of experience and advice. The enthusiasm of the group will rub off on you.

You crossed the marathon off your bucket list and now want something different to light your fire.

YOUR NEXT MOVE: Change your routine, routes, and races.

WHY IT WORKS: The appeal of trying something different can make running feel fresh and prevent burnout. And as much as runners love a good routine, if you get bored with the day-to-day, you're more apt to skip a workout, says Heather Hausenblas, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Florida and exercise psychologist. Add excitement to your week by signing up for adventure events (like a muddy obstacle race) or unusual distances (say, a seven-miler--bonus: a new PR), or scouting out unfamiliar routes or trails to run. Kamphoff, for example, once spent a summer running every street in her hometown.

No matter what your experience level, everything you need to run your first or fastest 5-K, 10-K, half-marathon, or marathon is inside the Runner's World Guide to Road Racing.

 For the online Runner's World story, go to,7120,s6-238-244--14115-0,00.html.

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