What's next? Getting Back On The Horse
There's no secret that after completing any big achievement or goal that there is a mental let down. The euphoria of completing something that you have worked so hard for, sacrificed so many hours, days, months or years for is simply too short lived. Then comes a period of what's next?
I went through this after completing 2 Ironman triathlons within 10 weeks in 2014 and then again in 2016 after I completed Ultraman Australia in May, then left Sydney for a 78 day adventure riding my bike 14,500kms around Australia in September 2016. I completed the ride on November 19th, kept doing a little bit of training into the new year of 2017 then it all somewhat came crashing down. I lost all motivation to compete.
If you've followed me for a while you would of seen numerous posts about me "coming back" or starting a new adventure. I tried as hard as I could to get motivated but struggled to find the right "WHY?" again, to get moving forward. It was a tough time. I often speak to athletes who've been through similar highs then endured the low of working out what is indeed next.
I think you could certainly look at it as a need for the 'euphoria' of achieving. Running down that finish chute, completing something many including yourself may of once thought impossible, or losing a heap of weight are certainly examples of how you could achieve this feeling. Some would say it's like an addiction. The body craves the feeling of accomplishment and to be honest the bar always needs to shift higher to achieve the same feeling. Remember back to when you first did a sprint triathlon or you first Parkrun? That feeling was a amazing but when you went back week after week or month after month that feeling wasn't quiet there anymore. You may have been looking for something bigger, a bigger challenge, a longer distance or was it your body and mind simply looking for that feeling again.
I wouldn't characterise the feeling as an 'addiction' but more of a want or desire to feel like that again. We can all function quite successfully without it, but I believe we live in a world where constant achievement, growth and success are important to us all. Why would you ever want to be still, just hovering through life? I only want to learn new things, see how far I can go and encourage others to do the same.
So after having a good 18 months of everything, putting on some weight and overall not feeling awesome, I am finally back and focussed.
My question now is how do I reduce or even eliminate the so called "downtime" or negative space post a big achievement. I honestly have had people mention to me that maybe if the goals were easier (or smaller) it would make the come down easier. But wow, talk about staying in one place and not moving forward. This for me isn't the answer. I'm still working on the perfect scenario but I think future planning is the key. When you're looking at your next big goal and tracking towards it, start to have an eye on the one after that. Don't wait until its too late to realise you need another goal.
So in a practical example let's take someone training for their first Ironman. The entire focus for 6-12 months is on this one event, training, planning and executing. Post event the athlete doesn't train at all for 3-4 months (yes this is often the reality), they lose all fitness, all motivation, then try to repeat the event 12 months later with some or even maybe reduced success. This is so common in our world.
Let's say though for example, that the athlete started looking beyond the Ironman with 2-3 months leading up to it. The athlete takes a small focus on the future after the Ironman and realises that they might look towards a marathon PB in the 6 months post Ironman, this athlete certainly has a 2-3 week recovery post Ironman then leaves the bike aside for a few months and focusses on their running leading into the marathon PB. See where I'm heading here? Keep stretching yourself. Not breaking yourself but stretching yourself.
So the message here is clear I think, start looking a little bit towards the future and don't get totally consumed by your current event or adventure. Have one eye looking up the road at what you might want to do next and start to formulate a plan on how to get there.
Most of all, love what you do!