Ask A Pro: Getting Over A Bad Season

  • By Samantha McGlone
  • Published Nov 26, 2012
  • Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 4:40 PM UTC

Q: I had some bad races to end the season, and I am not motivated to do anything right now. How do you get closure and move on after a mediocre season?

Athletes often struggle mentally with a “letdown” period after a big event. Most triathletes experience a post-Ironman funk, whether they had a great day or a disaster. This letdown is only exacerbated when a season ends in disappointment. Low motivation at the end of the year is completely normal and even healthy for a while. It is necessary to take a break at the end of the year to let your body recover. Rest is just as important for your motivation as for your physical recovery, but a mental break doesn’t involve sitting on the couch for three months. If the off-season turns into an extended pity party, it’s time to take a look at what went wrong and learn how to let it go.

Reframe the experience
A result itself is just a number, neither good nor bad; it is how you perceive the result that counts. Early in my career I would have been thrilled just to not get lapped in an ITU World Cup; toward the end I would be disappointed with fourth place because I had narrowly missed the podium. Objectively the second result was much better, but my expectation had changed and, along with it, the satisfaction I received from a certain placing.

Setting a high standard is a positive tool when working toward a goal; it can motivate you to work hard and achieve a new level. If you find yourself depressed after a disappointing season, shift your standards. So you didn’t achieve exactly what you had hoped; instead, focus on the improvements you did make. Think back to when you first started competing in triathlon. Remind yourself of those first few weeks after the off-season break when training felt slow and awkward. No matter how many years I’m in the sport, I’m always amazed at how long a three-hour ride feels in January and how short it feels in October. Appreciate how far you have come and acknowledge the gains you have made.

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