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Post Ironman depression, how real is it?

8 April 2010 5 Comments

I’ve heard about this phenomenon for 25yrs. When I first came back from Hawaii in 86, one of my brother’s mates asked him, how I was going with “post Ironman depression”. When my brother told me, I thought “what in the hell is that?” Since then the subject has come up over the years.

Seriously, when I came back from Kona in 86, I had two businesses to run, a family to raise. I didn’t have time for “post Ironman depression”. I was too busy.

Being busy with other things in your life is the secret to avoiding this ailment. Each year before the squad get’s to the Ironman, I let a glimpse of the winter training plans slip out. A little hint of something up ahead to look forward to. This is a strategy. This is no accident. The human mind needs a direction.

Post Ironman depression comes from reaching a strongly held goal, then having nothing left to aim for. Ironman is part of life, it’s not life. I try to place another carrot in front of each athlete in the squad before they reach their big race. Not so big a carrot that it takes their eye off the main game. Just a little something to cause a small part of the mind to be focussing ahead of the Ironman.

Many of our squad members have such a busy life with high pressure jobs, family and social committments, they have no time to get depressed. Too much time on your hands can be a bad thing. This sport attracts the overachievers.

The last couple of years we’ve organised the “Cycos Survivor” an all night mystery event to be held about 5-6 weeks after the Australian Ironman. I’ve announced the event about three to four weeks before the Ironman, to get people talking about it. I’ve let little bits of information slip out each week to keep interest high. This has set the minds up to be anticipating something different and exciting to follow the Ironman. The IM is 70% mental, so is the recovery.

If you’ve just finished the Ironman and all of a sudden found you have all this time on your hands and nothing to fill it. Read a book, it can change your life. Not just any book. Ask the most successful athlete you know to reccomend a book. You can learn a lot about a person by the books they reccomend. Some of our best athletes don’t reveal much about their inner self. The book they reccomend will open a window which you can peer through to see what is going on in the mind of the fastest, toughest guys you know.

Once you start reading the recommended book, you start to study the psyche of the athlete who reccomended it. Once this starts your mind is fully occupied, you can let your body heal and recover in peace. The worst thing you can do is go back to training too soon to try and beat the depression.


  • Julia said:

    I think post ironman depression is very real. I was warned about it before my first ironman (2010 IM NZ last month) and sure enough I succumbed to it a week after the race. I was suddenly all teary over nothing in particular and felt really crap and lost. I stayed on in NZ for 2 1/2 weeks to visit some family and friends but even that didn’t prevent the post ironman depression. Good thing for me was it only lasted 4 days. The turning point was getting back in the water – something that has always made me happy. Just an hour of not counting laps or following any prescribed sets or watching the pace clock. Just swimming for pleasure. On the same day I also went to Les Mills Auckland City and did my favourite group fitness class – BodyJam (its the dance one) with its choreographer, Gandalf Archer (the coolest guy in the world!) and had tons of fun. My weekly jam class was something I had sacrificed in the lead up to Ironman NZ. It was so good to dance again!

    So, AP, even though I don’t train with your squad, nor am I coached by you, I’m now curious to know what the book is that you reccomend to athletes? My coach has on his web site that his favourite books is ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom. I had already read it and I agree, its an amazing read. I think I’ll read it again when I’ve finished re-reading Lance’s ‘It’s not about the bike.’

  • Jeff said:

    The stuff you guys talk about makes me want to stick with half ironman as the limit.I have been involved in this sport for 23 years and never even contemplated an ironman but what Alan says is spot on.Congratulations to all those athletes that achieved their goals and to those that didn’t have a chat with Alan.Keep your body moving !

  • Al said:

    Hi Julia
    The book I have just finished reading is “The Last Explorer” by Simon Nasht – it’s the story of Hubert Wilkins, most Aussies have never heard of him. What he’s achieved is amazing, he really needed a publicist.

  • Rob said:

    So tru. Humans are goal oriented.

    Goal set to and through.

  • Julia said:

    My second ironman will be Busso 2010. It seemed too far away for my head… until I entered Wed week ago. And we’re into May now. I’ve set some other races between now and Busso to keep me focused and excited about racing. Gold Coast Half Marathon, Yeppoon Half Ironman. Also doing a couple of ocean swims later this month and the 100k bike at Noosa Winter Festival. And some sprint races when the 2010-2011 season kicks off.

    Yes – Rob, it is about goal setting. I think some people need specific goals more than others.

    Jeff – no, you have to do ironman at least once in your life! Then you’ll be hooked for the rest of your life!! Ha. Seriously – do one – it’ll be the best day of your life. Post ironman depression isn’t something to be scared of. You just have to be aware of it and put measures in place so you minimise it. I’ve never been married, but surely its like the whole build up to your wedding and when you’re trying to come back down from the buzz after the honeymoon… then what? (I could be wrong). You have to plan the rest of your life, that’s what. Plan something fun together.

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