This is the final piece of my competition puzzle. We've covered the pre-race strategies that get me to the start line and set me up for success. We talked about race day and the components of a successful performance. And now, the race is over, the finish line in the rear view mirror. Is it over? Not yet. How I finish affects my next start, so even though the hard work is behind me, there is still work to do.

Hitting the finish line at any race can bring mixed emotions. Depending on your goals and performance you may be elated or disappointed. In the past, I fell into the latter group. Regardless of the result or how I executed I always felt I should have and could have performed better. Unfortunately, my ambition was turning what should have been a positive experience into something destructive. That negative mental outlook following races became a habit that spilled over into my recovery process.

How I finish affects my next start, so even though the hard work is behind me, there is still work to do.

Fortunately, I have a great coach who has really helped me turn things around and put an end to my finish line woes. These finish line guidelines address both the mental and the physical aspect of the very important post-race period:

1. Be grateful: When you are wrapped up in performing, hitting a PB or even just getting to the finish line it’s easy to lose focus on the big picture. Take the time to celebrate what you’ve just accomplished. It’s important to remember that having the ability to move and be active is a gift in itself and something that is not to be taken for granted.

2. Refuel: I do it with a chocolate milk, of course! It’s important to get some immediate carbohydrates and protein so you can recover physically from your efforts. While it’s okay to have a little treat to celebrate, make sure you are including some quality nutrients. If you skip this step, you risk being sore for days, so start that recovery process ASAP after the finish line.

Take some time to enjoy yourself and your accomplishment before immediately dissecting what you could have done differently.

3. Take some time: Emotions are high following competition. Take some time to enjoy yourself and your accomplishment before immediately dissecting what you could have done differently. It’s important to reflect, but be sure to do it when the emotions wear off. That way you can be analytical and level headed when planning your attack on your next race.

4. Keep moving: An easy cool down can be hugely beneficial in helping remove some of the lactate following a heavy bout of exercise. 15-20 mins of easy movement and your body will thank you the following days.