Why do I feel cold, depressed and cross after a run?

Does anyone else get these symptoms after running: feel cold, can't concentrate, irritable, miserable, tired, need food but no appetite? For me it comes on a few hours after a run and lasts the rest of the day. It was particularly bad in weeks 2-4, got much better in 5-6, then worse after W7R1.

It seems so unfair. I don't mind feeling bad on the run itself, you expect that, but to feel bad afterwards when you ought to be enjoying the benefits is surely all wrong. Does anybody know what causes it and what to do about it?

The common-sense explanation is that I have been overdoing it in some way, but I am in good health and the programme has worked well for me some of the time. I've stopped running with Laura for a while, and I'm doing my own routine, which has been a weekly run (three times now) where I just do what feels OK, and it works out roughly equivalent to W5.

Coincidentally, I have been doing an 8-week course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which includes mindful movement. There they talk about soft and hard edges, soft being where something just starts to get difficult, and hard is where you reach a real limit and risk injury and exhaustion. They say you should work between your soft and hard edges, and I think on that reading I got too close to my hard edge in W7, so it makes sense to drop back.

Does anyone else know what I'm talking about?

9 Replies

  • I think I understand about soft and hard edges but what struck me was the beginning of your post. Are you fueling your runs? Sometimes we can end up undereating for the amount of energy we expell. I would maybe try experimenting with hydration and fuel and see if that makes you feel any better after your run. Also are you sleeping well. The body can need a little bit of fine tuning as the distances go up. Maybe if you look at these sort of points you will be less likely to go to the soft and hard edge extremes and stay in a neutral place. Just a thought.

  • I think it's really important to realise with the programme that one size doesn't fit all. You need to listen to your body and tweak things if you don't feel comfortable. I found once I got onto the longer runs I needed to slip in an extra rest day here and there and felt a lot stronger as a result. That meant some 'weeks' may have lasted 9 or so days, and so I didn't finish the programme in 9 weeks, but I think many people don't because of holidays, illness, etc. anyway, so I certainly wasn't alone.

  • Sounds like your mind and body are working against each other and both comments above make complete sense. As well as hydration, good diet have you thought about meditation? It is a great stress reliever and could also help with your running. So many places to get started. Hope this helps :)

  • I would suggest you visit your doctor to exclude any underlying illness, as a number of things could cause this, eg anaemia, thyroid problems or even diabetes. If you get the all clear I would follow the advice from realfoodieclub and make sure you have some energy on board. Running usually improves depression as exercise releases endorphins which lift your mood, so I would definitely exclude a physical cause for your symptoms.

  • I used to feel uncomfortably cold for the rest of the day after running. I used to run on empty first thing in the morning. Do whatever pod cast with the aim of finishing it at the outdoor gym, do some gym work, then walk/jog home. I would feel so cold all day.

    Now I still run on empty first thing but after the gym exercises I put on a very thin waterproof jacket and I no longer get chilled to my bones when I walk back home. It is not pleasant feeling so cold and this could cause the low mood you describe. I am also T2 diabetic and find that the running often stops me feeling hungry. I'm pleased about that. (I've just got in from doing 6.5km - on empty - and feel no urge to eat at all.)

    So what worked for me was to put on a thin layer which prevented me getting over cold on the way home.

    I hope you can find a way to work around it because the benefits of being active like this are many and so positive.

    Good luck and happy running!

  • Thank you everyone, I appreciate your thoughts on this one. It is interesting how different the replies are. I'll experiment with the food and the hydration and see if that helps. I don't think there's a health problem, because I've always been prone to tiredness and had lots of tests once but they found nothing except an underactive thyroid, long since treated. I'm sleeping well and I meditate every day.

    I think it all comes down to 'listen to your body' and find out what works for us. I have always had a tendency to overdo things and tire easily so there is a lesson here for me in letting go of the desire to achieve and just doing what is actually helpful. Sometimes I'll be able to do more, sometimes less. The reason for doing the programme was not to be able to run 5k in 30 mins (so far it's been 3k in 25 mins) but to liven up my body and mind, and that happened in weeks 5 and 6 so why not just stay with that until I feel ready to move on. I feel kind of sad that it hasn't worked out with Laura, but we had some good times together, and who knows, I may yet run 5k.

  • Hi I have just seen your reply to your post. I have an under active thyoid as well and have had terrible time with the distances. Mine was down to my ferritn (iron levels) being down. My red blood count was fine but my ferrtin was too low. It affected my mood, sleep and definitely my running. I can only run the longer distances when it is up over the 50's. When I got diagnosed it was 13 so I had to do run walks until it came up, with 2 iron tablets a day. I was told it can often go out when you have thyroid issues. It's might be worth a check if you haven't already most docs just do the red blood count but if you have a good gp you should be able to ask.

  • Thanks Realfoodieclub, I will look into that. I know I had my ferritin tested a few years ago when I was anaemic and will ask what the figure was. Then maybe I'll try iron pills and see if that makes a difference. Or even go to the doctor, but I hate taking up their time. It's only running that has this effect, I'm in good health otherwise.

  • I understand what you mean but my doc has been fanatastic as she says everything I am doing is about prevention and she is so pleased I am looking after myself. I was told that undiagnosed low ferritn leads to other complications later so better to catch it real early.

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