Putting on the Brakes- Triathlon Training, More is NOT Better!


I am officially a TRIATHLETE!! I completed my 1st TRI Saturday. The swim was wicked and I had to pedal hard to make it. Nevertheless, I finished in 3hrs and 30 minutes. Not the best time in the world but I am definitely hooked.

I just bought and put aero bars on my bike, changed the handle bar tape and am ready to get back on the course. My question is – how long should I lay off the training?”


CONGRATULATIONS!!! That is AMAZING! Not only is it amazing that you finished your first triathlon. Way to go!!! That is quite an accomplishment. OK, now to answer your question…

You should take about 3 to 5 days TOTALLY off after a big race like that. Enjoy a couple of days of NOTHING. Rest! Hydrate!! Stretch!!!

After 3 to 5 days, you can resume training for your next event…how ever; no matter how fit you are, if you following a particular training program, I would start from the very beginning of the program. Don’t skip weeks because you think you don’t need them. Programs like these are designed for a reason. Follow them closely.

An important thing to remember is that RESTING your body is just as important to a training program as swimming, biking and running. If your body is not properly rested, you risk muscular injury, over-use injury or even illness.

Another important piece of information to keep in mind while training is be sure to give yourself (at least) 24 hours to recover between workouts. Your muscles and mind need time to recover from the previous days workouts. Be sure to give it this time. If you don’t have 24 hours between workouts available, try to alternate hard workouts with easier workouts so you can get the most out of your workouts.

All of that being said…if you are not going right into another training session for an impending event; now is a great time to focus on the events that you consider your weaker event.. You’ll be SHOCKED at the difference in the way you feel and the minutes you’ll drop after you take your off-season to rest and REALLY focus on one or two disciplines.

Keep up the great work! GOOD LUCK! Train (and rest) Well!

More thoughts on recovery!

The day after your race should be devoted to rest or light activity. You will probably find that extra stretching is beneficial. A hot bath in Epsom salts will get some of the soreness out of your legs.

Remember, even in your training, you never did all three sports in the same day, certainly not compacted into a couple of hours. Chances are your heart rate was at its highest for the longest period ever in your life. You stressed your body like never before, so you need time to recover.

You will recall from your training that every week had time set aside for recovery, and there were recovery weeks of lighter-than-normal activity. You need that recovery time just as much, if not more, after your race.

If your triathlon was on a Sunday, keep the exercise light for at least Monday and Tuesday. Acceptable activities are stretching, yoga, easy swimming, and light biking. Avoid running, even slowly, until Wednesday. Keep the heart rate low.

Brakes, Please

If your race went well, you might be feeling superhuman, ready to leap tall buildings or run a 10K at full speed. If so, you are an injury waiting to happen. Many a new athlete has suffered a devastating injury by overdoing it in the euphoria of success after the first venture into sports. Think long term. Give your body a break.

If you just have to get out on the road, go for a ride, but keep your bicycle in an easy gear. No elevated heart rates or hard riding. An easy ride can actually take some of the soreness out of your legs, and you can get the same benefit from an easy swim.

It’s different if your goal in your first triathlon was just to finish and you did not push particularly hard. In that case, your recovery time will be shorter. You should still exercise caution, however. The triathlon was a new experience for your body. If you want it to be healthy and ready for the next attempt, use common sense.

You will have some soreness for a couple of days after the triathlon, no matter how easy, relatively speaking, your effort was. That’s normal. If fatigue lasts for more than a day or two, that may be a sign that you need more rest. Some people recover more quickly than others. As you gain more experience, you will learn to read your body regarding its limits and recuperative abilities. In the meantime, it will be wise to be conservative.

If any workout after your race seems more difficult than usual, bag it for the day. The same symptoms that signal over training can also indicate a less-than-full recovery from your triathlon.

A day or two after your triathlon, consider treating yourself to a full-body massage. Besides feeling good, a massage promotes recovery and helps rid your body of the lactic acid that accumulated during your race. Make a post race massage part of your triathlon plan.

By the third day after your race, it’s okay to start running again if you are so inclined, but keep it easy. If you just have to push a little, go at a moderate pace. No hard stuff, period.

Of the three sports, running is the most likely to result in injury if you go too hard too soon after the triathlon. Be aware of tweaks and pains once you start running again. If something hurts, slow down or stop. You won’t be able to do that next race if you end up sidelined for weeks with a hamstring pull, sore Achilles tendon, or worse.

Back to Normal

On race day, you had to eat a bit extra to replenish glycogen stores. You can resume normal eating the day after the race, always mindful of your different nutritional needs when training. As always, think carbs, protein, and plenty of fluids, and go easy on saturated fat.

Try to get back into your pre race sleeping regimen (eight hours or whatever works for you). Your body does a wonderful job of repairing itself and getting ready for the next challenge, and a lot of that self-healing occurs during rest.

You are now a triathlete with a new view of the sport, excited at the prospect of achieving more as you recover and plan your next race. The key is not to let the exhilaration of finishing a triathlon cloud your judgment when it comes to resuming your activities.

Greg Ryan is an accomplished author, personal trainer, life coach and owner of Resolutions Preventative Health Care through Fitness for Seniors and Diabetics in St. Matthews. www.resolutions.bz