I’m in Kona right now, along with thousands of athletes, fans, media and industry bigshots… eagerly awaiting this Saturday’s IRONMAN World Championship.
This is the ideal time for me to answer a question that I’m frequently asked: How can I best return to training immediately after my race?
Here’s my 5-day prescription for the vast majority of triathletes, regardless of age, experience or speed.
If you raced on Sunday:
Day 1. Monday.
- Don’t lie down!
- Get in the water and swim easy with kicking. Try kicking vertically also. Add in some breaststroke kicking because it moves your legs outside the transverse plane which is the opposite of cycling and running. The breaststroke kick will stretch your hips, adductors and glutes and you’ll feel magical!
- Flip on your back, put on some fins and do some easy backstroke to stretch your back. Swim for about 15-20 min.
- Do not bike or run.
Day 2. Tuesday.
- Keep swimming easily.
- Get on your bike in your easy gear and spin at about 75-80 RPMs (a speed well below your aerobic pace). This will enhance your recovery.
- When you finished cycling get off your legs and try to keep feet elevated above your heart.
- Use compression socks if you have them.
You may find you’ll get more delayed onset muscle soreness on the second day after the race.
Day 3. Wednesday.
- Swim and bike easily again.
- I also have all of my athletes do some stretching. Get on the floor and stretch your quads, glutes, and back. Don’t overdo it and do any loaded stretches… and especially not calf stretches where you drop your heel off a step. Use a cord instead and stretch your Achilles and soleus on the floor.
- Keep it easy in these first few days.
Day 4. Thursday.
- Start running very gently, off-road or on a soft surface.
- Again, keep it super easy by alternating walking a minute, running for a minute, and walking backwards for a minute.
- Avoid downhill running.
- If your IRONMAN marathon time was four hours or faster, then it’s important to be very light on running for the first two weeks because of the eccentric load that you endured during the race.
- You can also swim bike again as well.
Day 5. Friday.
- Easy bike; continue to keep it gentle.
- Reintroduce easy strength training so that you can start firing your core, glutes and back.
- I’m a huge fan of the Crossover Symmetry cords (go with the Novice… the lightest resistance cords!), and they’re ideal at this stage in your recovery.
As you can tell by now, I’m a proponent of easing back into your workout routine and allowing your body to benefit from a regimen of active recovery. You’ve worked very hard during the last few months, and you raced even harder. Your body deserves — and needs — appropriate rest in order to return to effective training.