Every single person who crosses an IRONMAN finish line should take a moment to truly sit back and congratulate themselves on an amazing accomplishment. After months of hard training, sacrifices and physical transformation, the ultimate reward of crossing an IRONMAN finish line can truly be a life-changing event.
That said: what happens when you wake up the next day and it’s all over? Well, the truth is that while your training for that particular event may have ended, you are now entering an important phase of IRONMAN recovery that is a vital part of your overall IRONMAN journey.
This is the ideal time for me to answer a question that I’m frequently asked: What is the ideal IRONMAN recovery plan for the week after my race?
Or, the related question: How soon can I return to training?
Here’s my prescription for the vast majority of triathletes, regardless of their age, experience or speed. This program will work for any IRONMAN race.
If you raced on a 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 to 20 minutes.
- Do not bike or run.
Day 2. Tuesday.
- Keep swimming easily.
- Get on your bike in your easy gear and spin at about 75 to 80 rpms (at a speed well below your aerobic pace). This will enhance your recovery.
- When you’re finished cycling, get off your legs and try to keep your 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, and this is perfectly normal.
Day 3. Wednesday.
- Swim and bike (easy) 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 stretched, 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. Stay mindful about how your body feels and don’t push yourself.
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 backward 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 and 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 level cords… the lightest resistance cords they offer); they’re ideal at this stage in your recovery.
Got Big Island fever? We’ve got the cure. Check out our race coverage, course tips, race-week interviews and post-race analysis from the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship right here.