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Coach’s Note By Lance Watson: Post-Ironman Return To Racing

  • By Lance Watson
  • Published Aug 1, 2014
Photo: Gary L. Geiger/Endurapix


After finishing an Ironman, athletes commonly ask me how long it takes until they are ready for their next race. They are often on a post-big-event athletic high, and keen to rush back. Typically an athlete will need six weeks to race again, so patience is key to avoid injury or overtraining. You may not be in prime race condition six weeks later, but you will be ready for a good push on the race course. Alternately, you may surprise yourself by performing well with the mountain of fitness you have built for the Ironman, the fitness impact of the race itself, and feeling fresh and motivated after a six-week break from the competing.

Here is a my recommendation for a six-week recovery protocol, post-Ironman:

One to two weeks post Ironman (two-week block): Ironman Recovery

The first two weeks after Ironman are critical to your ability to return to racing fresh. Take special care of your body and respect any aches or pains. Particularly be careful working back into running. The highest incident of post Ironman injury comes from too much running too soon. See the recovery advice at the bottom of this article for tips and tricks to hasten your recovery.

  • Two weeks of recovery and aerobic shorter aerobic activity.
  • One to seven days after the race: No running for seven days, and a minimum of three days completely off. This avoids pounding and helps the legs recover.
  • Eight to 14 days after the race you can incorporate short aerobic runs (20-35 minutes), slightly longer rides (60-90 minutes), and swims back into your routine.
  • Key sessions:
    • Short aerobic bikes of 30 to 90 minutes
    • After seven days of recovery, short aerobic runs of 20 to 45 minutes
    • Aerobic swims of 1000-3000 meters, with emphasis on technique.

Three to five weeks post Ironman (three-week block): Aerobic Rebuild and Recovery

Gradually build back aerobic work, but still be respectful of the Ironman that is in your legs. Keep all cycling and running very aerobic through this block. You may start to feel good on the bike, but hold back as recovery will still be slower than normal. Getting too aggressive with your training too soon can set you back two to four weeks in your rebuild.

  • Two weeks of endurance swimming, biking and running focused on re-building aerobic capacity and strength, followed by one week of recovery. The athlete should still take two days per week off, and overall training volume should be approximately 60 to 70 percent of your maximum training volume in your Ironman build.
    • Key sessions:
      • Aerobic endurance rides of two-and-a-half to three hours. Include long climbs if possible.
      • Aerobic endurance runs of one to one-and-a-half hours. Run hilly routes.
      • Low cadence bike riding, longer efforts of 10 to 30 minutes at 55 to 65 RPM.
      • Swimming pull and pull with paddles for strength.

Six weeks after Ironman (one-week block): Rest, Sharpen and Race

  • Take two days off, and perform swim, bike and run sessions with two to four short intervals at goal race pace.

RELATED: What’s The Quickest Way To Recover From An Ironman?

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FILED UNDER: Ironman / Race Recovery / Training TAGS:

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