Home > Training

How to recover from a triathlon

It doesn't matter if it's a sprint or Ironman event, rest and recovery is key.

“You are a triathlete.” Whether it’s your first, or you’ve done hundreds of races, completing a triathlon is an accomplishment. After all the post-race celebrations, it is important to take some time to recover before you get back into training. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sprint or Ironman event, rest and recovery is key.

Ultimately, depending on your training experience, conditioning and type of triathlon, your recovery time will vary.

Start of the Tecumseh Triathlon. Photo: Brad Reiter

Related: How to get ready for your first triathlon

Be mindful. If you start training too early, it may increase your risk of injury, but also cause chronic fatigue. So, take the time to celebrate the accomplishment and reward yourself with long mornings in bed and leisurely bike rides to your favourite cafe.

Here are some general guidelines to follow to help you recover.

The finish at Ironman Boulder 2019. Photo: Jordan Bryden

Recovery Time

To know the proper recovery time for yourself, you must first know yourself well and listen to your body. Several factors can affect your recovery time:

  • The time of the year and the number of competitions you have already done this season. 
  • Your level of exhaustion at the end of a triathlon.
  • Race climate conditions also significantly affect recovery. A triathlon in very cold conditions like the Norseman will have a significant energy impact on your body, independent of your effort (maintaining body temperature). An Ironman in hot and humid conditions, like the Ironman World Championship, can also significantly affect your recovery time (dehydration).

Related: How to move up to the Ironman distance

Glycogen Stores

When your glycogen stores are completely depleted, it means that you have made a significant physical effort. In less than 48 hours, by consuming a high quantity of carbohydrates, glycogen stores can be filled.

Related: How to train for your first half-Ironman

Light Activity

It is necessary to take the time to recover well, but it’s more important to listen to your body. This doesn’t prevent you from being active, but before you resume intense training, it is important to be careful. Non-impact activities such as swimming and cycling are a great way to promote blood flow and help with recovery. It is also advisable to see your physiotherapist or massage therapist to flush out any excess inflammation or treat injuries following the race.

Easy ride to flush the legs. Photo: Pearl Izumi and iracelikeagirl

Related: What I learned in my first 70.3

The benefit of good nutrition

Your nutrition following a race will also have a massive impact on your recovery. First, think about drinking fluids and consuming electrolytes. Then eat or drink carbohydrates and protein with a 4:1 ration (4g of carbs for 1g of protein). Carbohydrates are essential for restoring your glycogen stores, and proteins will promote recovery. Following the event, think of eating foods rich in antioxidants and minerals, such as berries, bananas, vegetables such as broccoli, kale, garlic and dark chocolate to reduce inflammation.