7 KEY Principles (and Tips) on Recovery for Triathlon

Periodization, Recovery, Triathlon -

7 KEY Principles (and Tips) on Recovery for Triathlon

Training makes you worse and Recovery (or proper rest) makes you better.

The whole time we are training we are putting the body into a state of overreaching (vs. overtraining) and this forces the body into an adaptation phase that only manifests properly when we rest.

A proper training plan, appropriate to the individual athlete and a feedback loop with a good coach will also enhance this process. Here are some general principals:


1. Periodization specific to recovery

There are 3 phases that are critical to periodization when it comes to achieving optimal recovery.   

Firstly is the macrocycle:

This is how long your entire buildup is.  As a general rule, a training plan may last for a minimum of 8 weeks and a maximum of 24 weeks (for a seasoned athlete).  The longer your entire training plan is, without a quality 2-4 week 'rest period' the greater your chances of an injury.

The macro-cycle is also highly dependant on the length of race you will compete in.  Here is a quick overview:

  • Supersprint: 8 weeks
  • Sprint: 12 weeks
  • Olympic Distance: 12-16 weeks
  • 1/2 IM and Ironman: 16-24 weeks

Aside from an elevated risk of injury from extending these macro-cycles, you also run the risk of getting mentally 'stale'.   Managing your mental state is extremely important to long term success with a triathlon or any other endurance sport.

Inter-block recovery:

Once again, a full program should NOT BE a linear build.  There should be weeks of stressing the body (loading) followed by a week of destressing the body (recovery).   The goal is to allow the body to capture and integrate the gains from the 'stress weeks'.   

As a rule here is a typical inter-block load/ recovery cycle:

  • Novice/ beginner athlete: 1 week of load, 1 week of rest
  • Age Group athletes:  2 weeks load, 1-week rest
  • Advanced/ Professional or athletes who have a low risk of injury or HIGH ability to recover:  Up to 3 weeks of load, 1-week rest

Please note.  Just because a 3:1 is the loading structure that many pros will use, this doesn't mean its the best.   The inter-block cycle that is best for you, is whatever will give you the best adaptation from your training.   Managing your EGO for this is critical for your long term success.

Inter-week recovery:

Within a week, there should also be recovery cycles.

Again this will depend on:

  • Years in the sport
  • Generic pre-dispositions to recovery
  • What else is going on in your life, as stress is cumulative both physically and mentally
  • Your ability to use other recovery modalities below

Once again as a broad-based rule, you should follow these broad-based principles to manage your inter-week recovery:

  • One Day for seasoned athletes
  • Two days for age group athletes
  • Possibly a day-on, day-off cycle, for a complete newbie

Recovery may not mean simply sit on the couch and do nothing!

Recovery may be something like:

  • A walk with the family
  • Easy swim in the pool
  • Ride to work 

Or an activity such as a stand-up paddle, rock climbing, yoga.


When we break the rules when it comes to periodization and recovery:

Every coach will have their own method, however, we always believe it is better to skip 2-3 days or up to a week, in order to avoid and injury or sickness, rather than pushing through and ending up being out for 4-8 weeks!

The game is consistency, so knowing the warning signs and also using other modalities of recovery as mentioned below are essential.

 Sleep for triathlon recovery


2 - Sleep and Recover

Sleep is vitally important and its the first question we ask athletes who are falling sick or plateauing. Most quality wearable devices these days will allow you to track the key variables of sleep.  These are:

  • # of hours of sleep
  • REM phase
  • Deep Sleep phase
  • Light Sleep phase
  • Restlessness
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV) 

Our tracking device of choice is the Oura Ring

Oura Ring



Tactics to get better sleep:

  • Switch off the gadgets and social media and get this done
  • Get an Earthing mat
  • Modulate core body temperature with a cooling mat
  • Wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening (from 6 pm on)
  • Stop working, playing games and on social media 
  • Do something such as write in a journal, about key aspects of the day, what went well, what went wrong, things to do and your goals!
  • Decrease restlessness by taking supplements such as quality magnesium and BCAA's before sleep
  • Burn a candle and enjoy some relaxing sleep or calmness inducing oils



3. Training intensity

Correct intensity at the appropriate time in your program is one of the toughest things to get right.   For most athletes, they train much too fast too early in a plan.  

The downside of this is that:

  • Their body is not optimized for recovery yet
  • Over-stressing the body too early will increase the potential for injury and also sickness


4.  Nutrition

Eating a well-balanced diet of nutrient-dense food for best recovery.

You should know your key markers such as your macronutrient makeup of:

  • Fat
  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein

Depending on your body type and phase, you may adjust your eating, to ensure that you are keeping sufficient weight on to cope for the training load, or dropping weight at a sufficient rate as you progress through the speed phase and into the taper.


5.  Mental recovery

As we are primarily focused on training gains, often one seriously overlooked aspect of recovery is mental.

  • On your rest day doing things that help take your mind off your metrics are things like:
  • A night at the movies
  • Spending a day with loved ones of friends (as your probably not doing much of this the rest of the time)
  • Or simply taking time out alone

The goal is to allow yourself to mentally refresh


6. Active Compression Technology and release for recovery

If you want to take your recovery up to a new level there is now technology that takes the old 'compression socks' to an entirely new level!

Our product of choice is Recovery Systems

Here is the list of benefits that the Recovery Systems pneumatic compression technology supports!


7.  Sports massage

There are various forms of sports massage that you can do.

Firstly at home, you can be using:

  • A foam roller
  • A massage gun
  • Various types of trigger point balls

However, if you really want to stay on top of knots it is critical in a repetitive motion sport like Triathlon to book in a weekly massage!

Yes we know that massage hurts, but this can be something to do on a rest day, to continue your recovery process, and also keep your body maintained.