You Finished an Ironman, Now What?

Training Recommendations:

  • Swim: If you wanted to, or needed to, you could probably pick up your "normal" Ironman swim schedule right away...if you wanted or needed to.
  • Bike: No cycling during the week. Maybe a very easy ride on Saturday, totally social, no geekometers or anything. Just enjoy not training on your bike, looking around, finding a new route—but all only if you want to.
  • Run: Nope, no running. Period. Too soon.

Week 2

Observations:

  • You feel much better but, if you push the pace in anything, you still feel flat. This flat feeling will very likely carry over through the weekend. Don't expect too much, if anything, from yourself this week.

Training Recommendations:

  • Swim: You're probably back on your normal swim schedule.
  • Bike: You're back to your normal cycling frequency, but not intensity. Maybe you do your normally scheduled ride(s) during the week (but nothing hard), and on your normal Saturday ride you test out the fast legs to see what's up. Don't be surprised to still feel flat.
  • Run: We recommend you don't run at all until this second weekend, almost two weeks after your race, maybe Friday at the earliest. This first run should be very, very easy.

Week 3

Observations:

  • You're nearly back to your normal self by the end of this week.
  • We are still cautious with the run.

Training Recommendations:

  • Swim: Your normal schedule.
  • Bike: Back to normal in terms of frequency, volume, and intensity.
  • Run: Back to your normal frequency, still light on the volume, and your first pre-IM flavor run is on the weekend. Yes, that's three weeks post-race.

Week 4

You're basically back in the training game. If you've followed our advice, you're likely ready to start rebuilding your fitness. Some of you still might not be mentally or physically ready to hit it again, and if that's the case please continue to stand down until you feel ready. There's nothing like some overzealous workouts to suck the fun out of training.

The Rest of Your Season

Now that we've laid out what to expect from your body post-Ironman and our broad recommendations for how to work through it, let's lay out your realistic expectations for the remainder of your season. Consider:

  • You probably tapered for two to three weeks before your race. Losing a bit of endurance but gaining speed by allowing your body to fully recover.

  • On race day, you drove it into the ground with a 10- to 17-hour event.

  • You then took your time, smartly so, getting back on the training horse. You weren't fully back into the game until the weekend of the third week.

So, between the taper, the race, and the three weeks of recovery, you've done a good bit of de-training for about four to six weeks, depending on how you look at it.

In Week Four you are now going to start rebuilding that fitness. For this reason, we encourage you to have the following expectations regarding racing. For races within:

  • 4 Weeks: Frankly, waste of time and money unless it's something cool you want to do. You will have a tough day, unless you are a true freak.

  • 5 Weeks: See above, but less so. Your mileage will vary.

  • 6 Weeks: This is the absolute minimum time required to "maybe," on your absolute best day, have a repeat performance of your Ironman. There is a reason why Ironman Canada, usually about six weeks out from Kona, is the last qualifier: six weeks is the minimum to have realistic expectations of maybe repeating your Canada performance.

    And we're not just talking about following up an Ironman with another 140.6. Six weeks is a tight turn for you to have a decent race at any distance. You simply have not had enough time to build your fitness back up.

  • 8 Weeks: You have a better chance of having a good, PR race, but it's still a tight turn. Eight weeks is the minimum amount of time we would recommend you schedule a race that you wanted to do well in.

  • 12 Weeks: This is doable. You're back on your game and you can realistically schedule and expect to have an A-race with a PR-potential experience.

Regardless of your post-Ironman path, don't lose sight of what you have accomplished. Take the time to recover physically and mentally and you'll be a better athlete—and human—because of it!

Active logo Find and register for a shorter triathlon or plan for another Ironman Race next year.

Endurance Nation is the world's only 400-person long-course triathlon team, with 20 to 30 athletes in every U.S. Ironman this season. Download the Endurance Nation Ironman Race Kit for FREE! The Kit includes: The Four Keys to Ironman Execution eBook, six 30-minute preview videos of our Ironman Course Talks, and the Ironman Transition Training Plan eBook, a comprehensive guide for the "what now" questions rattling around in your head post-race. The kit is our gift to you, as a demonstration of our committment to changing the Ironman training, racing, and coaching game!

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