How much rest do triathletes need?
We explain how much training time you should spend at easier intensity, what an 'active recovery day' is, and whether you should take entire days off to let the body recover
Recovery is an integral part of the training mix (says current 220 coach of the year Simon Ward). Training breaks the body down and recovery (combined with good nutrition) promotes the repair through which the muscles grow stronger.
If you look closely at the training programmes of the pro athletes you’ll see that many of them don’t routinely take a day off. They will, however, have a combination of hard and easy days. It’s difficult to squeeze in a 30–40hr training week in seven days and even more so with only six. But a full-time athlete can build recovery time into a normal day too.
For age-groupers who will most likely have a full-time job and maybe a family to look after as well, these additional responsibilities bring extra stress in addition to training. Stressors are cumulative and, when you add that training into the mix, there’s more to recover from.
That’s why I recommend that age-group triathletes try to either build in a full recovery day each week or at least an ‘active recovery’ day. Active recovery allows for some activity at a very low level which promotes blood circulation, replacement of vitamins and minerals and so on, without creating additional fatigue.
The problems start when the active recovery workout becomes a low-level endurance workout and as a result the built-in recovery element is bypassed. An alternative would be to just train hard until you feel like recovery, but this is sometimes badly judged and athletes find themselves getting ill or injured as a result, which ultimately ends up in time off anyway. On top of that, it’s frustrating and maybe even painful.
Perhaps the optimal course of action is to train hard for 2–3 weeks (with either one active recovery or full rest day) and then have seven days of easier training with a full rest day.
For lots more performance advice head to our Training section