Life after Ironman is a strange place for the average age-grouper who’s had the race at the forefront of their focus for so many months, maybe even years. For a pro triathlete or an age-grouper in search of Kona, they will have a clear plan as to what comes next. But, if like 95% of athletes, completing an Ironman is the pinnacle of your goals, and you don’t have more races on the horizon, then you must prepare for life after the race.
Everybody’s IM race experience is different; the physical and mental exertions that have gone into it will differ, so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to your post-race plan. One thing’s for certain, though – the training, the build-up and the race will leave you with some level of fatigue that must be factored into your post-race plan.
Adopting a complete no-training approach is not the best policy, mainly because it’s a little bit ‘cold turkey’, with too much of a significant shift in training volume. You’ve trained your body to be able to sustain 10hrs+ per week, so dropping to zero is too much of a shock and may leave you lethargic. It can also have a major effect on your waistline. After months and months of training, consuming large volumes of calories, it can be tricky to get the calories in vs calories out balance right as your metabolism will still be craving large amounts of food.
So finding the right balance is key, and this is best achieved with a plan that reduces in volume by approximately 40-60% in duration and keeps the amount of high-intensity training time to a minimum. A sensible approach is to have 2-3 complete rest days per week for at least the first month post IM. Training sessions would have a ‘recovery’ feel to them, with a lot less concern about pace/power/speed, instead training for enjoyment. Taking a day-to-day approach where you train/have a rest day if you feel like it is reasonable, but be careful not to drift into every day being a rest day.
Another addition is to include variations of the normal swim/bike/run, e.g mountain biking or more gym work.
Do 6-8 weeks of light training while you allow your body and mind the time to recover before tackling your next big tri adventure. Starting back too quickly can lead to injury and early burn-out. So let your body lead the way; it’ll let you know when you’re ready to start serious training again.