Congratulations on finishing your third full week of triathlon training! You should be feeling like a true triathlete in training! By now, some of your initial muscle soreness should be abating. You should be feeling somewhat challenged from day to day, but not completely exhausted. You may be thinking that it would be great if you could just rest up a little and hit the workouts again next week. In that case, your thinking is perfect. This week is a recovery week!

Recovery is vital for good performance in your daily workouts, as well as being able to continue to function well at work and at home as a spouse or a parent. The weekend chores aren’t going to go away just because you have a triathlon coming up, so it’s important that you learn ways to manage your time and maximize your energy from day to day and from week to week.

You’ll notice that all the workout durations are significantly reduced, although you are still training each discipline 2x per week. Because the workouts are shorter, you may want to combine two short workouts in one day, and take an additional day of complete rest. Because all of the workouts are shorter, you shouldn’t have any trouble completing them. But if you still struggled completing any of last weeks workouts, cut back on this week’s prescribed workout just a little bit more than what is suggested. Don’t cut out any workouts completely, however, because it’s important to maintain your “feel” especially for technique oriented sports like swimming.

Recovery is vital on many levels, including daily, weekly, monthly and annually. On a daily basis, if you plan to do more than one workout in a day, you should allow 4-6 hours at least between workouts. This includes activities that you may not consider a workout, like doing heavy yard-work over the weekend, or helping your brother-in-law stack bricks or rake gravel. Ideally, you would be able to do your important workout prior to doing other physical activities so that you can devote your energy to good technique and mental focus. For triathlon training, the only exception to this rule is when doing “Bricks”. Bricks are back to back workouts designed to mimic the actual race environment when transitioning from one sport to the next. I will devote an entire article to Bricks in the 3rd month of this program. Otherwise you shouldn’t have to work about “two-a-days” if you are following the “first time finisher’s” program here, as there are none on the schedule except for the last week of the program.

on a weekly basis, you need to give your body at least one full rest day from any physical activity. Things like light stretching or a walk after dinner are nice, but try not to exert yourself to much beyond those light activities. If you want to keep your mind focused on triathlon, you may want to devote your off day to reading some triathlon magazines or doing weekly cleaning & maintainance on your bicycle. This will keep you focused & motivated while giving your body a rest. Remember, it is only while resting that your body & muscles grow stronger.

On a monthly basis, you need to cut back your training volume and intensity every 3-4 weeks to allow all the training you’ve been doing to “catch up”. your body needs a break from the physical stress & impact, particularly from running. Bones, tendons & ligaments take much longer to strengthen than muslces do, and this “recovery” week helps your body continue to get stronger and consolidate all the fitness you’ve been building up to this point.

On an annual basis, everyone needs a physical and mental break from the intensity of triathlon training. Many people will take an entire month off from structured training. While they continue to be active, they cast aside a structured training plan, and just do what sounds fun. or they try new activities that they haven’t had time for yet. Some people will devote themselves toa different sport in the winter like skiing or hockey or indoor tennis leagues. This cross traning is not only great for your body, but also for your mind. A healthy variety of activies throughout a year keeps you excited to return to traithlon season for the following year.

Many people consider triathlon their primary sport and continue to train for it all year round. These athletes should still incorporate anywhere from a week to a month of totally unstructured training before beginning their “off-season” training plans in November or December. Just be careful that you don’t allow these few weeks to become “Couch potato season” or you will spend twice as much time getting back up to where you left off. A one month “NetFlix movie marathon” will result in losing 3 months of fitness as you work those additional 2 months to get back to where you were. So take a break, but continue to be active, just in an unstructured way.