NEW COURSES Triathlon Swim Schools in Ashby and Loughborough starting April 2017

Rest Days

by Jason Doherty
(Breaston, Derbys. GB)

When should I schedule rest days into my triathlon training plan? I'm following a plan that has every fourth week as a rest & recuperation week. There are no specifics as to when I should take a day off in the week (if I should have to?).

Does this mean I train for three weeks and then take some time off during the R&R week or do I need to take a day off training during the base/build week? Or could it be the case of taking a day off every tenth or fourteenth day?

I need to work my plan out around my local Triathlon group which has literally just formed where we have a coached swim on a Saturday, bike on Tuesday nights & run on a Thursday night! I feel I want/need to attend these!!

Another question I have for you too is; What is the furthest apart I can have my 'A' races & keep up my race level as I have two 'A' races three weeks apart.

And, what would your suggestion be as to what sort of R&R I should have in between?

Also, let me congratulate you on a brilliant informative website!

Kindest Regards
Jason Doherty

Intelligent Triathlon Training replies:

ice-bath
First I'll answer the rest and recovery issue:

There are actually lots of ways of doing this, and no one way is better than others as a rule.

The key thing though is that the body is allowed to recover and adapt to the stress you've placed on it.

For most of our elites we work on a 2-3 week block of work, with no rest days, followed by up to 7 days of a combination of very light training and days off.

Bear in mind though they will have achieved very high volumes and possibly high intensity during the block of work.

For some of our age group clients we also employ the same plan, however to do this you usually need to be not doing too much training on 1-2 days a week (I.e. 1 x easy session) or be very well trained. For other less well-trained clients we could use a regular day off, if the schedule allows it may be 1 in 7 days, but could be 1 in 10-12.

Different ways of getting the rest affects people in different ways, so experimenting is the best way until you can learn from experience what works for you.

Consider also that you may change over time, so initially you may need that day off each week, but as you become better and better able to manage the training load you may need to evolve your plans.

The key things we consider when deciding what to do are:


  1. Past history: What you’ve done before and how you responded (training diaries, logs and data are very useful here)

  2. What's the purpose of the training phase: If it's high volume overload, then we don't usually take a day off; if it's high quality speed work then rest and recovery is important to make sure that you can hit the highs!

  3. Current status: Even we didn't plan to take time off there are times to modify the plan. If you are getting very fatigued too early in a phase then you may need to take a day or two to get back on top of things. This can happen because of external factors like work, family, illness that you haven't planned for, or because a session has been harder/higher stress than you figured. Be ready to adapt.


You usually need more rest than you think. It happens all the time, athletes do a big block, have a few days off, feel better, train again, then go through a lull after 3 - 5 days because they haven't fully recovered, then need more time off; disrupting the phase and rhythm of training.

There is no perfect answer for an individual, so understanding why and how you take rest is key to enable you to plan and adapt training.

A Races:

If they are two Ironmans then that's pushing your luck a bit! If it's two sprints then 3 weeks shouldn't be a problem.

An Ironman will batter your body and produce lots of muscle damage, which will need to be repaired; the total load of the event will also be off the scale! So this would take much longer to recover from.

A sprint will not do that much damage, even if you are able go flat out all the way. So for a reasonably well trained athlete, 3 weeks is no problem to recover.

In fact that could be perfect, if you've done the work and are in good form and recover well then there is no reason why you won't hold form over that time.

De-training takes about 2 weeks to really start, so even if you did nothing for 2 weeks you wouldn't be noticeably less fit. Your form might not be great, as your feel for each discipline will be off, but this is neurological and will return quickly with some sessions.

Assuming you don't taken 2 weeks completely off you should be able to get 7-10 days of training in between the races.

Remember though, big sessions are pointless as similar to de-training, the training effect and adaptation also takes time. You do a big session a week before a race, and it won't really take effect for between 7-21 days (depending upon the session).

Sessions can have an effect, but they are more for feel and activation than actual training.

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