13 Ironman Triathlon Recovery Tips - Recover Faster!!!

What does crossing this line mean to you now?
Finishing an Ironman is a huge accomplishment but it is also extremely taxing on the body. It can take weeks to even months to fully recovery from an Ironman race. While the soreness may disappear in a few days there are things happening internally that your body may not see or feel.

These tips will help your entire body recover faster. There isn't a magic recovery pill so treat recovery like you treat training and take it seriously and you will benefit. You may not be able to see or feel a difference by following one single tip but do many of the tips over and over again and it will lead to faster recovery!!!

Night of race

A must post race for DIY protein drinks
#1 - Drink a protein shake as soon as possible after the race. This will start the recovery process as soon as possible. You will get plenty of carbs at the food tent, but there are usually no easily digestible protein options so have a family member bring one of these to you shortly after the race. You can stop at the local drug store and get a six pack of Ensure. I prefer to put some whey protein isolate in a Blender Bottle as I drink protein shakes everyday. It doesn't really matter as long as there are some quick absorbing proteins in it. Whey is quick absorbing.

#2 - Keep moving - the night of the Ironman you might have a trouble sleeping either because of pain and discomfort, or because you took a whole lot of caffeine. If need be, go for a 30 minute walk before bed. Light movement is the best thing you can do for your body post race to flush the legs.

#3 - Sit in recovery boots. If you are fortunate enough to own a pair of recovery boots then sit in them for 30 minutes before going to bed. No doubt you saw Normatec at the Ironman expo. Although expensive, they are a MUST OWN tool for any serious athlete. They are so relaxing and help to remove move waste an fluid from the legs.

There are systems out there that are just as good as Normatec at half the price. My favorite system these days is Speed Hound. I did a review of them here - Speed Hound vs Normatec. You can get them for as little as $650 with the discount provided in the review.

Recovery Boots - A must for flushing all the edema post Ironman
#4 - Drink another protein shake right before bed

Post Race - Day 1 

I prefer pure Whey Isolate from reputable brands like ON
#1 - Drink a protein shake for breakfast and a glass of water. Your body needs fuel and protein to continue the recovery process. Have this before your normal breakfast. Real food takes too long to break down and you want to keep the recovery process going.

#2 - Keep moving - if there are morning festivities for the race, attend them and try to go for a light walk before and after.

#3 - Avoid caffeine - caffeine is going to add further stress to the system. Avoid it if you can as it will speed up recovery. I understand there may be situations where you need caffeine, like you have a long drive home and you need to stay awake but the more you can avoid caffeine the faster you will recover

#4 - Drink lots of water - your body could easily be 10lbs heavier than before the race. Ironmans are incredibly tough on the body and cankles and fluid build up (edema) is quite common. Your body is holding on to a ton of fluid for a variety of reasons, but it is important to keep drinking water to help clear waste.

For my body at my usual effort it can take days to get back to a normal weight. Depending on how fit you are, your body type, and how deep you had to dig in relationship to your fitness, your retention period will vary. Regardless this is not a 70.3. Ironmans really tax the body and you may not be used to this kind of swelling.

#5 - Take a nap. If you have the time take a nap. The more naps the better. Don't think of naps as being lazy, think of them as aiding the recovery process.

Bromelain ie Pineapple Enzyme -
 Natural anti-inflammatory + Breaks down proteins
#6 - Avoid NSAIDs and other painkillers. Anti-inflammatories are going to be hard on your system. If you need something for pain look to natural anti-inflammatories like Bromelain, the enzyme in Pineapple that is an anti-inflammatory. You can buy Bromelain itself which is extracted from Pineapple and is very affordable. It also aids in the breakdown of proteins which will also help the recovery process. My recommendation is this Source Naturals 2-pack. 240 tablets in total.

#7 - Drink a protein shake for lunch and dinner along with normal food.

#8 - Take short frequent walks - this really helps promote blood flow and flushes the legs.

#9 - No running - Let the body heal, swimming, walking, and light spinning for movement.

#10 - Take a Epsom Salt Bath - Epsom salt can help relieve general soreness with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) - this is what you are feeling.

Epsom salt baths can promote bloodflow and helps with DOMS

#11 - Spend more time in the recovery compression boots - if you have them, keep using them Ideally spend 2x30 minute sessions a day.

#12 - Take off work - hopefully you took a few days off work for your Ironman. If not consider it.

#13 - Be cognizant of germs - post-Ironman you have little to no immune system and it is very easy to get sick. I am not a stickler in general about germs but post-Ironman it is a good thing to think about and be a little more preventative. Often times post race you can't find any hand sanitizer but it is a great thing for your family to pack.

Post Race - Day 2

Post race day 2 is very similar to post race day 1. I won't re-write the tips, but you want to continue to do everything from Day 1.

If you are traveling via air and you have a long flight you want to make sure you get up mid flight and walk around a bit. You could very easily be even more sore on day 2. In addition, you might feel an overwhelming sense of lethargy. Believe me, although you can't feel or hear it, your heart is telling you that it is very tired.

If you are up to it, and have the energy, swimming is the best rehabilitation. Keep it very short and very easy. You can also walk or do a very light spin to promote recovery.

Post Race - Day 3

Re-read day 1 and day 2. The only real change on Day 3 is I add in some foam rolling to help facilitate recovery of the muscles and tissue. You can also get a massage as a replacement for foam rolling. You can stop the Epsom salt baths or you can continue as well for relaxation purposes.

If you don't already foam roll then it is a good thing to get in habit of doing. Unfortunately, my favorite foam roller is a little tough on people who don't already foam roll. If you do foam roll, you will never go back to your old foam roller once you get use to the Rumble Roller. My preference is the firm black version for home and I have the blue (softer) in the smaller version that I take with me in my carry-on.

Rumble Roller - The best 'torture device' / foam roller in the world.

Post Race - Day 4

Again re-read the prior days. There is no additions and subtractions on day 4. Day 4 is the last day of what I call the "acute recovery phase".

Post Race - Day 5-7

There is less of need for hydration and protein shakes. You can resume your normal diet and your daily coffee. Your body may or may not be back in equilibrium - if you are someone who frequently weighs themselves, you may weigh yourself but keep in mind you may still be holding on to a lot of water.

Personally I do a lot of swimming after an Ironman but I do this for a living so I need to keep working towards my next event. I will usually see a lot of fluid come out of my body during my swims on Day 3 and Day 4.

When it comes to eating, I suggest people be mindful of what they are eating. Likely your immediate soreness is gone but your body may still have weeks and months ahead of it to fully recovery.  It is perfectly acceptable to gain a few pounds, but remember your body doesn't necessarily need the same amount of fuel as it did during training.

I would keep any exercise to really easy swimming and biking to continue to promote bloodflow and recovery of the tissues. Walking is always good too. Your own feel is your best barometer.

Post Race - Week 2 

The focus of week 2 should be dictated by a variety of factors including your future goals. Some people will never do another triathlon or Ironman again, while others were itching to get back to training the day after the race. What is important is to be mindful of what you need personally.

Regardless of your future plans, know that you spent a lot of time training for your Ironman race. You probably spent so much time that the training may have defined who you are and gave you a real sense of purpose. It might be difficult to fill your day without the training so work to fill it with other activities.

Be aware that there is such a thing as the post-Ironman blues and it is a common feeling. That sense of purpose plus all the endorphins from exercise is a great feeling. My suggestion is to make fitness a life long process even if you never do another Ironman again. However, if you don't feel like exercising then take this time and spend it on family, friends, work and other hobbies you may have neglected in your training. If you want to continue your Ironman journey then start planning the next one.


  1. You sure about that 1000km swim the day after the race ;)

    1. Def not, thank you for bringing that to my attention. I will promptly edit :)

  2. Umm it's now post IMMT 2017 and it still says a 1000km swim ��

    1. Multiple occurrences. Only fixed one last year. Thanks for the reminder :)

  3. Love the article, and I think I may get some boots finally.. Any advice on a quick-ish turnaround for another IM?

    Had a bad day at IMMT and I'm looking at IMMD to bounce back for a KQ.. hoping to ride my fitness through one more race.

  4. It really depends on exactly how much you tapered and what you did on race day. Wrap your head around the emotional component that comes with not having your day and talk it thru with your coach (if you have one) to develop a plan to maximize your fitness for IMMD. That might mean a couple of really solid weeks of training starting as early as today or it might mean a few days of recovery then start a mini-build. Without knowing more about your entire program that is the best advice I can provide. With that being said, you can likely have an even better day at IMMD if all goes well.