Triathlon Training Intensity: Know When to Back Off or Take Off

Triathletes typically have Type A personalities. We’re goal setters, “go-getters,” and overachievers. Instead of training for one sport, we train for three. 

Our grocery carts replicate the fresh produce and meat department, our cars look like a sporting goods sale, and there’s never a time when we’re caught up on laundry or washing water bottles.

We spend a wealth of time researching how to eliminate a few more ounces on the bike and pouring over cadence, power, and heart rate data. And we have the ability to push through uncomfortable training in order to make athletic progress.

But the personality characteristics that are associated with these activities can also get us in trouble. We have to know when to back off, or even take off.  

Sure, learning to push through workouts can give us a physical and mental edge come race day, but there’s still a time and place when we need to evaluate if pushing through a workout is doing more harm than good.

In fact, it is physically and mentally necessary to occasionally take a day off. But how do you know when? The following criteria can help you determine if you need to back off or take off:

  1. Illness: Use the “neck check” to determine if you should work out while not feeling 100%. If your symptoms are above the neck, such as a headache or stuffy nose, you can workout but be mindful about the possible need to back off.  Symptoms below the neck and affecting the entire body, such as fever, body aches, or upset stomach, require you to take off so your body can heal. 
  2. Injury: It’s possible to stay active while recovering from an injury, but you must be careful to choose activities and intensities that allow for healing.  Consider activities that allow you to back off but maintain good form. If an injury is compromising your form, stop. Take off. Altering your form may create additional injuries.

Don’t worry about missing an occasional workout. A day off here and there can allow for both a physical and mental reset. Consistency is the key to continued progress.

And results that take off!

TriDot Takeaways:

It’s best to miss a day or two of training and return healthy than to push it and end up missing a week – or more!

A coach is a great resource to help athletes determine if they need to back off or take a day off.

TriDot Talk:

What are your determining factors in knowing when to push through and when to shut it down during a workout?

Elizabeth James is an IRONMAN, a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, and a TriDot Coach. She made the transition from running marathons to triathlon in 2012 and has completed sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and full IRONMAN distances. She and her husband, Charles, live in Garland, Texas.

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