Recovery for Older Athletes

Hi there; I’ve built a plan using the Plan program that consists of 6 days a week on low volume. I have 4 races of which 2 are A races and one is an Ironman in November. What do you recommend as far as recovery because at my age over 50 getting through a 6 day workout leaves little time for recovery and unfortunately that gift has left the building a long time ago. I tried to modify my plan to 5 days but I don’t see the option in the Plan. I was hoping to put in 5 tough days and 2 good days of recovery to allow me the time to rest without the feeling of fatigue in all my workouts. I don’t want to burn out or over train and lose my enthusiasm. I’m eating very well, adding salt, sleep is great but this has become a real issue for me and I just need to know how to handle it so that I continue training. Training has always been a huge part of my life and sanity between running over 30 marathons, competing in Crossfit and recently falling in love with cycling I can’t stop now. By the way I trained for 3 months to get to the level of fitness to go on Trainer Road cycling 3x’s a week and swimming twice. Basically 5 days works well.

When do you plan rest weeks?

I’ve read about older athletes doing 2 weeks hard / 1 week easy. I even heard about a master triathlete doing 1 week hard / 1 week easy. Another scenario is a hard day, medium day, easy day, day off, repeat.

I turned 53 last year. One thing that really, really helped was 12 week of old school Z2 base miles. After doing a proper base phase, I was able to handle the higher intensity stuff without needing so much rest.


From what I have seen on TR is the incorporation of rest weeks as mentioned above. Build them into your plan and you will most likely do just fine. In my 60’s now and it gets harder to recover from really hard workouts. Build in the necessary recovery. I train 6 days a week but keep one or two of those days as an easy/light workout as needed.

I’ve been studying the work of Jan Olbrecht. He wrote “The Science of Winning”. One thing that really stood out to me is that training is about breaking yourself down, rest time is about building yourself up. He calls rest weeks ‘super compensation weeks’. The rest period is when you get stronger/faster. Don’t short change your rest!


Thank you all good advice, I guess you have to find out what works best for you at this age. My problem is the 6 days a week doesn’t allow for real rest. I’m training for an IM and realize it takes lots of training and dedication but was hoping by removing an easy day that I could stay on track with the intensity of the program. I’ve allowed myself 10 months to train for the race. My question is what do I do with that easy day work out which consists of running and swimming as cycling is going well. Those missed workouts should I add more to distance/time for swim/run during the other workouts? So happy to see over 50 athlete’s working so hard and accomplishing huge goals. This is a great time of our life!!

If you haven’t already, I suggest you read Joe Friel’s “Fast After 50”. Lots of interesting and thought-provoking information in there, including the concept of the nine day training week (Google it).


It sounds like you are finding out that you are not able to tolerate this level of workload.

5 tough days is too much intensity. Most pros or elites don’t even put in this much intensity. You have to think more in terms of 2 days of intensity and 4 days of easier zone 1/2 work. I know that in triathlon lots of gains can be made working on swimming and running technique - those kinds of workouts can be done at low intensity.

And I mentioned it before but how big is your aerobic base? I was in your position last year - fatigued, trying to ride 5-7 days per week. A few days of intensity would kill me and then I’d be on the couch and needing to take an easy week. I found great success by dialing out almost all the intensity and doing 10-14 hours a week of long slow base miles. Through this period I did only one day of intensity - my Saturday group ride.

After 8 weeks of the above I was breaking all of my Strava PRs and performing better than ever on my Saturday group ride.

Anyway, you have 10 months. First build a gigantic base at low intensity. Bring in the sweet spot and threshold workouts in a few months. Toss in a short block of VO2 max. Rinse / repeat.

I’ve heard that Joe Friel’s triathlon book is good. I’d also recommend listening to That Triathlon Show podcast. I’m not even a triathlete and I love the show for the general training information.

In fact the Joe Friel episode was pretty good.

Get a podcast app and listen while you workout!

Like I tell my wife before her races- “Don’t get hurt, have fun, do well”. At our age, “Don’t get hurt” trumps everything. Listen to your body on effort and recovery. If 6 days per week is too much, then (wait for it) 6 days per week is too much. Don’t latch on to an arbitrary schedule.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you read Joe Friel’s “Fast After 50”. Lots of interesting and thought-provoking information in there, including the concept of the nine day training week (Google it).

I couldn’t agree with this one enough, I am not yet fifty, just a spry 46, but I read it with the idea I would learn some general info about performance as we age, and it’s been hugely beneficial to me. I have completely changed my mindset as to what I can do and continue to do over the next decade.

I have definitely felt the onset of delayed recovery, of course, and I do everything I can to enhance the bodies ability to streamline it. I’ve changed my eating habits, I’ve changed my recovery habits, I’ve changed my workload planning, and I know it will get worse, but I’m trying really hard to hang on to it.

You should check out Nutrient Timing too, I found almost immediate success with some of those principles.

good luck!

At 65, I set up SSBMV with every 3rd week being 3 zone 2 rides as recovery. Problem is, as I come up to the 3rd week, I feel real good, and think I might push the recovery out a week. Opinions welcome

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on that 3rd week don’t make it a full recovery week. First step to try is doing two zone 2 rides and then an intensity workout.

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I was going to 2 2hr and one 3 hr ride, Maybe I’ll throw in one SSB ride instead of one of the 2 hr rides.

I don’t feel that I got a lot out of Fast After 50. Friel likes strength training and HIIT. He poo poos long slow distance quite a bit. But, guess what, I did tons of LSD and polarized training and got a huge fitness boost. I still did one day of intensity in the form of a group ride.

Also 65 (66 in a few months). Used Plan Builder, but thinking a mod like the z1/2 recover weeks makes sense. I’ll have to do some searching here as I recall @mcneese.chad posting about modifying the base plans for more recovery aspects.

Would love to see “older athlete” variations as one of the factors in plan design vs having to manually tweak. I would think from a market POV it would meet a significant current (and even larger future) need.


Here is my alternate for Sweet Spot timing. The same concept could be applied to other 3:1 default timing, to get 2:1 timing. Just takes some juggling of weeks and a few workouts.

Thanks, Chad. You are quick! :smile:

I’ll give this a deeper look. It certainly makes sense when working when sequencing the standard SSB1 and SSB2 standard plans. What is more challenging (and goes beyond my pay grade) is understanding what tuning Plan Builder has already done with base plans to optimize toward specific events, and then trying to figure out the implications of further potential mods to accommodate additional recovery needs of older athletes.

That’s where the thought about additional criteria for Plan Builder comes in. Seems like my two options are a DIY approach to tweaking standards plan sections or using Plan Builder based on existing criteria and events. In both a user has to bring additional knowledge to the table or leverage the community here to go beyond the current capabilities of TR to design a more individually-based plan.


Yup, I like the concept and goals of PB, but it doesn’t address what I think works best for me in SSB at least. That new timing is working well for me in my 2nd year applying it.

I hope there will be more control and custom adjustments possible in the PB in the future. As it is now, its nice to set a basic goal, but it falls short in the manipulation moving forward from the “perfect” plan.


My intent is not to be rude in posting this, but honestly most coaches are now poo poo ing LSD. Not to say they are right, or that LSD is wrong, just that you can get equal or better improvements with less investment time and recovery wise with higher intensity shorter duration work.

If you enjoy three hour rides for the therapy (as I do) then by all means do it, but if your schedule doesn’t allow that AND some weight or resistance work, well, there are options,.

@mcneese.chad do you alter the standard build phase layout as well, or just leave the rest weeks where they are in the plan? First time through a TR plan and approaching the start of build the week after recovery week next week. Made it through SSBLVI/II with no issues, but did have a ‘extra’ recovery week in II due to travel over the holidays. FWIW age 56 , 20 years of mountain biking 3 times a week, but never done structured training. TIA and always appreciate you contributions here.

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I have used the default 3:1 timing for Build and plan to do so again this year.

However, I am open to adapting to a 2:1 pattern on the fly if I feel overly fatigued at the end of the 2nd week.

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