American Family Children's Hospital

Training for a Triathlon: When to Rest, When to Seek Care

Madison, Wisconsin – Congratulations on signing up for your first triathlon. There is no doubt that the course will welcome you to a day of calm swimming waters, scenic rolling cycling hills and a great running tour of the state.


While chances are you're already working toward your training goals, no doubt the primary goal for most first time triathletes is to finish. The swimming, cycling and running specialists at UW Sports Rehabilitation share your goal. Not only do we want to help you cross the finish line, we are committed to helping you step to the starting line injury free.


Overuse injuries are common among endurance athletes. Ironman triathletes have a higher incidence of injuries affecting the knee, foot/ankle, hamstring and calf. Increased training time and mileage, in addition to misalignment in your mechanics may lead to pain, injury and inability to train.


Green - Yellow - Red: Know When to Stop and When to Go


How do you know when pain during or after a training session is normal or if it may be an injury or lead to injury? Following is a guide to help you figure out what the signs may be telling you. But remember, don't wait to check with your primary care physician if you have concerns about a pain or injury.


Green Light

  • Inconsistent pain that goes away within 4 hours after workout. Pain is not present during the next 1-2 workouts or consistently with that activity.

  • Pain that occurs 24-48 hours on both sides of the body after training (i.e. right and left thighs). This usually represents normal “delayed onset muscle soreness” from new or intense training.



Okay to continue with training program, may need to incorporate an extra day of rest.


Yellow Light

  • Pain is constant during workout and continues to present during next workout within 24 hours later.

  • Pain that gets worse throughout the duration of training.

  • Pain that is a larger area but on one side of the body.



Active Recovery = Take 2-4 days off from aggravating training activity. Reduce the intensity and duration of your activity. Evaluate training methods to look for potential causes.


Red Light

  • Pain is constant or worsens during workout and lasts throughout some daily activities and continues into the next 2 workouts.

  • Pain is sharp and localized on one side of the body – i.e. you can point to it with one finger.

  • Feelings of instability at a joint.

  • New onset of weakness.

  • Catching or locking of a joint.




Stop aggravating activity and contact a UW Sports Medicine provider who can diagnose your problem and provide you rehabilitation services such as physical therapy.


The UW Sports Rehabilitation clinic offers unique services for any of your triathlon training needs. The UW Health sports rehab physical therapists and athletic trainers specialize in treating musculoskeletal injuries, and also assess mechanical faults in your swim stroke, bike fit and running mechanics through our video analysis systems. This combination, assessing your muscular imbalances and fine tuning your movement mechanics, will help improve your performance by making you more efficient and keep you injury free as you train for your big day.


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Date Published: 02/23/2016

News tag(s):  sportsrehabsportswellnesshealthy bodies

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