Training for a Half Ironman (aka Ironman 70.3 or Middle Distance Triathlon) should be fun. And it definitely shouldn’t take over your life. Follow these five steps to ensure you enjoy your half iron experience as much as possible.
1. Set your goal
First thing first, work out what you want to get out from this experience.
Do you want to smash pbs and qualify for world champs? Or is this more of a game of survival; you want to get around the course with a smile on your face and be able to enjoy some post race beers at the end?
Once you’ve made this decision, it’s time to put together a training plan.
2. Make a plan
Whether you’re uber scientific about this; or you just mentally sketch out the days and time slots that you’re able to train – the key here is that you set out something that works to your schedule and you are able to find a routine.
As a minimum you should be doing three 1 hour sessions during the week and then use the weekends for the longer sessions. You need to understand that if you are racing for five to seven hours, you should also have trained to go that long; so don’t hold back on the weekend training.
Even with a base level of fitness, you should give yourself at least 6 weeks to train and your training should gradually build up in intensity so as to avoid injury.
3. Find a training buddy
Friends are the ones who motivate you to leap out of bed in the morning. Especially during the winter months. And a long weekend training session is best shared; particularly when it comes to the cafe stop for coffee and cakes.
If you haven’t signed up to this race with a mate, consider joining a triathlon club – there are plenty around. You’ll have lots of questions along the way, so it’ll be a real help to have people around you who know what they’re talking about.
4. Mix it up
Make sure you mix up your training – focusing on both your strengths and weaknesses – but also make it fun by adding variation to your sessions, both in terms of intensity but also locality.
Be it running around a track, through fields, or simply as a commute to work; cycling on a watt bike in the gym, around the park or along county roads; swimming in your local swimming pool, in the sea, or in the lake.
The 70.3 includes some long distances, but in some sessions it will help to work on speed and power rather than just stamina. Sprint cycles and Fartlek runs are particularly useful for working on both your aerobic and anaerobic systems. They also mean you can have a good, quick workout and open up some valuable free time.
Variety is the spice of life and ironman training is one hell of a lot more fun if you keep things interesting for yourself.
5. Don’t forget about nutrition
In an Olympic distance race you can get away without paying much attention to nutrition, but try that in a Half Ironman and you could be in trouble.
You should use your training to work out how many calories per hour you should be taking on board; and also to determine what works best with your stomach. Energy gels react badly with some people; and you don’t want to leave it to race day to find out you’re one of them!
On race day, you will need to be consuming slow energy-release carbohydrates such as flapjacks for the long time period, as well as salty foods such as pretzels for the amount you’ll sweat out, so it’s vital to have practiced this beforehand. Keep hydrated with electrolyte drinks or hydration tablets which have carbohydrates and sodium in.