Advice, Guides & Inspiration

How to train for an Ironman

Ironman finish

Taking on an Ironman is a huge challenge. Not only is the event itself a mammoth feat of endurance, but training is also a massive commitment. Here’s what you need to know about preparing yourself for your Ironman.


Before starting any kind of training plan, first you need to establish if you can do an Ironman. As I said, it’s a huge challenge and not something to be taken lightly.

Can you swim? You should be capable of completing 3 1-hour swim sessions a week. You’ll want to aim to hold a pace of 2:00/100 yards for the 2.4 mile swim (around 1:20 overall).

Can you ride? You should be able to comfortably cycle for around 2 hours. You’ll want to aim hold an average speed of around 15 mph for the 112 cycle (around 7:30 overall).

Can you run? You should feel comfortable running for an hour and a half. You’ll want to aim to hold an pace of around 10:00/mile for the 26.2 mile marathon run (around 4:30 overall).

If you can do all of that then you would finish around the 13 hour mark. The time limit is 17 hours so you would have room to spare if you needed to slow down.


Get used to heart rate training

Your heart rate is a great indicator of the effectiveness of your training and your conditioning. This will also give you an idea of how intense your training sessions are since you will know how hard you’ve been working.

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Start early

Lots of athletes leave their training too late and this is the best way to ensure that the Ironman won’t go well. If you really want to take your Ironman seriously then you will want to start your training at least 6 months before the date of the big race. The earlier you start your training plan, the better prepared you will be on the day.


Be flexible

Don’t get bogged down if you have to miss a training session for any kind of reason. Your training plan shouldn’t be so strictly rigid that you can’t adapt it for any reason. If you’re feeling tired and your body is crying out for a day off, do it and make the most of a rest day.


Pre-empt your grumpiness

Before you start on this mammoth journey of endurance, be sure to warn your friends, family, colleagues or just anyone you’ll ever see again, that you are not going to be the happiest you’ve ever been for the duration of your training. When you’re taking part in as much exercise as you will be, it’s common to get cranky as a result of tiredness and fatigue so it’s best to forewarn everyone you know.


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Keep on going

For a lot of sessions, you’ll be feeling pretty good and feel like you’re smashing it. For the rest of your training you’ll feel pretty empty and flat and tired. This is perfectly normal and you will have to just keep trudging along and get the training done. Your body will slowly get used to the training load and you will start to feel less like you’re just getting it done and more like it’s effective training, but you will have to work hard to get to that point.


Train consistently

Having one great day of training to then find you’ve just put yourself in a hole for the next few days isn’t the right way to train. Not every single training session should be a test so try and keep the intensity of your sessions consistent so you don’t empty your tank and hinder the rest of your training.


Recovery is key

A training session is only as good as it’s recovery. It’s all well and good having a great session on the bike and getting lots of work done, but if you don’t recovery properly, then you can end up with an injury or illness. Make sure you don’t forget to task rest days to give your body a chance to recover from the strain you’re putting on it. Rest, along with proper eating and drinking will massively help keep your body in shape and your training on track. You will need to keep your energy stores replenished so as soon as you finish a big workout, get some fuel in so you’re ready for the next one.

A refreshing ice bath is a great idea to sooth your tired muscles and to relax you after a tough training session. However, nothing can beat a good sleep when it comes to recovery. So make sure you’re getting as much sleep as you feasibly can do to avoid fatigue.