6 top tips when training for an Ironman
If you’re crazy enough to sign up for an Ironman, you’re crazy enough to complete it. There are a few things that I have learned along my Ironman journey that I’d like to share. Hopefully, this will help you to hear those amazing words ‘YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’.
- Don’t choose an over-ambitious training programme
This was a huge lesson that I learnt. I come from a rowing background, so training a couple of times a day didn’t phase me. I started off on a programme that was way too intensive, I’d train for 3 hours or so per day during the week, and by the weekend I had no energy to go on a ride, or run any longer than an hour or two – which in turn made me feel hopeless and made me think I couldn’t do the Ironman. I accepted that I had a full time job (that I wanted to keep!), and that training for more than an hour a day during weekdays was detrimental to my training overall. This compromise allowed me to train extensively at the weekend, and not be totally wrecked by Friday evening. I also went on two dedicated training holidays, one cycling holiday in the South of France (picture of us looking fresh on Day 1!) Whilst I’m not saying you do the same as me, I am suggesting you evaluate your lifestyle and work out a training schedule that suits you – because exhaustion is not fun.
- Sign up for ‘test’ events
The biggest psychological battle for me was not knowing whether or not I could complete all the constituent parts of the Ironmanl. To combat this I signed up to as many events as I could. My favourite event was a 25km trail run, it too
k 3 hours to complete so was a slow run overall, but I was reassured that I could run for 3 hours solid, climb hills and feel ok at the end of it.
My least favourite was a 115 mile bike event that took in 9,500ft of climbing. It p*ssed it down the whole day, and I’ve never been so soggy. However, completing that was an incredible feeling! Not only does this give you the confidence that you can do the distance, but you’ve also got experience of competing at that distance – all you have to do now is put them all together…!
- Sign up to a regular spin class
I’m not talking about the type of spin class you get at your local gym, I’m talking about a dedicated spin class with instructors that share your passion for cycling, and maybe even triathlon! I was lucky to meet Cheryl, who ended up being so much more than a spin instructor. She was training for an Ironman 70.3 so passed on invaluable advice for cycling, nutrition and mental preparation. I saw these spin classes as a chance to practice technique – without the stress of the road! I focused on my cadence, how evenly I applied pressure to each pressure, as well as posture.
- Get your bike fitted, and do your research!
When it comes to getting your bike fitted it’s best to go on recommendation from friends, and other cyclists. There are a number of shops out there that will give you a basic fit that is still not right for you (and still charge you an arm and a leg!). I was lucky that in my spin classes I was introduced to Pat at Department of Endurance. In fact, whilst at Pedal Studio the instructor didn’t show one morning, so he helped me log in to the laptop, and run my own makeshift spin class so that we still got a worthwhile workout. Only catch was that we had to listen to his music – oh dear! Pat listened to me explain about signing up for the Ironman, the level of experience I had and my competency when it came to riding. After taking that all in, he walked me through the bike fit and explained everything in detail, so I understood what changes were being made and why. He used the GURU system, and the system moved beneath me til I was comfortable in a ride position that suited me.
- Get a triathlon coach
There is so much to gain when doing an Ironman, getting a tri coach is the difference between doing an 8 hour bike and doing a 6.5 hour bike, or a 7 hour marathon to a 4 hour marathon. Having someone there to set out your training programme, track your goals and give you confidence in what you want to achieve is invaluable. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to invest in a coach, then do it! Pat gave me a training programme to follow for the last month of my training (sadly I didn’t meet him til then!!!) but it made the world of difference, and trust me when you’re on your 3rd lap of the marathon looking at the people on their 1/2nd lap you’ll be grateful for your speed!
- Talk to people who have completed one
There is nothing like hearing from people that have done an Ironman before to help you realise that you can do it, and it’s not all that scary. So talk to anyone who’ll share their stories and advice with you. Just remember, that you should pick and choose what works for you – you will hear loads of conflicting advice!
Whatever happens, just remember enjoy the day – because it’s your day and it’s special. I smiled 90% of the time during the event, because it was a joy to take part in something so amazing and compete in an epic test of endurance with so many incredible athletes.