Why Ironman Triathlon is a Long Term Commitment

Last weekend Ironman New Zealand 2021 was held.  The fact it went ahead was testament to the organisers and the locals of Taupo after it had to be postponed 3 weeks earlier.  And as one of the few triathlon events currently happening in the World there is no doubt the athletes that took part were excited and grateful for the opportunity.

Being an Ironman triathlon race you would expect that those that started were adequately prepared.  An Ironman race is one of the toughest one- day sporting events in the World.  It requires a thorough preparation of not weeks but consistent months of training and preferably years.

However, there will always be some that don’t understand the physical and mental requirements of preparing for an Ironman.  Perhaps naivety leads some to believe that with a couple of months of training they’ll be adequately prepared.  And while the last 10-12 weeks of training prior to an Ironman triathlon race is the time where you will get maximum adaptations from your training it is the months prior that really determine how well you do on race day.

Using an analogy of building a house we lay the foundation of the house first before the walls and roof go on.  Without a proper foundation the walls and roof are at risk of cracking and breaking.  The same applies to training. You need a good foundation of training before you start to apply the harder and longer training that is needed for an Ironman race.

In an Ironman preparation it is the last 10-12 weeks where we are putting up the walls and roof.  The months leading into that is the base of the house. And the greater the foundation the stronger the walls and the roof will be.

This foundation is the months of consistent training. No one super session or great training week but simply consistent blocks of training that you put together day after day, week after week and month after month.  This improves your bodies aerobic energy system, allows you to recover from training quicker, builds specific muscular endurance and reduces the risk of injury.

It also improves your mental skills around the routines, habits and experiences of what is required to train consistently for an Ironman event.  This is an underestimated part of the training process that many neglect at their peril.  Learning to read the signs of your body, understanding the training process, developing mental resilience, learning to be present in the moment and the art of mental imagery or visualisation.

If in the months leading up to the peak preparation phase of the last 10-12 weeks sees you doing 10-12 hours training per week then the last 10-12 weeks could be 15-18 hours.  But you could only do that level of training if you have done many months at a lower volume.  Too often I see athletes push the last 10-12 weeks without the months of consistent training prior.  This can lead to burnout, injury, illness and most often a poor race day performance.

The sessions in the final 10-12 week build will be longer, harder and require a greater level of fitness so you can properly recover from them.  By adding this greater training stress, you improve your fitness and arrive on the start line in peak shape.  And post race the recovery period starts by going back to a lower level of training that is something you can maintain year round.

If Ironman triathlon is your goal for 2022 don’t make the mistake of thinking the training starts in a few months.  It starts now with your very next training session.  Every training session has a purpose towards the long term goal. Just like building a house each part of the house has a role to keep the house standing up.

If you need specific advice on your long term training plan for an Ironman triathlon event please contact us - we're only too happy to help.

About Mark

Mark is one of Australia's most experienced and knowledgeable triathlon coaches. With over 25 years experience coaching at all levels from kids, youth, adult and elite professional athletes across the World. He loves seeing people change their lives through triathlon.

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