Training for an Ironman

Training for an Ironman

Typical mistakes for novice IM competitors



Almost without fail, the first time Ironman will go into the race over-trained.
The hardest thing to learn about your training is when to rest.
It’s really difficult to convince some athletes that rest is an essential component of their Ironman preparation. Some will insist on training no matter how tired they are or how sore they are and that’s pretty much the most common ironman mistake of all.
They will completely forget to factor in the physical and mental effort they expend at work every day. Worse yet, as the big day approaches, they will start their taper far too late.
They continue to pound out the mileage for fear they’ll lose the conditioning they worked so hard to achieve. Don’t let this way of thinking be the ironman mistake that hurts your Ironman chances.

Here are a few tips that will help you avoid this ironman mistake:
If you begin a workout, and just know it’s going to be a struggle–you just have no energy–stop the work-out and go home.
You obviously need more rest and it’s not an ironman mistake to take an unscheduled day off from training. When it gets really bad, take an entire week-end and do “nothing” associated with Ironman training. Go away for a few days.
You won’t lose a thing and will resume your training rested and refreshed. As far as tapering, your longest workout day should be “4 weeks” before race day. Begin your taper there.


It’s almost sad to see the effort some people put into their ironman training only to stall their strength and endurance growth with an improper diet. This is most likely the most common ironman mistake next to over-training.
Avoid the junk food, a balanced diet... check out our article about “metabolic efficiency training and nutrition” and get some professional help.


It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype on ironman week.
Far too many athletes will do the swim course several times or hammer out long bike rides or pound through ten mile runs in the blazing heat.
None of this helps you. You must stay relaxed and get lots of rest that final week. Before you arrive at the venue, make sure you have a plan set out for the entire week, right up to race morning.


Either athlete will drink too much or not enough leading up to the race. You should start hydrating several days before the race.
The rule of thumb is, when urine is clear and copious, you are properly hydrated. Too much drinking will flush too many nutrients out of your system and could lead to hyponatremia. More is not better!!
“Don’t” drink too much on race morning. You don’t want fluid sloshing around in your stomach during the swim. In the early years of the Ironman, athletes never drank enough, now there are many who make the Ironman mistake of drinking too much.


The day before the race is crucial! You shouldn’t be doing much of anything. Rest is the order of the day.
Don’t over eat…carbo-loading is a myth!
Do what you must do i.e. bike check-in, pre-race meeting and then go back to your room and relax. It’s a common ironman mistake to get all tired out trying to burn off nervous energy in the days leading up to the race.


It’s an Ironman tradition to have mass swim starts and that won’t change anytime in the near future. Most races have close to 2000 starters in the swim area.
To convince you that the best strategy is to follow the course markers is a recipe for disaster. To decide to wait a minute or so, and then follow the markers is still a disaster.
When you look around, there will be hundreds of others waiting as well.
This ironman mistake can have a huge impact on your race-day; discuss it with your coach.


The last place you should be running is in the transition area. If this is your first Ironman, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by it.
It will drive your heart rate up. It will cause you to make mistakes. Take your time. In the chaos that surrounds you, keep in your own relaxed space.


Relax!! Don’t eat or drink straight away after your swim. Let your body adjust to the new demands you’re placing on it. Then begin to fuel up for the bike ahead and keep nutrition and fluid on an even keel for the entire bike ride.
Spin at a nice relaxed pace for the first 40 km or so and then pick it up a little to the pace you feel you can maintain for the bulk of the ride.


Don’t just go out and wing it. Have a well-conceived run plan. Train months ahead for how you plan to handle the marathon. It’s likely that not even 1% of first time ironman hopefuls will run the entire marathon.
So train for this. Do long run-walks in training. In other words, try a three hour training run like this.
Run for the first 30-45 minutes and then begin walking for two minutes and running for 12-15 minutes and a steady workable pace.
Keep repeating this for the entire run. In effect, what you’re doing, is practicing walking the aid stations and running in between as much as possible.
When you leave the bike-run transition try and get in as much mileage as you can before you begin walking.


As the marathon progresses and your energy and endurance are being challenged to the max, the normal reaction is to try eating a bit of everything available at the aid stations.
This is another disaster in the making. The last thing you need is cookies, fruit, coke, etc., etc. trashing your stomach. Use only nutrition and fluids you have trained all year long.
Don’t make the common ironman mistake of searching everywhere for a miracle cure. The Ironman hurts. That is the nature of the beast. Don’t let it get the best of you.
Fight through it with an eating and drinking plan that you’ve thought out long before race day and you will have a far better chance of success.

So many athletes put so much energy into their training yet ignore the obvious. They don’t take into account how important it is for their body to be in sync through-out the entire Ironman build up.

Planning your diet, hydration strategy, rest days, and pacing yourself on the big day are all just as important as pounding out mile after mile on the bike and swimming hundreds and hundreds of laps in the pool for months on end.

The Ironman has a way of finding a weakness. It has a way of weeding out the pretenders from the contenders, so be sure and cover all the bases and be prepared for every aspect of Ironman day.


A coach will give you all the help required so that those comment mistakes won’t affect your Ironman race day. Your experience will be that much more enjoyable and successful.

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