I am frequently asked, "How do you have time to train, eat, have any fun, and train for an Ironman while working 40 hours per week?"
About 10 years ago I started competing in short-distance triathlons for fun. It had always been my dream to finish an Ironman triathlon, but I thought to myself that it would be impossible and overwhelming. Even with the experience of being a four-year collegiate athlete and competing in numerous races for years, training for an Ironman seemed to be an unthinkable task.
Here I am now, a decade later, about to compete in my third Ironman. I am writing this article to inform you that it is possible to train for an Ironman while having a full-time career, and maintaining good friendships and a healthy marriage.
I am not a professional triathlete, yet I have managed to finish 140.6 miles feeling somewhat stable and strong. As age-groupers, the goals should be simple: to make the cutoff time, have fun, enjoy the surroundings, and finish in an upright position with the ability to speak to the volunteers at the finish line.
During my experience as a USA Triathlon (USAT) coach and with my own personal triathlon training, I've learned how to finish an Ironman while maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle.
The three most important factors to consider when planning for an Ironman are:
- Have a specific training program designed for your needs.
- Create a sound nutrition plan for the typical work day and during racing.
- Make the experience fun and enjoyable for you and your family/friends.
Before you begin your Ironman journey, it's important to understand that preparation and planning takes time. You can't just jump in and start swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles.
Have a coach design your training plan approximately eight months before the race. A USAT-certified coach has the experience in designing a specific program to tailor to the needs of the athlete and will help to decrease the chance of overtraining or sustaining an injury.
Make an appointment with a physical therapist to evaluate your overall flexibility and strength before you begin training. You should perform strengthening exercises and stretches to target specific weaknesses and inflexibility. This will help to prevent injuries in the future and improve performance.
To prepare your body for the lengths it will go on race day, compete in century rides, half marathons and at least one full marathon before the big competition. Sign up for races in fun places that your loved ones or spouse will also enjoy as a memorable weekend getaway.
Weekly Training Design
A typical week of training includes two days of swimming, two days of cycling and three days of running. One workout per week should be a long training day—typically done on the weekend—to get your body ready for the distance. The other training days should consist of high-quality, medium-distance tempo or interval training.