Are You Ready For an Ironman Triathlon?

Ironman-distance triathlons continue to be added to the list of races every year. It seems every time you hit the gym, you meet another Ironman finisher. All of which might get you wondering, "Should I do an Ironman next year?"

Just as there's no easy Ironman training schedule; there's no easy answer.

"It's a big decision, like choosing a new job or moving to another city for a year," says Earl Walton, head coach of TriLife (

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There are certain ingredients you should have if you're thinking the answer is "yes," say coaches who have heart-to-heart talks with their athletes before Ironman training begins. Here are a few of the top "ingredients" you need to get through Ironman training.

The 'Flame'

"The first thing you have to have is a burning desire to do this," Walton says. "A lot of people sign up envisioning the finish line and they don't think about training through the winter or the heat. The flame has to be that you want to be an Ironman athlete, not just an Ironman. Being an athlete means training hard for a long time."

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Cheryl Hart, sports psychology consultant at 2nd Wind Motivation, encourages people to look at what's going on beneath the surface of why they want to be an Ironman.

"Often, people engage in this challenge to ward off personal demons and/or for self-validation," Hart says.

The label of 'Ironman' gives them a sense of pride and identity. Often, too, Ironman athletes are trading another addiction for this one. So it's important to know what's going on, as it almost always eventually raises its ugly head.

"I have witnessed the most unlikely participants cross the finish to the amazement of the spectators," Hart says. "Whereas another extremely fit athlete crumbles and DNFs (does not finish). Again, the why they want or need to finish is the determining factor. The more important the reason for this accomplishment, the more likely it is they will be able to push through the physical and mental challenges."  

The Ability to Fit Training Into Your Schedule

"I don't think people realize the time commitment," says Elizabeth Waterstraat, triathlete and coach for Multisport Mastery (

Remember that the actual training hours are only part of the time training takes. That doesn't even count showering, getting to the pool, or time spent drying your hair and getting through all the other logistics.

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"Ask yourself, 'Do I have the job and the lifestyle that's going to allow me to do this?'" Walton says. "If your partner has a baby due in February and the race is in July, this is not your year."

Walton has aspiring Ironman racers map their week. "Where are you going to find 12 to 20 hours a week to train? You're not doing it right now, so something is going to have to give," Walton says. "Scheduling is one of the ultimate nonstarters I see."  

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About the Author

Marty Munson

Marty Munson is a USAT Level 1 triathlon coach. Her writing has appeared in Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, and Find more triathlon tips and strategies from her and other experts in the field at

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