Want to run your first Ironman, but not sure where to start? These questions are a great place to start.
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… Where is the best place to start?
Find out a little about your own body. Going into an event like this could take 6 months (or more!) of training, the last thing you want to do is get 1 month to go and have training grind to halt due to an injury or illness. Speaking to a physiotherapist or strength & conditioning coach to get an overview of your injury history and current physical state should be your first consideration. Even if you’ve run or swum for years, these events will test your whole body so being proactive to avoid injury is essential.
…Which one should I try?
Not all events are created equal! Research your event carefully and check the distances match what you can do. Some triathlons are essentially half-ironman events, but not named as such, so always check. Going somewhere sunny may sound attractive – but spending the whole day above 30 degrees when you’ve only trained in the UK could seriously affect your result! A shorter, ‘sprint’ triathlon, based in a location you are comfortable is the best place to start if you’ve never competed before.
…How often should I be training?
I always look at these events in terms of efficiency, just doing more is rarely a great way to train. Maximize your training by structuring your week around what your work and life commitments rather than trying to fit in more training than you can handle. In the beginning, you should be looking at two runs per week, two cycles per week and two swims per week. Split these into a longer session (possibly on the weekend!), and a shorter, more intense session. Adding extra training sessions that are neither hard enough to tire you out in an hour, considerably slower than your race pace, or do not work on a specific technique (e.g. the transition) are just adding to injury risk and not making you any fitter.
… Should I be thinking about Nutrition?
When you start training you should be attempting to have as much quality protein and carbohydrates as possible. When you increase the demands on your body, you are at most risk of illness or injury, and without adequate carbohydrates, for energy or protein to regenerate muscle damage, you put yourself at far greater risk. Psychologically, restricting calories at this point can have a large impact on your mood and motivation so unless you are practised in training hard on a lean diet, it’s best avoided in the beginning. Day to day I would front-load my meals on light training days – eating a large energy fuelled breakfast and always thinking one day ahead of a big training day, so ensuring I am hydrated and eat a high carb meal the night before.
…Is there anything I could be doing in the gym?
Seeing a Physiotherapist or Strength and Conditioning coach can give some really simple exercises to boost your performance considerably. Movement efficiency and strength in the right areas are a great way to use less energy to do the same movements, keeping you running, swimming and cycling for longer. In terms of time efficiency, one or two gym sessions per week, even at home exercises, can have the greatest impact on your times and risk of injury of any intervention. It is also worth considering adding soft tissue therapy to your training to avoid injure and aid recovery. Read more about the benefits of soft tissue therapy for Ironman training here.
… I’ve always wanted to try one but I’m a bad swimmer.
Many of us learned to swim at a young age, but have let our technique rust over the years, and the thought of swimming in open water is daunting! Simple technique lessons, such as those run by Immerse Swimming (immerse.so.uk) can iron out flaws in your stroke and make the swim section a far easier challenge. Given that it is so technique driven, improving your stroke can dramatically affect your energy levels getting out of the water. If your event is in open water (lake or sea) make sure you prepare accordingly, as it not being able to see in the water and having waves is very different from swimming in a pool!
If you’re ready to enter your first Ironman, why not sign up for our event preparation package to make sure you’re getting the best results and staying injury free.