How much time does it take to train for an IRONMAN?

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40 years ago when IRONMAN first took place the people who did this sport were considered reckless, weirdos, lunatics, idiots, fools, and that they were risking their life….but these days, nearly every weekend there are many thousands of people lining up to replicate what those seemingly crazy folk back in the early days were doing.

So is it really crazy or is doing IRONMAN achievable and how much time do you really need to train for it?

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Make no mistake, IRONMAN is a serious event, it’s a massive achievement to cross the finish line, and you don’t just get there by chance.  But despite the required commitment, people who lead busy lives; work, family, other, can still train very well for IRONMAN. There are many busy people who perform to a very high-level year in, year out.

Training for an IRONMAN can take between 6 -18 months, depending on your current level of fitness, previous experience, ability or motivation.

Why are you doing it?

Regardless of whether you are planning for your first IRONMAN, or you have crossed that finish line many times before, you need to consider the amount of training you have done to this point, your experience and current level of fitness. Then consider your purpose for completing it – what is your motivation?  Do you want to ‘race it’ or just complete it without risking illness or injury? Do you want to better your performance from previous years or beat your training buddies? Do you want to head to the top of your Age Group and onward to the World Championships? Are you trying to impress a girl or guy you’ve been chasing for some time?  Whatever your reason, getting to the finish line requires a well thought out and structured training plan. But IRONMAN is certainly achievable and may not take as much time as you might think.

Do I have enough time in my week?

For the Beginner athlete, just getting through and completing the event can be done on an average of 11-12hrs per week with the biggest week of about 15hrs. Intermediate athletes will be 12-15hrs per week, with the biggest being about 18hrs.  Advanced athletes who are wanting to push themselves to their best will be looking to average 14-16hrs per week through the largest volume phases (and beyond for some, if time allows for it). Consider an advanced athlete someone who is fit, has some decent triathlon experience and with a couple of good Ironman races under their belt.

With our half and full IRONMAN Training Plans the process from start to finish will progress over a 30 week period.

Phases of training

The main phases of training include Preparation, Base, Build and Competition. The amount of training throughout these phases will remain largely consistent, with the difference lying in the structure of the workouts and the intensity you will focus on.

Training during the week doesn’t need to take up too much of your time, as much of the larger volume training is scheduled on the weekends.  You should set a weekday routine that certain workouts will be done and stick to it, this will help you plan around training to manage work, family and other life commitments.

Following are examples from our 30 week half and full IRONMAN Intermediate Plans to show the layout of the Preparation, Base and Build phases.  The Competition phase is less about volume and more about freshening up for the race.

Preparation Phase

Average weekly training time – 7hrs

This Preparation phase focuses on getting your body used to consistent activity and building fitness.  Its designed to be low stress but you might still feel a bit of stiffness in your body if you’re new to training or if you haven’t trained in a while.

Base Phase

Average weekly training time – 12hrs

This is where you will load an increasing amount of training.  The intensity is usually pretty low and relaxed, but there will be some harder workouts.

Build Phase

Average weekly time – 15:00

 

This key phase of the training plan focuses on race specific intensity.  In this phase you will reach your maximum volume week but the Preparation and Base phases ensure you will be fit enough to go week after week of this higher volume training …a long way from where you were 20 weeks or so prior.

The Competition phase lasts only a few weeks and your training volume will reduce by about 30% each week setting you up nicely for RACE DAY!!

It’s Achievable

As you can see, when it’s laid out in front of you, the weekly time required is quite achievable.  But in order to get through an event of this magnitude you need to have a plan, commit to the training and stick with it.

How do you eat an elephant? … one bite at a time.