Tips for Ironman triathlon training from Surya Iacono

Ironman triathlon races have become more and more popular over the last decade. There are now plenty of Ironman races all around the world, taking in all kinds of courses. If you’re considering training for your first Ironman competition, here are a few things you need to know. 

Obviously, Ironman competitions aren’t for the faint hearted and require a structured, lengthy training programme. The long-distance triathlon races consist of a 3.86km swim, followed by a 180.25km bike ride and finish with a 42.2km marathon. The races are always in that order, and each event is continued seamlessly without a break. 

Choose your ironman race

Your first step is to select a race that works for you. Do your research and choose one that fits your needs in terms of elevation, course and its popularity. 

First-time Ironman competitors often choose flatter courses but bear in mind these often fill up quickly. If you are going to travel to another country – and it is a great way to travel! – make sure you take into account the climate and whether it will work for your strengths. For example, if swimming is not your strongest part of the competition, it’s probably better to choose a race that doesn’t require a wetsuit. 

It’s also worth considering that fees to race in Ironman competitions around the world can be high. Registration fees hover around $800, and if you are going abroad, you obviously have to factor in travel and accommodation. 

Devise your Ironman training plan

When you’ve selected your race, it’s all about the training. Your regime must be realistic and fit in with your day to day life. Much of the preparation before an Ironman competition is physical, but it’s important not to neglect the mental prep too. Think about your usual work commitments, social activities and family life, and how training will fit in. 

Successful Ironman athletes have excellent time management. It’s the only way to balance training and normal life. There are lots of different ways to plan for your race, but you must accept that the next few months of your life will be limited in terms of social activities. 

It’s best to start your training plan around six months before the race, if not before. It’s a good idea to hire a coach if you can. If not, there are plenty of training plans on sale, or you can devise your own. 

Coaches are ideal to help you plan your training to the best of your ability, and they can also professionally analyse your fitness. This allows training to be adjusted adequately, with less chance of you sustaining an injury. You need to incorporate strength training, race strategies, cardio fitness, mental prep and nutrition into your plan. 

Lots of Ironman competitors do go it alone and put together their own training plans, either by taking advice from fellow athletes or researching online. You do run certain risks if you take this path, including over-training, sustaining an injury and burning out. Whichever training method you choose, know that you must be in it for the long haul, and there will be ups and downs. 

Buy the right Ironman equipment 

When it comes to Ironman equipment, as long as you have the basics covered, then that’s all your really need. It can be as simple or complicated as you choose. You will need a high-quality wetsuit for training and race day, a swim cap and well-fitting goggles. You will be open water swimming and if you’re new to this, good quality equipment can help a lot. 

Tri-suits are good options as they are specifically designed for triathlons and mean you can wear the same clothes for the whole race without having to change. A two-piece also makes it easer to take comfort breaks along the way. The most important thing is that it fits well. 

For your bike, you will need a road bike with clip-on aerobars and clipless pedals. This is the minimum requirement and is a good choice if you think this triathlon will be a one-off. If you are planning more of a long-term interest in Ironman competitions, then consider a high-level bike. The kind of cycling shoes and helmet also need to be chosen, and whether you choose the cheaper end or the most expensive, remember to get equipment that fits well. 

You’ll also need a decent hydration system, as you will need to carry plenty of water on the bike. Sunglasses with polarised lenses and 100% UVA/UVB protection are also a must. 

For the running part of the race, you need excellent quality running shoes. They must fit properly and be tailored to your running style, so that you can avoid injury. You should replace them after 200 miles of training, but never wear new ones on race day. They should always be properly broken in. 

There is, of course, a lot more to preparing for an Ironman triathlon, but these are the basics. Do plenty of research and give yourself at least half a year of training time before the race. 

About Surya Gabriel Iacono

Surya G. Iaconois a fitness and wellness expert and blogger based in London, UK. Surya Iacono's fitness blogs are aimed at keen gym-goers and exercise fans already well into their journey and looking for tips, tricks and ideas to take it to the next level.