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Home > Triathlon Training Articles & Features > Triathlon Training > Basic Requirements to Having a Good Ironman - Preparation, Patience, Optimism
Basic Requirements to Having a Good Ironman - Preparation, Patience, Optimism

By Coach Oliver

The last 5 months of an Ironman buildup will generally have the greatest influence on an athletes performances. This article will present some options and thoughts for those that are seeking to have a successful event day. I shy away from the term "race" in this situation as for most people it isn't. An Ironman presents enough challenges without you wanting to turn it into one!!


Firstly make sure that your 3rd cousin isn't getting married in the middle of nowhere on race day! Making sure the event week is free of serious social obligations can be crucial. An easy way to avoid uncomfortable scenarios is to enter early; it not only shows commitment but allows you to start your preparation sooner.

Having your training program laid out with key events - either prepared by yourself or in conjunction with your coach - will give you much needed direction. Other important aspects of this are your own body and equipment selection. For an athlete to be able to cope with the rigours of training they ideally should start with a sound level of conditioning. Getting a "once-over" from your medical-professional is a must before the real work begins.

Starting with the right gear now will help a lot too, like kindergarten, many toys are available, whether you need all of them though is questionable. A bike in working order with aerobars, running shoes with some life in them, a pair of speedos & a heart rate monitor is pretty much all you need to get started. Not to be used all at once mind you, or you maybe mistaken for a German triathlete! For longer training sessions start to get all gear ready the night before, teach the body some good habits now and reap the rewards later.


The day is long - 180km seems a long way on the bike until you get to run! Get used to being patient. All the training you do from 5 months out (more for some athletes and first timers) until race day will have an influence on your performance. Conditioning your body for an Ironman takes time - a lot of it.

Adaptations of your physical capabilities and skill levels, depending on your starting point, can feel like a long way off. It's this process that some find the hardest - easing into things is the key here. A monitored training plan will help alleviate these frustrations. Your plan will help you know what's coming up and where the big day sits in the scheme of things. Rushing around all the time during training will probably continue right up to event week, so if one thing you need to say to yourself it's "slow down"- (many who say this to themselves 30km into the bike leg go on to have to have good days!). Some Coaches like to have athletes focus on 2/3 key sessions a week, it lets them build and concentrate their effort on to that part of their training. Your body, like your mind, has a memory function. Muscles and the nervous system will behave a certain way if you do an activity long enough. My advice on this is that if you can't show patience and pacing discipline during training how are you going to show it come event day? Often training with a slower person will help control the urge to push yourself - frustrating as it may be, you will be teaching your body what's really required & maybe changing some bad habits in the process. Many a weeks wasted training can be saved by addressing these points now


This is arguably the most important aspect that you can't train for physically. Many athletes will have doubts or questions about training and I find that positive reassuring answers are the best! Your mind can burn endless energy worrying about factors that will never become issues. The process of following a training plan is a simple one, not having confidence in the plan is sometimes a thought that will stop you following that process. Talking through concerns with your coach should be done at every opportunity. Some constructive feedback will go a long way to making sure you're on the right track. Even if you don't have a coach, most offer a consultation service that allows for such occasions.

Try not to use up all your energy before the key training months two months out. Mental energy and commitment are best utilised closer to the event. As mentioned, throwing yourself into it too early on can leave you burnt out and just plan tired, when the real work has to be done.

In summary - you want to start putting into practice the traits and behaviour that you will be using in the key months leading up to your event. A plan is essential, not to mention commitment and positive attitude - combine the three and you're travelling well on the road to achieving your goals.

Brendon Downey of EnduranceCoach.com is an Exercise Physiologist, Level 2 triathlon coach, and coach to Sam Warriner, the 2003 ITU Oceania Champion.

Coaching and detailed training programs are available at EnduranceCoach.com

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Posted: January 5, 2006

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