Your First Step on Your IRONMAN Training Plan

This article takes you from your first week of an IRONMAN or long course training plan and settles you into the initial few weeks of training. Think of this article as your “first step” towards your end goal of completing an IRONMAN later this season!

The aim with this series of articles is to help you negotiate the highs and lows of IRONMAN training. 

Where to start? You've just signed up to your first IRONMAN. Now what?

Hands up if you are excited!!

Hands up if you are excited!!

There are probably a thousand thoughts going round your head at the moment, excitement and trepidation in equal measure being two recognisable feelings! In reality, you are a long way off from race day. If you haven't already downloaded either one of our bespoke TRIplans or our General IRONMAN plan on Training Peaks, that is a great place to start!

Then, the next few steps can be broken down into these three areas:

  • Administration
  • Routine
  • Training

Admin Focus

Now is the time to start thinking about what kit you have available to you to train in and what kit you will need to have for the race. You certainly don’t need to fork out a fortune for this or all at once. However there will be some inevitable costs:

  • Pool/gym time – Where will you swim, is it best to sign up for membership, or PAYG? Do you need an induction before you can start at your gym?
  • Indoor bike trainer - (Helps reduce faff time for busy people!) This is certainly a "must buy".  If you are going to try and fit training in around work, especially over winter, it allows you to squeeze training in more easily around work commitments, and means less time to get ready – it can all be set up ready to go!
  • Gadgets and tech – This may just be your trusted Casio stopwatch to record intervals, or it may be the full power meter/bike computer/satellite equivalent. This is up to you, clearly the more data you are recording, the more benefits you can get out of it (only if you can understand it all!) Some sort of timing/stopwatch device will be the bare minimum though.
  • Clothing - cold weather and warm weather training kit. Whatever you buy second will always be your favourite item! Your first coat will be effective, but you will know exactly what you want on your second purchase! That said, if you are braving the winter weather, you will be more persuaded and find it easier to train more effectively if you have the correct kit for the weather.  Cycle shorts make the longer rides easier, waterproofs mean you will have no excuses, running leggings will be a saviour along with booties and gloves (Though there are plenty of ways to make do using clingfilm or plastic bags fro dry feet!) Don't go crazy with all the gear – look at your realistic training needs and go for the bare minimum. Remember, you will be the one using them!
  • Specific kit (running) - Set yourself up with a new pair of trainers – too often people start with the old ones they used to do squash in – buy some running specific trainers and avoid an unnecessary injury.
  • Specific kit (swimming) - Basically speedos for guys or costumes for girls. When you move from public swimming to the lanes, you won't feel so self conscious. Also, if you have anything baggy, it makes swimming harder....why do that!?
  • Specific kit (cycling) - Your only requirement for the the bike is to ensure you have one that is race legal (i.e. no mountain bikes for Long course races).  If you are looking to spend some money on your bike, then start with a proper bike fit. Bike related injuries come from poor fit (or falling) and a proper bike fit will mean that you can be more efficient which means you will find the event easier to train for.  Ideally look for someone who works with triathletes, not purely cyclists.

You can also start to plan ahead for the event itself. Can you organise accommodation and travel arrangements already? It will really help having it arranged far out from the event. Accommodation will be the priority here. Look for something close to the finish – it will mean you can fall in to bed afterwards, or stagger to the final hour at the finishing chute – Hero Hour –  and watch those final finishers across the line. Work out how you will move between event sites (if split transition) and think about your own meals – are there easy places to get food organised and in the quantities you want – don't assume the hotel will be race food orientated!

Routine focus

The first part of the training programme will inevitably be all about getting used to training. Now you are on a training programme, this will be day in and day out. It could be a period of a few weeks before training becomes 'normal'. Now is a good time to sort out a good training routine that fits into your life. It may be training first thing is really useful or may be you can’t fit it in until the evening. That’s fine! Just get your nutrition sorted along side your training. Fuelling is the hidden fourth discipline. Work out when you can train but also how you can ensure you stay fuelled throughout the day to excel at training as well as your normal everyday work!

There are suddenly many more moving parts to your schedule. Weekends away mean you have to think about how you will fit training in or when to schedule a strategic rest. When you have organised your simple base routine it helps negotiate any conflicts. No one sticks to the plan one hundred percent. However, if you find yourself missing more sessions than you make, maybe it is time to reassess if the plan or indeed IRONMAN is appropriate for you at this stage. If that isn't the priority, that is ok. Having a routine will help keep your schedule focused and provide you with easy ways of sticking to the plan, keeping you on track for your IRONMAN adventure.

Training focus

This initial period of training is the preparation or base phase of training. For long distance it is all about extending your training KPI (Key Performance Indicator) - whatever that may be! KPI's may be speed, power, pace. I.e. something measurable. In this base phase, it is not about going faster, rather being able to go the same speed for a longer duration. If you can hold 10km/h for only 1 hour when running, your aim is to hold 10km/h for maybe 1 hour 10 minutes. The key difference is that you aren't trying to do the 10km faster than the hour. Over time that will happen naturally, but don't try and achieve it just yet, that will come!

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There will also be a period of time practicing good technique. Though this can be done all through the season, the start of a plan is as good a time as any to ensure you build good movements into your routine. You'll notice that many of your sessions have some element of technique built into them either in the warm up or through a particular focus, don't try and rush these parts to get onto the main part of the set. These are slight short cuts you can make through your training as and when you need to but not as a matter of cause. If you think about it a 5% improvement of efficiency through good technique could save you almost an hour for your IRONMAN time! Efficiency through aerobic capacity (above) and also technique are your first training priorities as you set yourself into a new plan. The more efficient you are, the less energy you waste when racing, meaning the more you can put towards travelling forward on race day. For an event like an IRONMAN, saving energy is a very positive move!

Welcome to this exciting experience and don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!