How do I Train for the Iron Man Competition?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2018
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The Iron Man competition, more properly known as the Ironman Triathlon, is an athletic endeavor that requires a tremendous amount of physical and mental strength. This triathlon involves a 2.4 mile (3.9 kilometer) swim, a 112 mile (180 kilometer) bike ride and a 26.2 mile (46.2 kilometer) run. Preparing for it requires dedication to your training since, unlike shorter athletic events, it is impossible to complete an Iron Man competition without proper training. To successfully complete it, you must have adequate levels of aerobic and strength training as well as the skills necessary to run, bike and swim effectively.

Most triathletes have one event that they can do better than the others. For many people this is the run. Of the three legs of the triathlon, running requires the least amount of technical skill. If you are comfortable running, you should spend more time training for the other legs of the triathlon.

It is important to have your skills in each segment of the triathlon strong as you go through your training. Not only will improper form make it difficult to complete the triathlon, but it will increase your odds of injury during the training process. If you can manage lessons for your weakest leg, your experience will be much better.


Another important part of the Iron Man training program is the concept of training in bricks. A brick is the term used for training two legs of the triathlon back to back. For example, on some practice days you will swim and immediately bike, while on other days you will bike and then immediately run. Bricks are a key component of triathlon training.

When you are moving swiftly from swimming to bicycling or bicycling to running, your muscles can become overly fatigued when you ask them to move in a new direction. Bricks train your body to move through the transition effectively and with as little pain as possible. These training sessions are longer than typical Iron Man sessions, so you will need to fit them in on days when you have more time.

Iron Man training is a serious time commitment. Many successful finishers work out twice a day, completing either a run, swim, bike or weight training workout in the morning and another in the evening. As you can imagine, this level of training requires a large amount of quality calories. This is not the time to try to lose weight, cut out carbohydrates or radically change your diet. Eat plenty of food, including a healthy mix of protein, carbohydrates and fats in each meal.


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Post 5

@clintflint - With that said, I think some people also need to be able to accept that they might not be able to do an Iron Man. Or, perhaps that they won't be able to do it easily. When you look at how very long it is, it's never going to be easy. You aren't going to be doing the training and thinking it's a breeze, not when you get into the last stages. And that's particularly true of people who are also working full time when they train.

It's inspiring how many people manage to do it, but it's entirely possible to harm yourself or even kill yourself from pushing too hard when you exercise. For me, if it has stopped being fun, there's no point to doing it.

Post 4

@chivebasil - My sister has done several Iron Man competitions and she found it really helped to consult a personal trainer. She didn't go to one regularly, mostly because she couldn't afford it, but maybe three or four times during her training she did.

The trainer would help her to understand what she was doing right and what she was doing wrong. She told me they were really good at figuring out why she was getting too tired and so forth.

I mean, it could be your diet, it could be your exercise, it could be anything. You can follow training regimes from books, but they won't be tailored to your physiology. A 100 pound woman needs a different training schedule to a 180 pound man. Seeing a trainer can help you to figure that out.

Post 3

How much training is too much training? I have heard of people over training and leaving themselves fatigued on race day. Or else the leave themselves open to injury or suffer nagging injuries during training. How can I avoid this pitfall?

I have been following a training guide that was published by a past winner but it has really been dragging me down. I was in good shape to start but I feel like I am on a death march just trying to get through the training. Should I push forward or ease back?

Post 2

I was pretty solid on the swim and the bike but when I signed up for my first Iron Man I knew that I would have to train my butt off for the marathon. I also swam and biked, but most of my training was doing road work on my feet.

When I actually did the triathlon I improved my marathon time by 7 minutes over anything I had done in training. I had hoped to shave 10 minutes off but I was still very pleased with myself.

Post 1

One of the most important and also most difficult aspects of the Iron Man to train for is the mental fatigue that the race places on you. No matter how great a shape you are in, you will begin to wear down and your mind will go to some weird places. It can be a true emotional roller coaster and I have seen more than a few racers break down in fits of misery or sprint forward with a seemingly irrational joy, almost a temporary psychosis.

The only way that I have had success overcoming this particular obstacle is to try and introduce an element of mental fatigue into my training. basically, I will train until I can feel myself begin to get strange and then I will try to explore the feeling and ultimately master it. It is impossible to get perfect, but you can get better.

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