In 2017, thousands of men and women around the world will sign up for and compete in the grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run called the Ironman triathlon. For those of you who are training for your first Ironman in 2017, congratulations! It will be a long journey full of personal reflection and accomplishment. You may, at times, become overwhelmed and feelings of doubt may creep into your mind about the feat you are hoping to accomplish. Don’t worry – those feelings are completely normal.
Along your journey you will run into a lot of advice – some which you may take and some you leave behind. Here are three tips from yours truly as you begin your training:
- Focus on your food intake
Most Ironman triathletes are athletic in many other endeavors. Many of us do more than just swim, bike and run, so we’re all aware of the importance of balanced meals. But I will warn you that Ironman training will be different from anything else you have done; when you begin putting in two-a-day workouts and increasing your weekly exercise from five to 10 to 15 hours per week, your body is going to be hungry all the time.
It seems like a no-brainer: food fuels your workouts. But how much do you currently pay attention to that right now? Are you fueling your body with the right food? If you have a hamburger and fries at lunch, your 5 p.m. ride will be affected and if you forget to eat breakfast, that will correlate into a bad lunch run. What you put into your body is what you will get out of your next workout.
I recommend purchasing the cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. It’s written by athletes for athletes and is full of nourishing recipes made with simple ingredients. Pay attention to your food intake and you will see better workouts.
- Find a way to relax
In between work, family, a social life and working out, it can be hard to find time to simply recover, but you must make it a priority. Once you get into a training routine your body is going to start getting fatigued and it’s in those moments when you need to recognize that it’s OK to cut a run short or slow down on the bike. When you’re training for the Ironman, recovery is just as important as the workout itself because if you don’t let yourself recover, you can get injured or sick. I recommend finding a masseuse or chiropractor early on to help with recovery.
- Know your key workouts
When I was training for Ironman Wisconsin, it took three months of training to realize where my strengths and weaknesses were. Coming from a running background, I thought I had running under control, but after I had built up my swimming and biking I realized that I wasn’t great at running after fatiguing my legs on the bike.
After a few weeks into training, reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses in your workouts. What workouts are most important for you?
I personally credit my Ironman success to my 2x/week brick workouts and long weekend rides – without those two workouts there is no way I could have finished. Find what workouts are integral to your training and stick to those, and don’t be afraid to modify your plan, either. This is your journey and goal, so be proud of yourself – oh, and feel free to take or leave any advice.