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ironman triathlon training

Ironman Triathlon Training: Building a Race-Worthy Body

Ironman Triathlon Training: Building a Race-Worthy Body


A full Ironman triathlon is comprised of a 2.4 mile (3.8 km) swim, a 112 mile (180 km) bike ride, and a marathon (26.2 mile, 42 km). Ironman triathlon training should focus on building endurance, as well as speed in each of these three events. The training program should be broken up into three different stages: beginning Ironman triathlon training, building Ironman triathlon training, and tapering Ironman triathlon training.


Beginning Ironman Triathlon Training

Beginning Ironman triathlon training should revolve around developing a strong base upon which you can build endurance throughout the program. Begin your Ironman triathlon training with 2-3 weeks of weight training. It will be easier to train for endurance when your muscles fibers are already strong.


beginning ironman triathlon training


Building Ironman Triathlon Training

To build endurance during the middle portion of your Ironman triathlon training, you will gradually increase your training times and distances before focusing on higher intensity training. Increasing your distance does not mean that you should run a marathon as part of your Ironman triathlon training. Running a marathon will put too much stress on your muscles without giving them enough time to recover before you compete in the full Ironman. Rather, focus on incorporating brick workouts in your Ironman triathlon training program, with long runs following your bike rides.

To further increase your speed and strength during the building phase of Ironman triathlon training, try integrating Fartlek training into your routine. Farleks are intense running workouts where the runner performs at changing speeds and efforts. In a Fartlek workout, a runner balances a set amount of distance or time running at a higher pace with a set amount of time or distance recovering at a decreased pace. The concept behind Farleks need not be restricted to running workouts but can be used in swimming and cycling workouts as well.

One thing to keep in mind during all phases of Ironman triathlon training is the importance of nutrition and the role it plays in endurance events. During the early stages of training, train with a variety of foods and energy supplements to see what works best for your body. Once you have an understanding of how your body digests and breaks down certain foods during endurance training, continue training with the foods and supplements you are comfortable with and only consume these foods on race day. You don’t want to be 100 miles into the race and have digestion problems over a choice of a peanut butter sandwich or energy bar.


Tapering Ironman Triathlon Training

Tapering Ironman triathlon training is both an art and a science. You want to be well rested for the race, but you do not want to be sluggish. A good rule of thumb is to decrease the volume of your training, while still retaining the intensity. Work out hard, but don’t work out longer. Decrease your training time by 20% every week, beginning a month out from the race. In the last week leading up to the race, rest the first couple of days, then kick start your metabolism in the last few days by completing a brief, easy training session. You will show up at the start line ready to race with refreshed legs and a clear head.


Triathlon Gear – Dressing for Success


What you wear on race day can play a critical role in how well you perform. As well as carrying accessories like anti-chaffing body glide, energy gels and drinks, sunglasses and fuel packs, you will want to invest in some essential gear to make each leg of the race as comfortable as possible.


Triathlon Gear: The Swim

Men and Women’s Training Triathlon Clothing

For training sessions, both men and women will want to purchase a snug-fitting competition suit that will reduce drag and improve speed and efficiency in the water. Women’s competition suits are one-piece suits with high necklines and non-slip racer back straps. Men’s suits are form-fitting spandex briefs.


mens and women's training triathlon clothing


Women’s and Men’s Competition Triathlon Clothing

For competition, men and women triathletes may want to invest in a tri-suit. Tri-suits can be worn through all three events, as they are made of quick-drying, moisture-wicking material. Tri-suits come in one or two-piece suits. The sleeveless top is snug-fitting, and the bottoms look like cycling shorts and also feature a thin cycling chamois pad that will keep you comfortable on the bike without hampering your swimming or running performance.


Wetsuits: Triathlon Gear for the Cold

For cold water trainings and competitions, triathletes should purchase a wetsuit. Wetsuits not only provide insulation, but make swimmers more buoyant and aerodynamic in the water. Only wetsuits designed for swimming can be used in triathlon competitions.


Accessory Triathlon Gear for Swimming

Goggles: Goggles come in a variety of styles. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing goggles is comfort. For triathletes who mostly swim outside, purchase goggles that offer 100% UV protection with tinted lenses to cut glare.
Swim Caps: In many triathlon races, a brightly-colored swim cap will be provided to you by race officials. For training, however, you will need to invest in one of your own. Latex or silicone swim caps reduce drag, making you more aerodynamic in the water.


Triathlon Gear: The Cycle

Road Bikes: Essential Triathlon Equipment for Cycling

Road bike frames can be made of aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber, or alloy. Aluminum and alloy frames are more affordable, though not as lightweight as titanium or carbon fiber frames.


triathlon equipment


Cycling Pedals and Shoes: A Matter of Choice in Triathlon Gear

Depending on your preference, you should invest in either pedals with toe cages or clipless pedals.

Toe cages: Toe cages are pedals that feature a cage at the front of the pedal, into which you slide the toe box of your shoes. Toe cages keep your feet secure in the pedals throughout the race and don’t require specific shoes.
Clipless pedals: Clipless pedals require cycling shoes with cleats on the sole that snap into the pedal. Cycling shoes are rigid, allowing riders to maximize speed and power.


Essential Cycling Apparel and Triathlon Gear

Helmets: Helmets are required triathlon gear for US-sponsored triathlon events. Look for a helmet that is specific to cycling and has adequate venting to allow better airflow. Bike Shorts: Bike shorts are the most essential cycling garment. Made from nylon or Lycra, bike shorts are moisture-wicking, form-fitting to reduce chafing, and feature a padded chamois for comfort on the bike.
Cycling Jerseys: Cycling jerseys are made of fabric that wicks moisture to keep you cool in hot weather and prevent you from getting chills in cooler weather. Cycling jerseys have a longer cut in back for more coverage during riding.


Triathlon Gear: The Run

Essential Running Apparel and Triathlon Gear

Shoes: Obviously, a good pair of running shoes is the most important gear you will need for this leg of the race. Consult the expert employees at a running-specific sport store for shoes that will give you the best fit.

Running Apparel: Cotton is one of the worst materials to train and compete in, as it absorbs moisture and becomes heavy. Purchase triathlon clothing specific to running that is made of moisture-wicking material, and socks that are made of wool or a synthetic blend to prevent blistering.
By having the right triathlon equipment for both your training and race day, you can swim, run, and bike at your very best.