A full-distance triathlon, most often an event branded by IRONMAN®, is the pinnacle of triathlon endurance. The 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run is a daunting day. The feat takes months or years of arduous training, but the rewards are immense. The feeling of finally crossing the finish line of an IRONMAN® event and hearing the words "You Are An IRONMAN®" is bound to fill the soul.
Our team at Paragon Training wants to help you get to your finish line.
What is an IRONMAN® training plan and how do I use it to complete an IRONMAN® event?
If you’ve decided you want to complete an IRONMAN® triathlon, congratulations! Now what? You'll need a plan mapping out the steps you need to take to achieve your goal of reaching the finish line. The hardest part about IRONMAN or any full-distance triathlon is actually reaching the start line. Doing too much training at one time or an imbalance of the wrong kinds of training could leave you with a serious injury. Using the right plan is essential.
Our free IRONMAN® training plan will lay out the workouts that you need to do each day for 20 weeks.
An IRONMAN® is a long event. You will need to build you mental and physical strength in order to complete a single, long day of exercise. Complete at least 85% of our free IRONMAN® training plan, and you will be in great shape to complete your event.
Long-distance triathlon training and racing may not be for everyone. Consult with your doctor prior to starting endurance training.
Ready to start with the free training plan from Paragon Training? Follow the link below and we will send you the PDF version of our beginner IRONMAN® training plan for free.
How should a beginner train for an IRONMAN® event or other long-distance triathlon?
Be diligent about training every day.
Our free plan focuses on the key factor of IRONMAN® performance, which is consistently training your aerobic system. Aerobic = low intensity. Our IRONMAN® training plan has a larger volume (more weekly training hours) than our free IRONMAN 70.3® training plan. Your longer workouts will get longer under the full-distance training plan, and these long workouts are crucial to successfully getting to the finish line in under 17 hours.
The aerobic system takes a long time to develop. You will improve your aerobic fitness and perform better in your event by training consistently throughout the week AND completing the long workouts on weekends. Don't try to "make up" big workouts or cram everything into the weekend. Consistent training throughout the week is key.
Here are 4 quick tips for beginners attempting their first long-distance triathlon with Paragon Training's free IRONMAN® Training Plan:
Get your family and friends on board! You are going to be training a lot. Incorporating friends and family into your training will not only help your training and mental well-being, it will help loved ones better understand the time commitment required to train adequately for an IRONMAN® event.
Hold back at the right times, which is most of the time. With the full-distance IRONMAN® training, you especially need to control your intensity so you only occasionally train at moderate or high intensity. Otherwise, you will start to accumulate fatigue that makes it difficult to stay consistent. In fact, 80-90% of your training needs to be easy! You can even train 100% easy and make great improvements because the IRONMAN® race is so aerobically dependent.
Recover as much as possible. Recovery includes adequate nutrition and hydration, rest and sleep, foam rolling, mobility, and massage.
If you're new to swimming, you might need extra help. The 2.4 mile swim is often the most daunting for beginner triathletes. Review our Beginner Swim Series to get you started. You might also want to consider hiring a coach specifically for swimming and/or joining a USA Master's Swimming group.
How many months in advance should I start training for an IRONMAN® or other long-distance triathlon?
The time you need to train in order to complete an IRONMAN® event depends on your past athletic background and current fitness.
If you’re starting from zero endurance training, then plan for 12 months of training to prepare for your IRONMAN® event. If you have six months or more before your IRONMAN® race, we highly suggest using one of our Foundation Training Plans to build your base.
If you have a solid base of aerobic fitness, have some triathlon experience, and are accustomed to endurance training 4-5 days per week for multiple years, then you might be able to train for 6 months to complete your IRONMAN® event.
If you already have the above experience and have recently done shorter endurance events, such as multiple Olympic distances or half-distance triathlons (e.g. IRONMAN 70.3®) events, then give yourself at least 4 months to train for an IRONMAN® event.
At any level of experience, the most important things you need to train for a full IRONMAN® are a plan, commitment, and consistency.
Our Free IRONMAN® Training Plan is 20 weeks and is built in 3 phases.
Taper and Race
How many hours per week should I train for an IRONMAN®?
The weekly hours are essential! A slow build and easy miles are key to staying free of injury, and injury is the most likely scenario that keeps athletes from being able to come to the start line on race day. A typical beginner will start their IRONMAN® training plan with 4-6 hours per week. Toward the end of the plan, the weekly load will increase to 8-13 hours. An intermediate or advanced plan may include up to 20 hours during the biggest week.
Most training plans for beginners include 1 day off per week. This day is "off" from training but not preparing for your race—it is key for recovering. Use it to sleep a little longer, get a massage, meal plan, or spend more time working on mobility and foam rolling.
Staying in the right training zones during your workouts will enable you to handle 6 days per week of training. Training 6 days per week will be a superior stimulus for your aerobic system, compared to only training 2-3 times per week.
The activation routines and warm ups in the plan are essential. Start each workout by activating and warming up, then end each workout with a cool down.
What is a good time for a first IRONMAN®?
A finish time! Celebrate your ability to complete the race first and foremost. Training for a long-distance triathlon is a feat in itself, and getting to the start line is a challenge. Racing and finishing is a celebration of all your hard work. If you are looking to estimate a specific time, it depends on many factors, including level of fitness, age, gender, elevation, course, and weather conditions on the day of the event. Look at the results of your age group at the event from previous years and it may help you determine realistic goals.
You can start with a rough estimate of your finish time by multiplying your average speed in each discipline by the distance of each leg in the IRONMAN® race.
Swim [2:30min/100m] x [3800m race] = 95min = 1.58hr
Bike [112mile race] / [15miles/hr] = 7.46hr
Run [12min/mile] x [26.2mile race] = 314.4min = 5.24hr
Transition: Guess your time, maybe 8-10 minutes each for total of 16-20min = 0.27hr - 0.33hr
TOTAL: ~14hr 37min IRONMAN® finish time
We hope you enjoy your free plan and finish your race with success!