Training for the Ironman
As athletic challenges go, the Ironman triathlon is certainly one of the most brutal. A grueling 2.4 mile swim, followed immediately by a punishing 112 mile bicycle ride, a torturous 26.22 mile run, and the right to call yourself an Iron man (or woman!), even if you don’t win. Most events have a strict 17 hour time limit, typically starting at 7am and ending at midnight.
On February 18, 1978, twelve athletes completed the first Ironman event in Hawai’i. The Ironman is organized by the World Triathlon Corporation and these events are the only ones that can officially be called “Ironman”. Other differences between Ironman and other triathlons include distances, time limits, and time needed to prepare for the event. Most participants in other triathlons spend a few hours a week, while preparing for the Ironman event requires 15-20 hours per week or more.
Preparing for the Ironman
With all the hours needed to prepare for the event, it’s no surprise that injuries, especially overuse injuries, are common. You can minimize your risk of injury with a well thought out training program. The Sydney Chiropractors at NeuroBalance suggest to keep these things in mind as you prepare for this event:
Start slowly – If you’ve been sedentary for a while, you should probably not start with trying to run a 5K tomorrow. Pushing your body too hard too quickly is a recipe for injury. A good rule of thumb is to increase your training intensity by about 10% each week. You will need to push yourself, just do it gradually.
Get the right mindset – Endurance depends a great deal on mindset. Events like the Ironman are not just physically demanding, but mentally taxing as well. Meditation, visualisation, and positive self-talk can all help improve your performance and reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can zap your energy early in the race.
Stretch – Stretching helps increase your range of motion and stimulates blood flow, minimizing the risk of injury and helping with your recovery. Stretching before training (but after warming up) can help calm your mind and prepare your body for what’s to come.
Fuel your body – There is a reason a lot of athletes think of food as fuel, and training for an event such as the Ironman requires a lot of good quality fuel. Healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates are all important to help you keep going. Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water, especially if you’re training in the heat.
Treat injuries when they happen – You already know that you’re going to experience discomfort when training for something big, but it’s important to recognise the difference between the kind of discomfort that means you’re successfully pushing your limits, and the kind of pain that indicates overuse. Attempting to push through the pain of an injury will only make the injury, and the pain, worse. If you experience any kind of pain, have it looked at and use RICE, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Enjoy the journey – Training for the Ironman, or any big race, is a commitment. Expect that there are going to be days you don’t even want to get off the couch, much less go out for a run. Make some friends with others who are in training.
Take pride – It doesn’t matter if you win your event, or if you’re the last one across the finish line. Just by showing up and giving your all, you’ve accomplished more than most people ever even attempt, and that’s something to be proud of.
Get support – Ironman is a social activity. It’s so intense that it’s easy to become discouraged or feel like you’ve hit a wall. Having a good support system can give you the push you need to keep going when you want nothing more than to quit.