Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do You Have the Fitness to Take on the Challenge of the Ironman?

As a follow up to my post on May 4th, I wanted to dig a little bit deeper and address the fitness component of taking on the challenge of the Ironman.

Many of the athletes I work with wonder how much base fitness one needs to begin training for an Ironman distance triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). When I first started my first Ironman journey back in 2005, I received a ton of advice. I appreciated the advice I received from a book written by Paul Huddle and Roch Frey of The book’s title is Start to Finish: Ironman Training 24 Weeks to an Endurance Triathlon. In this book, the writers provide fantastic advice on how much base fitness athletes need before they consider taking on the challenge of the Ironman.

The fact is athletes should have a strong foundation of fitness. Huddle and Frey recommend at least one year of experience training and racing different triathlon distances. I would tend to agree, however I heard of an athlete who finished an Ironman as his first triathlon. You can read about this athlete’s experience, along with several others’ experiences in the book, Becoming an Ironman: First Encounters with the Ultimate Endurance Event by Kara Douglass Thom.

As a foundation, athletes should be able to comfortably swim at least two times per week for approximately one hour each workout.

Huddle and Frey recommend having a base of three bike workouts per week which consist of one long ride of approximately three hours and two rides of approximately one hour each. Cycling at 90 RPMs (Revolutions per Minute) should be easy.

For those athletes who start Ironman training with a solid running background, athletes should have comfortably built up to a long run of 90 minutes with two additional 45 – 60 minute runs per week.

For those who are coming from a cycling or swimming background with little running experience, athletes will need time to adjust to the physical demands of running.

Having strong core muscles will be extremely important for successful Ironman training and avoiding injuries. A solid core strength training program should be an integral part of every triathletes’ training plan.

These basic guidelines are a starting point when assessing the physical aspect of beginning your Ironman journey. If you want to talk in more detail about whether or not your base fitness is where it should be for the Ironman, please contact me at to schedule a free phone consultation!

Of course, there are several other aspects of accepting the challenge of the Ironman to consider. Can you commit the time needed to train for an Ironman? Do you have the money it takes to prepare for an Ironman? Keep an eye out for future posts as I address each of these components.


  1. Great information! Thinking about an Ironman in 2012. Not 100% committed yet so all these thoughts definitely help with the decision. I think for me, the issue will be the time commitment.

  2. Awesome article. And just saw those pictures from Tour de Cashiers. AWESOME!!! I want to go tackle that ride again someday.