Ironman Journey Update – The Program

As promised, here is the first of my Ironman Journey Updates.

Today is a significant day as in exactly 6 months, I’ll hopefully be nursing some sore feet and achy legs having completed the Outlaw; a full distance triathlon that most people refer to as “Ironman”. Alternatively, I may be nursing a bruised ego (as well as sore feet and achy legs) with the initials DNF next to my name – did not finish. This is entirely possible as even though most competitors are very well prepared, DNF percentages can be as high as 18% over the 140.6 mile course that has a 17 hour cut off time.

It is 6 months to the day I started my training program and I’ve learnt so much about training, recovery, nutrition and myself in this time. Everything is logged, measured and fed back to my coach through an app called Training Peaks

The Ironman Journey can be long and lonely.

Today I thought I’d talk about the Training program I’m following. 3 swims, 3 bike rides and 3 runs each week. On top of that I need to keep the limbs strong and flexible so I’m also doing 2 strength + conditioning workouts each week …. And there’s core work! So I go to my wife’s Pilates class each week too!

12 workouts in 7 days for those with quick math means I’m training twice each day most days. This calls for some expert planning from someone with far more knowledge than I have. Like anything, you can read / google / YouTube and learn a lot but in my opinion, its worth getting it right and employing the help of an expert. Link to my Coach.

My training is structured in 6 week blocks. The 7th is a rest week where training cuts back to allow additional recovery and I do some re testing. During the 6 week blocks, 2 principals guide my training; polarisation and periodisation.

Polarisation means easy workouts are easy and hard workouts are hard. There are far more easy hours than hard hours. This gets the volume of training required and allows active rest / recovery. I started around 7 hours per week and have gradually built up to 15 currently.

Periodisation means that the closer I get to my event, the more like the event my training should become. In turn that means more and more training at race speed as I get closer to July 29th, with more of the high intensity and strength built into the early base phase.

Sinky legs increase drag +++

Swimming is my biggest challenge. I’ve got my breast stroke up to the required 2.4 miles now which I’m hugely pleased about, but front crawl is alluding me. Sinky legs making it incredibly difficult to do much more than 50 metres! Body position is everything so with help, I’m modifying my stroke to take into account stiff shoulders and praying that my special wetsuit with increased buoyancy in the legs is going to help me along. I’m chuffed with progress. Back in July 2017 I was a non swimmer being able to do 1 length of breast stroke at best. Increasing my swim fitness and getting used to open water will be key if I’m going to be able to complete the Ironman challenge.

Cycling is mainly indoor on the turbo trainer currently. Workouts are fairly specific and are geared around working to certain heart rates / intensities for set amount of times. They can be a little boring if I’m honest and they are very very sweaty! I’m keeping things low tech and have not gone down the route of getting a power meter. My training bike is a cheap aluminium frame and the turbo trainer I got second hand from eBay for £40. Anything by Tacx is a good bet if you want to cycle your own bike indoors in the winter. 

Strength and conditioning is familiar to me but even this has been adapted. Gone are the injury causing squats and dead lifts. In are lower weight higher rep functional movements that recreate the movements required to swim, bike and run. 

Running has been a roller coaster. As I get fitter, the distances are getting longer but my speed is getting faster. It’s been incredibly exciting to watch things progress. That was until teno synovitis struck in my Achilles. I have had to put the brakes on things with running and am currently doing running equivalents while things heal. More on this in a later blog.

“It takes 4 weeks to notice your body changing, 8 weeks for your friends and 12 weeks for the rest of the world. Commit to be fit. You can do it.”  Mike Butterworth.



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