So you're thinking of training for your first Ironman triathlon, but have you got the right stuff? You'll need the equipment, free time for training, and base fitness to build on, but is that all?
The Wiggle Hoka Flyers Team - made up of six ordinary people, with a little help from Hoka and Wiggle - have been through the same journey as they continue their preparations for Ironman Wales 2022.
But it goes without saying that a full Ironman is not an easy thing to accomplish.
So, to help you decide if you're Ironman material or just being a bit silly, here are five steps that you'll need to take before you even consider putting yourself forward for this enduring endurance epic.
Time, Fitness and Mentality
You may think of an Ironman as a 140.6 mile (226.2 km) event, or at a maximum, a 17 hour day. Which you're right, it is.
However, training for an Ironman is (ideally) a 365 day commitment. Most training plans start with around 8 hours of training per week and go up to around 15 hours. The time spent training is gradually increased over the course of your plan and, obviously, the longer in advance you commit to the event, the longer you have to get ready.
Your initial training will be purely getting your base fitness up to scratch - so if you're not regularly swimming, biking or running already, be sure to get to it ASAP. Don't go bull at a gate, ease yourself in and understand your current fitness level. This sounds obvious to say, but don't run before you can walk because injuries mean time out of training, and not enjoying training in the first place makes motivating yourself for future sessions hard too.
What we're really trying to say here is that signing up for a long-distance triathlon takes commitment both physically and mentally, to keep going when it gets tough.
And, depending on your current fitness and your time-scales, your mental and physical commitment will determine how tough it might start off.
What you have to ask yourself is, are you able - time-wise - to exercise for a few hours each day? Will you be able to go for a long ride AND a long run on the weekend? Can you fit it in around your social life, friends and family time? Are you happy to sacrifice social occasions, or come-up with a compromise? Are you willing to get up before work? Exercise during lunch instead of relax with a cuppa, or spend your evenings training?
If the answer to the above is 'yes!', then it sounds like you're in the right mindset to get started. So scroll down to find out what steps are next in your long-distance journey.
Location, Location, Location
Now you're keen on signing your life away to swim, bike and run - it's time to decide where you are going to complete your event.
Ironman has a whole host of long distance triathlons around the globe. The Wiggle Hoka Flyers team are taking on Ironman Wales this September, which is renowned as being one of the toughest courses in the world thanks to its elevation on both the cycle and run. If you like the pain and glory that comes from taking on 2,500m of climbing, Wales could be the race for you too. And Bolton, UK. And Nice, France.
Lots of triathletes like to make a holiday or trip out of their race destination - think Mallorca for sun, sea and cycling heaven or Barcelona for a city beach break to unwind.
And, in our opinion, a holiday after the race is a great way to relax, sip a Sangria and justify the whole thing to your family in the first place.
Once on the event course itself, your performance comes down to you and you alone. But it does help to have a supportive and understanding crew cheering you on throughout training and on race day. We suggest roping in some friends or family to do a few sessions with you each week because having someone else to be accountable to can really help you get out of bed on those mornings when you're not feeling it. The more sessions you tick off in training, the easier race day will be. It's also worth explaining to your partner at this point that if they don't join you, they won't see you for months (which, depending on your relationship could be a bonus).
If you're the only person in your friend and family group interested in fitness, why not join a club? It doesn't have to be dedicated to triathlon, it could be a run club, a cycling club or a swimming club. Being able to share experiences and worries, ask for recommendations and advice from people doing the same thing as you is invaluable.
There are plenty of groups and forums online too. These are especially great for asking about kit, injuries and niggles, and finding the best local bike repair. On the Wiggle Facebook group, we often see questions pop up about preventing saddle soreness; whether a bike fit will solve it, or if new bib shorts or a saddle will suffice. Which brings us onto our next step - new kit!
New [insert product] Day!
We'll be honest here. Triathlon is not the cheapest sport to get into - however, it can totally be done on a (reasonably) slim budget.
New Bike Day (including New To Me Bike Day) is by far the most exciting arrival of them all, although anything coming through the post with a bag of Haribo puts a smile on our faces.
You'll be getting parcels left right and centre but, to get you started, here are the basics.
- Bike, clipless pedals, clipless shoes, padded shorts and helmet
- Running shoes (that suit your running style and gait!)
- Swimming costume, wetsuit and goggles
- Tri suit (not essential)
Yes, it's cliche, but get the best of what you can afford as it will save you money in the long run. You won't believe how regularly you'll need or want to replace equipment once you've caught the Ironman bug. So better kit will mean less frequent replacement and a better performance, mainly because you'll be confident it will work, will fit better, and be more comfortable.
Training Plan and Goals
First things first, set yourself some goals. Is your overall aim to simply finish an Ironman? Do you want to achieve a specific time? Do you want to get an age-group win? Whatever it is, get a pen and paper and write it down. This is your main goal. Now how are you going to get there?
Training plans make your life a hell of a lot easier. The more you have each week planned out, the more likely you are to actually complete that week's training, ticking off session by session.
You can get training plans online or you could get yourself a coach. Either way, knowing your sessions in advance and the reason behind each type of session will help you get it done and done well.
And when we say get a training plan, we don't just mean one that tells you vaguely to swim, bike and run a few times a week. Look for a training plan with the following sessions:
- Hill reps (bike and run)
- Brick sessions
This will ensure you are building both aerobic and anaerobic fitness ready for race day. If you can squeeze in a gym session too, that will help you avoid any little niggles along the journey too. Oh and just when you thought that was it, you're best to get, at the very least, 30 minutes of stretching in once a week too.
Now you've read these Five Steps to Your First Ironman, here are some other resources you might find helpful.
Fueling correctly throughout training is key to your performance on race day. Nutrition for endurance events is not just about stuffing some gels down your throat, it's about giving yourself the energy to put in the most amount of effort possible during each training session so you are fully prepared for your event. We caught up with High5 ambassador and former Team GB Run Coach Nick Anderson to give you the knowledge to shop and eat like a pro.
Can Anyone Finish an Ironman?