How much training should I do for my first Ironman?

Hi all

I'm doing my first full Ironman distance triathlon next summer (Ironman UK in Bolton). Like most first timers, I imagine, my only goal is to finish within the cut off.

How much training should I do? What level is too much and what is too little? Essentially, I'm asking what can I "get away" with (not) doing between now and next July.

I did my one and only half Ironman in Weymouth in September and finished just 25 minutes inside the cut off.


  • Every One is different

    But being blunt ...
    ... if you dont want to do the training - you should not have entered the race
  • edited November 2017
    Agree with Will!... there is no real short cut to finishing an IM.

    However, the reality depends on many factors, not least of which are your current fitness levels, your natural sporting tendencies, and your willingness to suffer.... some people complete IMs on just a handful of hours a week, and some average in the twenties of hours... there is no real right answer.

    Saying that, as a guide, if you can complete a century bike ride and then run for a few mins off the bike, and then separately can run for 3 hours at a decent pace, then you are probably ready.... if you can't, then be prepared to hurt like hell, and probably panic for the entire race about making the cut offs
    lets be honest.... its all prep for an Ironman on my 100th birthday
  • As much as you can without getting injured. If that close to the cut off get some consistent short sessions in now and find a training plan and do it, working on weaknesses.

    I finished Outlaw Half with 15 minutes before the cut off and know that I need as much training as possible to get myself in a position to be able to finish a full IM.

  • Hi - thanks for the responses.

    Having re-read my original post, I think I worded it badly - so let me rephrase. When training for your first marathon, people always say the first time you cover 26 miles should be the race itself.

    I was wondering what the Ironman equivalent might be. 3,000-metre swim? Up to 80 miles on the bike? Running no further than 15 miles?

    I'm not trying to cut corners, I just don't want to overdo it to the detriment of the race.
  • I would put in several rides of over 100 miles, for IMUK make sure some of them are hilly ones in bad weather conditions

    Swim, I do as many full distance swim as possible, including some full distance open water ones

    But please, please, please don't just do what you consider "just enough" training, ironman is not easy

    Get yourself a training plan, there are enough free ones out there on the internet, ranging from seasoned pro to beginner / just get you round
  • I'd come at it from a slightly different tack and say it depends on the type of training you are doing and while I appreciate that not everyone will agree with me on this. There is not point just doing a bit of some swimming some biking and some running. You may well finish with this approach but will you get the best result for the hours you have put in? Training well for 3 sports is complicated at take balancing both volume and intensity across all the sports so that you are not over taxing one particular bodily system. My approach would be work out how many hrs you can train per week. Be honest about this, not just what you would like to achieve but what you can actually achieve then find a plan that suits. As a starting point you could look at Don Finks book called Be Iron Fit. There are plenty of other options but the one I have mentioned has gotten many of us round our first IM. With a well put together plan 90% of people would be able to get round on about 15 hrs per week.
  • PG3PG3 ✭✭✭
    I would really check out a proper training plan.  Unless you are 1) massively naturally talented and 2) super tough, most people need to train hard.  In my opinion, you can wing a half ironman but not an IM.  I am not very fast or talented but I trained blummin hard.  Longish bikes nearly every weekend from Jan (assuming a summer IM) and lots of sessions during the week. I remember my average hours from Jan - July was 12 hours.  It's possible to get away with less but it's a tough day and the chances are, you will be found out.  If you cant do the hours, I would do another HIM instead until you can spare the time.
  • I found I could 'get away' with about 7 hours a week for my first IM, work meant that mid-week training was down to a couple of attempts at swimming during the week after work and then building up the run/bike at weekends. 

    When looking at times, don't aim for just getting inside cut-off if you can help it, try and get an hour inside at least as part of your plan, mechanicals can take chunks of time, and if things going wrong on the run time gets away from you at a rapid rate, you can very easily be making friends with 12-13 minute miles.
  • I'm signed up for IMUK 18 as my first, I've got the Fink book and am really enjoying reading it.  It seems much more of a complete guide to tackling the whole event and not just a plan.  I'm inexperienced but based on what I've read, looks an ideal start for a beginner....
  • If you were 25 mins inside cutoff for a half then you need to up your game for the full.  You need to be comfy doing 100 mile plusbike rides.  Its not like running where you can destroy your legs with running - you recover much quicker from cycle rides.  Same with swimming - no impact, and a full distance swim won't take you THAT long. 

    The earlier you start the easier race day will be.  
  • Looking back at my diaries for Outlaw, my first tri of any distance by Christmas I was swimming 45 minutes twice a week, at least two hour hard turbo sessions and running about 25 miles a week. By the race I had done four 100m plus rides, was doing 3x hard 15 mile rides each week, over 3000km in the year to data swum the race distance many times in the pool and open water and was running badly but around 25m a week. I was also cycling 20m each way to work a few times a week when the school run allowed, again I was going hard and I’d often run to/from the pool with the minimum kit inside a camelback bag. 
    It was my first tri and I only learnt to swim 12 months before it so my aim was to finish. I worked out what time I needed to be at  various points. In the end I was on the bike in under 100 minutes and on the run after about 8h15. 
    My advice is cycle a lot, as Cougie says you can recover quickly from it, I used SIS Rego a lot too. If you aren’t able to cover the bike distance comfortably, a marathon distance is a hell of a long way to walk.
  • cougie said:

    The earlier you start the easier race day will be.  
    Most races don't let you start until the gun goes off.
  • Very true ! 

    Exception being the Snowdonia Marathon where I only passed  a lil ol lady jogging it after about half way - god know how early she started !
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