Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on training, racing and life.
With several of my triathletes considering the full Ironman, and several prospective athletes that have recently reached out to me inquiring about Full Ironman training, I decided to type this out in hopes it helps any of you with your decision. Outlined below is essentially what I tell my athletes as well as prospective athletes. If you’re looking to do a Full Ironman, your head, heart, body and finances need to be right.
Yes, the old adage is true, “if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll wait your whole life,” but what I’m trying to say here is that there is a degree of readiness you have to have – and that’s having your head on straight, your heart right, your body healthy and finances in order. If any of these are out, you should stay out until you get everything in order. It’s okay to put the Ironman dream on hold. Here are some things to contemplate when considering the Full Ironman.
Let’s start with the head. If you’re thinking this is the “normal trajectory” of triathlon, where you start with Sprints and then work your way up to Full Ironman, you’re wrong.
You can stay with Sprints, or whatever your favorite distance is, for your whole triathlon journey. It’s a common trajectory, but not a “normal” one. What is normal is what works for you. Don’t do it because you feel pressured, do it because you *want* to. And if you don’t want to do a Full Ironman, then don’t do a Full Ironman. But, if you do want to do an Ironman, I do suggest you start with Sprints and Olympics and then slowly and patiently work your way up to the full distance. You will have better success on race day following this approach.
Continuing with the head, if you think things like, “I think I want to do one” or “I think this will be the year I do an Ironman” or “My friend is doing one so I think I will do it with her” – these are not convincing reasons. You have to be 100% in it. You have to have your mind dead set on doing the Ironman. When you can think things like, “I WANT to do one and WILL do one!” or “This is MY year to do the Ironman and I’m going to do it!” or “My friend is doing the Ironman and I’m going to do it with her!” – then you’re ready. You’re 100% in it mentally.
And still on the head, if you’re thinking you can’t do it, you’re right, you can’t. But if you have your doubts (which are completely normal) and don’t let them control you, you will finish the training and the race.
When prospective athletes message me stating they are “thinking about the Ironman distance” I tell them to keep thinking and to reach out to me when they are ready. I want to make sure they are 100% in it mentally. It’s easy to sign up and register on emotion and excitement, but that emotion and excitement won’t last during those long hours of training. You need to be ready for all that comes with the Ironman – the hours, the money, and time away from a social life and your family. I have seen athletes, and even coached some athletes, that signed up for races on excitement and emotion, and when the going got tough during training, they got going. This is a disappointment all around. Don’t sign up for something you’re not 100% ready for.
Talking about the heart – Do you love triathlon? Do you love training? If you do, great, because there’s a lot to love about Ironman training and racing. And there’s a lot of hours of training with it, too. But if you don’t love long training hours, you won’t love Ironman. You might not be ready (yet). Make sure your heart is 100% in it. Think about your motives, your passion and see if you love it enough to sign up for an Ironman.
Continuing with the heart, is your family and relationship(s) in a good place? If not, don’t sign up for the Ironman. If you’re having relationship troubles, the time away from your loved one is a sure way to destroy the relationship. Please invest in your relationship(s) first before you invest in triathlon. If your kids are demanding a lot of you, maybe wait to a season when they aren’t as needy. You’re going to be busy training, and exhausted from training, that you won’t be able to meet your kid(s) every need. Make sure this is something your schedule and family will allow.
Is your body healthy? Have you been injured often? If you answer “no” to the first one and “yes” to the second one – first get healthy and get to the bottom of your injury. You cannot successfully train for an Ironman with any sort of injury or compromised health. Did you know that risk of injury training for Ironman is 90+%? It is! And if you’re going into it with compromised health, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Spend some time getting healthy, even if that means taking time off. Get to the gym and start strength training, and hire a coach to safely guide you to success. Setting your Ironman goal back one or two years is completely okay, and that time will fly by. Besides, you never know, during that time, you might learn that the Half distance may be better for you. It’s not about just doing an Ironman, it’s about a healthy lifestyle and this distance isn’t healthy for everyone. Take the time to assess yours goals and see how your body responds.
Are you currently in debt and trying to get your finances in order? If so, don’t register for an Ironman. There are hidden expenses. Not only is the entry fee around $750, but there’s hotel (for several nights), travel (and this can be by plane if your race is far), bike transport (if your race requires you to transport your bike), the cost of hiring a coach, the cost of regular bike tune ups because of all the bike miles, multiple pairs of running shoes because of all the run miles, gym and/or pool memberships, sport nutrition drink mixes for all your long workouts, proactive health services such as chiropractor, massage therapy, and even rehabilitative services from physical therapist if you happen to get injured (and there’s always a risk with the mileage associated with this distance – remember the 90% injury risk mentioned above?!). And with your increased training hours, your appetite grows and so does your grocery bill. There are costs you need to consider before signing up for an Ironman.
Make sure you’re truly ready to start the journey. There’s no rush. If you’re 100% ready, you will have an awesome experience. The Ironman is a journey unlike no other, but make sure you have everything in order to start the journey so you can finish it at the Ironman finish line.
Want to chat about it? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org