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4 Planning and Mindset Must-Haves Before You Can Start Ultra-Distance Training

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Ironman training on 12-hours per week? Challenge accepted.

Feeling race-ready!

Long course endurance training, especially Ironman-distance triathlons, has a reputation of monopolizing the life of those who attempt one, and have therefore become a bucket-item challenge. But I think this approach perpetuates the stereotype of the Ironman training time-suck and breeds an aversion to the sport, rather than nurturing the personal benefits that are realized from the achievement of properly training for an Ironman - or any long-course endurance event.

I want to change this stereotype because I believe that long distance races are achievable for anyone, with the right mindset, knowledge, and planning tools.

I work with business professionals who are both passionate about long-course endurance training and are crunched for time. I spent the last 10 years of my career in high tech as one of these people. Between a demanding job, family commitments, and a social life, weekly schedules can change unexpectedly, but I assure you, your big racing goals are still achievable. My primary focus as a coach is on developing training strategies that are effective on limited training time.

With this focus, I am taking on the challenge - for myself personally, as well as for my clients - to train for an Ironman on 12 hours per week. I want to change the belief that an Ironman requires 15-20-hours a week of training and causes distress and inconvenience to time-crunched individuals. Let’s face it - any hobby in which this is a requirement is unsustainable.

Are you with me?! The planning starts NOW!

Yes, I said it was possible for anyone, but I didn't say it was easy. Here are some considerations and preparations you should think about before jumping in:

Plan on at least 12 months of consistent training before your first long-course endurance event.

It takes time (read: YEARS) to properly build your training. I see it all the time where people do Ironmans and ultra-marathons on far less training than 12 months, but in most cases, they do not have stellar race experiences, they get injured in the training process, or they don’t last very long in their sport. If you are contemplating your first ultra-distance race, it is less than 12 months off, and you haven't developed a solid foundation, I strongly encourage you to re-evaluate your ability to prepare for that race.

Eliminate your 'one-and-done' mindset.

There is nothing wrong with putting a long-course endurance event on your bucket list, but I would question why you are doing it. There are few long-term benefits of the one-and-done approach. The attention on social media is nice, as well as the feeling of accomplishment, but it is short-lived. The hard work that you put into training for an Ironman has the opportunity to teach you real lessons with life-changing benefits when practiced over a lifetime.

Get your family on board.

If you can dedicate 10-12 hours a week to training, you can do an Ironman. Much less time is required for a single-sport event like an ultra-marathon or ultra-cycling event. However, your family still needs to be on board with your decision to do it. You should set the expectation that there will be 3-6 weekends during your training that you will be largely unavailable, and they will need to be able to enjoy a very long day without you on the day of your race. Plan with them, and your training enjoyment will increase tenfold!

Set boundaries at work in order to take care of your training, sleep, stress, and nutrition.

You can’t take on a long-course event without planning, and this planning process needs to consider your work routine, schedule, and commitments; all of these things will require an adjustment as well as boundary-setting. My personal experience, and evidence from the athletes I coach, tells me that dedicating yourself to an endurance athletic event will make you more attentive at work, better at managing your stress, and more efficient with the time you have.

Your endurance training should enable you to perform well at work, have energy for your family and friends, and approach your races with confidence. With a little planning and time management, you can embrace your goals, and make it all happen.

Check out our Ironman 70.3 Victoria BC training plan in the Training Peaks store, specifically created for runners or cyclists who need to give more attention to their swim.

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