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How Much Volume Should You Be Doing for Swim, Bike, and Run for Your Iron Distance Race?

I’m going to explain this in Ironman’s simplest terms. I am an Ironman University Certified Coach and I feel that they do a great job of breaking the training schedule down so it is easy to follow. First of all, you need to know the 4 Phases of Ironman Training. These are as follows:

General Prep: The focus on this phase of training is building endurance and improving form and technical skills. Athletes work on building their aerobic base fitness and developing muscular endurance. In general, this phase accounts for about 9 weeks of a 24 week plan.

Specific Prep: The focus in this phase is to incorporate additional resistance to build muscular strength. Athletes work on tactical skills such as transitions from bike to run as well as pacing and nutrition on longer rides, runs and swims. This phase usually accounts for about 6 weeks of a 24 week Ironman plan.

Pre-Competition: In this phase athletes incorporate power and sustained speed while continuing to work on race day tactics. This phase accounts for about 2-3 weeks of a 24 week Ironman plan.

Competition: In this phase there is a greater emphasis on race specific intensity and race day tactics such as pacing, nutrition, and transitions. This phase of training is typically 5 weeks in duration with the last 2 weeks being a Taper before race day. During taper, I decrease the volume but not the intensity of your workouts.

Recovery: Athletes are recovering and resting after a progressive build in volume and intensity. Training load and intensity is greatly reduced for recovery.

Below are the recommended training hours for each discipline based on Ironman University’s Novice athlete program for 140.6 and 70.3 If you are new to the sport or a first time iron distance athlete, you can pretty much stick to these numbers. Most of the folks I coached have some degree of experience so I usually tweak these numbers according to my athlete’s experience and strengths.

The above numbers are based on what Ironman defines as a novice athlete. This means it is most likely a beginner who is new to the sport or a first timer for Ironman competition. That being said, I use the above numbers as a guideline, but my job as a coach is to create a custom program for each individual athlete. For example, sometimes I will on board a new athlete who was a competitive swimmer in college and wants 3 swims a week starting at 3000 yards each. Often I will get an athlete who is a many time marathoner who wants to dive into iron distance racing, so I will start out their run volume higher. If an athlete is easing back into the sport after illness or injury, we will stick closer to the above numbers for training volume.

Have you thought about hiring a coach for your next iron distance event? Click the button below and drop me your info for a free 15 min chat about your race goals!

Mary Timoney

Ironman University Certified Coach

USA Cycling Coach

ACSM Trainer


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