|Here are some more useful tips if you have or are considering signing up for your first Ironman.|
For most athletes a triathlon – especially an IRONMAN – is not something you decide to do overnight. A serious amount of thought and preparation goes into the decision to compete in what some call the most grueling athletic competition there is. Whether you’re a frequent competitor or simply an athlete looking for an extreme challenge, choosing to participate in an IRONMAN is a big commitment.
With a little preparation and a lot of training, you can compete with confidence.
Start small and work your way up
If you’ve never done a triathlon before, rather than dive right into the longest distance, you may want to consider working your way up. Find a local sprint distance race to start with (0.5-m swim, 12.4-m bike, 3.1-m run), and once you’re comfortable with those, you can move up to Olympic-distance races (0.93-m swim, 24.8-m ride and 6.2-m run). From there, you can try your hand at a race from the IRONMAN 70.3 Series (1.2-m swim, 56-m bike and 13.1-m run). Once you’re comfortable at these distances, you can begin training for your first IRONMAN.
Triathlons fill up very fast. That’s why it’s crucial to plan ahead. If your heart is set on a certain race, find out well in advance the exact date and time that registration opens, so that you can give yourself the best chance for entry. As you’re considering which race to enter, think about weather, proximity to home and type of course. Being entered early allows you the opportunity to have the appropriate amount of mental and physical time to train.
It’s true, you can over-prepare for a race, especially one with such demanding distances. As you’re creating your training plan, be sure to mold it so that it fits into your lifestyle and not the other way around. Outside of your regular training routine, you should not be losing sleep or neglecting your work or family to prepare. Although it may be tempting to do more than your required mileage on some days, try to stick to the plan, realizing that rest days and active recovery days are crucial to a successful training plan.
Pay attention to your body
You’ll be swimming, running and biking more than you thought possible. As a result, it’s essential that you take care of your body. If you’re feeling lethargic or tired, reassess your nutrition plan. When your muscles start to cramp, get a massage or use a foam roller. Consider weekly yoga classes to keep your body loose. Keep your favorite products on hand for minor concerns. Zeasorb products offer treatment and prevention for many minor chafing, blister and other skin irritations that occur during training.
Tip: During training, always take proper precautions, such as wearing socks, to prevent against infections and other minor irritations. According to triathlete and dermatologist Dr. Mark Herron, MD, when triathletes run and bike without socks, they increase their risk of foot infections. Without socks, the sweat from their feet will allow mold to grow on the shoe cushions, and after exercise, the cushion will remain wet and allow for further growth.
Find a buddy
Many people training for their first IRONMAN find a group to train with. Camaraderie can help you face an intimidating obstacle. You’ll also have people that you can commiserate and celebrate accomplishments with. If you prefer to train alone, consider bringing an experienced buddy on longer training days to help you pace yourself. Some people even get coaches – if you can afford this extra help, go for it.
Be an efficiency master
To ensure you’re devoting the necessary time to other areas of your life, find ways to squeeze in an extra workout without overdoing it. If you have the right equipment, you can complete some workouts in the comfort of your home. Try to get your workout out of the way in the morning before the day gets away from you. For shorter workouts, take advantage of your lunch hour. Finally, while outdoor workouts are critical, don’t be afraid of completing workouts indoors to maximize efficiency.
Become a student
No one knows what to expect from his or her first IRONMAN, and it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit apprehensive. Use online resources to find out more information about your race course. Read books from some of the greats to learn how they mentally and physically prepared. It will give you peace of mind, come race day, that you know what’s coming and that you’re up for the challenge.
Set realistic goals
Once you’ve registered and are officially training, it’s easy to get carried away and start dreaming about far-fetched finishing times. Resist the urge. Set a realistic goal, so that you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment or forcing your body to go faster than it should at the beginning of the race. Remind yourself: It’s an IRONMAN, not a sprint, or even a marathon.
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