An Example of a Free 36 Week Ironman Training Plan
Updated: Mar 16
CONGRATS!, you finally made the choice to check a full distance ironman off your bucket list?! That’s a HUGE first step. You are likely now asking yourself, which Ironman race is best? Regardless, the below information will get you started down your Ironman training journey. The time required for the BIG race is a sizable commitment, but with proper coaching, guidance, and training consistency, you'll experience the life changing feeling of getting to that 140.6 finish line.
I bet you wouldn’t believe that in just under 9 months, you can go from a base level of fitness to the pinnacle of the triathlon series. A good plan with proper coaching can break the seemingly impossible into manageable pieces, swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles, all in a day.
IS THIS TRAINING PLAN FOR ME?
The plan is designed for the new Ironman triathlete, looking to move from a base line of fitness to being Ironman ready. It's important to point out that the plan does require a base level of fitness to begin. If you need a training plan or coach to get you to that base level of fitness, just reach out on the site.
Or, any triathletes who have already trained for an Ironman, but it's been a while, or perhaps their base level of fitness has dropped a bit, will also benefit from such a plan.
WHAT IS A BASE LEVEL OF FITNESS? HOW “FIT” DO I NEED TO BE PRIOR TO STARTING A 36 WEEK IRONMAN TRAINING PLAN?
You should be currently exercising at least 3 to 4 times per week regularly. At a minimum, I would suggest the below training levels as a minimum:
Swimming: capable of swimming 1600 meters
Cycling: able to bike 10 miles at a steady pace
Running: able to run 3 miles at a steady and deliberate pace
Disclaimer: I am not a medical provider. Always check with your doctor prior to starting any exercise program.
WHAT STAGES TO EXPECT WHEN GOING THROUGH AN IRONMAN TRAINING PLAN.
Every training plan will be broken into 3 sections. Although, each phase may not be broken out to be easily distinguishable.
After establishing a base level of fitness. (See above)
Base Building: Weeks 1-13
Build Your Fitness: Weeks 14-24
Push to Peak Performance: Weeks 25-33
Taper to Recover: Weeks 34-36
Building your base is designed to improve general fitness and aerobic capacity. The build period is a transition to training that more closely mimics the work you will be doing in your race. As an example, Ironman races require longer workouts. The peak phase is designed to get your body as fit and race ready as possible, without pushing too hard into injury. This is the point in the coaching where you need to really listen to what your body is telling you and make adjustments as appropriate. The taper will feel like a vacation and be a little uncomfortable. It is a considerable drop in exercise volume that feels counterintuitive but is necessary to allow your body to recover to full strength before the start. (If your peak coaching goes well, you will need that time to rest)
HOW MUCH TIME DO I NEED TO SET ASIDE TO TRAIN?
Plans usually include around nine workouts per week plus some strength training. As an example, three swim workouts, three bike workouts, two strength workouts, and three run workouts. On several days, you’ll hit two disciplines a day. It can be a little overwhelming and time management is very important. This cadence will ensure you are putting in the correct amount of work across each Ironman event. You will also need to be sure you are leaving room for a rest day. Over-training with no rest is as bad as not training, and in some cases worse.
See below for example hours of how long you may expect to train for the event. These are approximate and can vary with you plan and skill level.
During the Base Period, weekly volume ranges from 4 to 8 hours.
During the Build Phase, weekly volume ranges from 10 to 14 hours.
During Peak training, weekly volume ranges from 14 to 19 hours.
During the Taper, weekly volume ranges from 9 and 13 hours.
ACTUAL RACE OR SIMULATION WORKOUTS:
Actual race simulation workouts usually occur around Weeks 13, Weeks 23, and Weeks 29. I highly recommend finding actual races whenever possible as they are more representative of the coming Ironman race.
Week 13 is an Olympic-distance
Week 23 is a half Ironman-distance
Week 29 is a half ironman-distance or a little more.
Race workouts should be approached as a real life rehearsal for race day. Practice and work at your transition times and use all the gear and nutrition you intend to race with during your Ironman. Especially your nutrition, as a body under stress sometimes does not handle food as you expect.
Remember, practice makes what you do permanent, not perfect. So use the race rehearsals to work through any preventable issues prior to race day.