10 ways to take your Ironman performance up a notch
(Image: Jonny Gawler)

10 ways to take your Ironman racing to new heights this year

Coach Joe Beer presents his top tips and sessions to take your long-distance performance up a notch

There’s no getting away from the fact that an Ironman is a long day of racing. But on the plus side this also means there are more opportunities to make tweaks and changes that will actually result in significant finish-time gains.

Tweak things positively by even 3% over an average 12hr day and you’ve made a 21-minute difference. Which is huge! And now is the ideal time to start making these little tweaks and changes to your training, so that you can reap the rewards come race time.

>>> Ironman: how many hours of training a week do you need?

So, without further ado, here are my 10 tips and their respective targeted sessions, each designed to propel you to the finish line faster and more efficiently this race season…

1. Key sessions count

These sessions are key to your progression. The idea is to build for three weeks and then recover for one, so that you reach race day feeling like you’re ready to take on the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run 


Warm-up: 15mins steady effort in chosen sport. 


Main session

200m fast then 5 x (100m sight & breathe every 4th stroke, 100m bilateral, 100m breathing to either side, 100m race pace). Increase to 7 and 9 reps on weeks 2 and 3 before backing off to 3 reps on week 4. 


Work on any technique weaknesses.

Triathlete in swim training

>>> Sub-1hr session: Perfect your Ironman swim pacing


Main session 

65miles mid–upper Zone 1, feeding just below race levels. Increase to 85 and 95 miles in weeks 2 and 3 before backing off to 35–40miles in week 4.


10mins light spinning and 10mins light jog to loosen posture and legs.


Main session 

12–14miles mid–upper Zone 1, feeding just below your race levels. Increase to 15–17 and 18–20 miles in weeks 2 and 3 before backing off to 9 miles in week 4. 


Light spinning on turbo 10mins, self massage and light stretching.

Female triathlete in run training

2. Smash it 

Strong bikers run better. But it’s easy to overlook bike strength sessions in favour of endurance training. Don’t make that mistake.

Be sure to include a quality session once a week to improve your biking strength and lactate recycling. Regularly riding at efforts around 80% will make it easier to ride comfortably at 55% on race day.

>>> Chrissie Wellington on... Preparing for a hilly Ironman


Warm-up: 10mins steady effort.
Build set: 5mins building up to threshold for 1min. 

Main session 

HIT intervals: 6 x 4mins in aero position at 88–90% HRmax/80% peak power, with a 2–4min recovery between.

The key to the session is to be able to complete all the reps, which means not emptying your fuel tank too early, so build into the efforts.


10-mile time trial with a second half harder than the first half by 5%.


10mins light spinning + 10mins light jog to loosen posture and legs.

Triathlete on the turbo trainer

3. Strong not speedy

Quality run sessions are also vital for building run strength. Find an incline that takes 5–7mins to run, with a soft surface, so you engage good mechanics and reduce impact damage as you increase your oxygen use.

Remember that an Ironman marathon is not a pure marathon: you’re running it fatigued after having ridden 112 miles, so being able to maintain good form when tired is crucial.


Warm-up: 10mins steady running.

Build session: 5 reps building up to threshold for 1min uphill then easy jogging back down, then turn and start the next rep.

Main set

Intervals: 5 x 5mins uphill at 86–90% HRmax, then jog back down slowly for recovery. Cool-down 10mins light jog + 10min turbo spin and stretching.

Continue reading our guide to taking your Ironman performances up a notch (2/3)


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