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Training > Long distance

15 Ironman training sessions from the pros

15 of the best long-distance triathletes in the world, including Craig Alexander, Daniela Ryf, Lucy Gossage, and Joe Skipper, share their key Ironman training workouts to help you reach your next-season goals…

Fifteen stars from the world of long-distance triathlon have shared their training secrets to their respective successes. Some, like Chrissie Wellington and Kona icon Mark Allen, no longer race at elite level. Many, like current Ironman world champion Daniela Ryf, fastest Brit ever Joe Skipper and three-time Hawaii victor Mirinda Carfrae, currently light up the world racing circuit.

For each, we’ve followed the same format to ensure you’re spoon-fed the intensity and duration of session, plus the respective nutritional requirements. The majority are also relevant to the off-season so you can pick and choose the ones that you’d like to apply to your own performance right now. But seeing beyond the doom, gloom and eternal sessions shrouded in darkness, a few sessions are more appropriate as the new season approaches.

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Finally, be warned that, as you’d expect from a breed of human that thrives on digging to the depths, many of these are damn tough. The hardcore out there, whose minds and bodies have built resilience over many years of training, will cope. But don’t fear if things look that bit too long or intense. You can play around with cutting the duration of sessions and reps down to suit your ability, while retaining the basic workout structure.

4 Swim sessions

Whether it’s lake, sea or river, the 3.8km swim can seem daunting. Yet help is at hand from the best in the iron business with their technique and stamina-boosting sets…

  

1. 90 minute pool swim: the iron VO2

   

Lucy Charles, The fastest female swimmer at Hawaii in 2015, and now pro athlete, gives her essential speed and endurance set.

  

lucy says: “This is a quality session that increases both speed and endurance. It’s a toughie but, if you can do it weekly, you’ll see a notable difference in your swim times.”

Key kit
Swim cap,  goggles, pull buoy,  kickboard

Warm-up 
1
00m swim, 100m pull buoy, 100m kick with 30secs rest between each

Main set
 50m at near-max effort on 60secs [on is swim time plus rest time before you go 
again: in this case, 60secs]

100m at near-max effort on 2mins

 150m at near-max effort on 3mins

 200m at near-max effort on 4mins

 300m relaxed on 6mins

 200m at near-max effort on 4mins

 150m at near-max effort on 3mins

 100m at near-max effort on 2mins

 50m at near-max effort on 60secs

 300m relaxed 

Cool-down 
 100m kick, 100m pull, 100m with 30secs rest

Nutrition

“Make sure you’re fully hydrated. I eat a banana 30mins before and top-up on two electrolyte drink bottles by the end of the session.”

2. 5mins on dry land: calm breathing

Andy Potts (USA) The multiple Ironman winner and Kona swim legend serves up his best breathing advice to do on dry land.

  

Andy says: “This isn’t a session as such but a breathing technique I developed to cope with pre-race panic attacks.”

The Session
 (No warm-up, main set or cool-down). Start with a few deep breaths, then build breaths faster and faster, before inhaling deeply and holding. Repeat several times. This works!

Nutrition

“Sip on some water or take an energy gel before hitting the swim.” 

  

3. 60min pool swim: strength pull

Stephen Bayliss (GBR): The Brit long-course stalwart and four-time Ironman winner offers up his weekly aquatic essential swim.

  

Stephen says: “I still do this session every week of the year. It’s easy to remember, which is unusual for swim sessions! It’s all about strength and endurance, which is very important in any tri swim. As you improve, challenge yourself by doing the swim and rest off a certain time. For example, 6mins, but work out a time that’ll challenge and give you around 10secs rest.”

Key kit 
Pull buoy,  paddles, a swim ankle strap (OR a cut inner tube tied in a knot around the ankles)

Warm-up
 400m

Main set
 4 x 400m hard with pool buoy and band with 15secs rest after each set
4 x 400m hard with paddles, pool buoy and band with 15secs rest

Cool-down
 400m easy

Nutrition

“Ensure you’re fuelled and hydrated before the session, as you don’t drink during the session (in a race you don’t enjoy a drink stop halfway round the 3.8km swim!). Immediately after I consume carbohydrate and protein. I also keep hydrated.

  

4. 60-90min pool swim: the truth 

Jan Sibbersen (GER): Former holder of the fastest Ironman swim ever and Sailfish wetsuits founder gives his essential morning session.

    

Jan says: “This set is simple, honest and gives you a good indication of what you’re capable of swimming at an average speed per 100m in an Ironman race (provided you swim in a straight line). You should be ‘fresh’, so this should be your first session of the day.”

Key kit
 Swimsuit, pull buoy, goggles

Warm-up
 A long one of 1,000m-1,500m in total: 400m swim, 400m pull buoy and kick, and throwing in some 50s and 100s at increasing speed to elevate heart rate for the main set.

Main set
 10 x 200m all-out. Rest for 1min after each 200m and try to swim the 10th time as fast as the first 200m. Keep the speed up and not too much variance between first and second 100m. Try to keep your stroke together. You should be completely spent after this set. Repeat it every week for three weeks, starting four weeks out from your race.

Cool-down
 500m minimum

Nutrition

“If you want to treat yourself for an amazing performance, wait for at least 2hrs for your first beer as it inhibits regeneration substantially!”

   

10 off-season triathlon swim sessions

  

Continue reading 15 Ironman Training Sessions (bike sessions 5-8, page 2/4)


 
 

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