Daniela Ryf’s 3 key Ironman training sessions

We share Ironman world champ, Daniela Ryf's ultimate training sessions with key advice from Dermott Hayes on how you can adapt them for your own training


Pro triathlete and multiple Ironman world champion Daniela Ryf shares her top swim, bike and run training sessions.


Ryf’s Key Swim Session 

This tough Ryf set will build speed and stamina, and will also hone your recovery skills

The session: 10 x 400m @ 5mins

Why? This Daniela session is designed to force you to swim hard and recover as quickly as possible. Basically your recovery is the time gap between the 400m swim and 5mins, i.e. if you swim 4:25mins then you get 35secs recovery. It’ll boost your threshold swim pace and doing 10 sets also turns it into an endurance workout.

Frequency: Include this session in your swim schedule once every three weeks.

Fuelling: Take an isotonic energy drink to the pool and have a protein snack ready to eat within 30mins

Age-Group Adaptation: First you carry out a time trial by swimming hard over a given distance. Start with 200m, then set a time that includes some recovery of approx. 20-30secs. Start with 10 x 200m and gradually increase the number of sets up to 15 x 200m.

Ryf’s Key Bike Session

In this session Daniela is adopting different levels of intensity that all have Ironman racing benefits

The session: 3hr bike: 1hr solid, 1hr hard, 1hr all out. In terms of heart-rate BPM (beats per minute), I aim for the first hour at 140bpm, the second at 160bpm and the third hour just as hard as possible.

Why? In this session Daniela is adopting different levels of intensity that all have a benefit to Ironman racing. It’s an endurance session with elements well above Ironman race pace. This session is best carried out indoors so that you can manage the environmental factors.

Frequency: Include this session mostly in the Build and Peak phases of Ironman training and carry out once per fortnight.

Fuelling: Have approx. 700ml of fluids per hour and consider one energy gel per 45mins. Have a protein snack ready to eat within 30mins of finishing the session.

Age-group adaption: Reduce the time intervals down to 30mins initially but aim to increase up to 1hr over a period of two months. Set a desired Ironman race pace using speed, heart rate or power and aim to increase by approx. 10% each effort level, e.g. 30mins @ 130bpm; 30mins @ 145bpm; 30mins @ 160bpm.

Ryf’s Key Run Session

Winning flourish Ryf’s run sessions are simple but brutally effective

The session: 15 x 3mins on the treadmill @ heart rate 185bpm

Why? Don’t ever think that Ironman run training must all be about plodding. If you only ever run steady you’ll only improve at running steady. Ironman athletes include speed work into their training to achieve quicker run splits.

Frequency: Begin these sessions during the build phase and continue through near to race day. Carry out once per fortnight.

Fuelling: Have approx. 700ml of fluids with you and a protein snack ready to eat within 30mins of finishing the session.

Age-group adaption: Moderate the intensity compared to Daniela (she’s a double Ironman world champion, after all!). Set a heart rate target that’s maybe 20bpm above your marathon heart rate and work to hit that HR every effort. If you struggle to maintain the quality then reduce down to 10 sets and aim to build up to 15. Use a specific recovery time between sets, I suggest 1min is adequate.

220 named Daniela Ryf 8th greatest triathlete ever  and 9th greatest Kona athlete of all time


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