Dave Scott on how to build a long-distance training plan

In the second of our features with six-time Ironman champ Dave Scott, he discusses how to train for long-distance and why you need to include strength and conditioning work

Dave Scott advocates including strength and conditioning in all Ironman training plans

During his recent visit to the UK, tri legend Dave Scott put a group of 220 readers through a swim and strength training session. We caught up with him about how many hours you need to dedicate to go long for the first time and why strength and conditioning is key…


Find triathlon training plans, for every ability and distance, here

“There is a certain amount of eccentric load you have got to garner from your training by just putting in enough running time, so if someone is hoping to get away with training for five to eight hours a week, that isn’t enough for long-distance.

“I build a plan by looking at doing three sessions per discipline per week – so nine total – and then you’ve then got to weave in some kind of strength and stretching too. Now that could be done at home – it doesn’t have to be done in a gym – which gives us 11 sessions per week.

Avoid injury

“With regards to the strength and stretching, you can really reap the benefit if you have time twice a week at about 20-24mins per session or so and those sessions are key. So people that don’t allocate enough time, they’re going to say ‘well I don’t want to do the stretching’ and then they go into an Ironman race with a higher chance of getting injured. I would never recommend that.

“The minimum training time that I look at is about 11.5hrs a week for Ironman and 11.5 to 16 is the range with a lot of amateurs that I coach. That seems to be a very do-able range and people can have great results and also finish with the ability to recover.

“Ironman itself is not a healthy thing. It’s not a healthy event – it’s too long. I like people to kind of build up to it and be very selective. When I was racing, a lot of people, especially the guys, were doing multiple races a year. That was a mistake.

Related: Dave Scott’s strength and conditioning training plan for triathletesCan heavy lifting increase your endurance performance? and 3 strength and conditioning exercises to help you stay injury-free

Spread races out

“For athletes to validate their races or wanting to do multiple Ironmans, about 13 weeks seems to be about the mimimum time between races and my preference is about 15 weeks, but it really depends on how hard you’re running. Amateurs that will have a run/walk on the marathon don’t accumulate the damage that the top level folks do.

“If you look at ageing data, one of the first things that is lost as we age in our 30s, in both genders, is lean muscle mass. And if you lose muscle mass, you lose the ability to do even the simplest types of movements because muscle enables our bodies to be mechanically efficient.

“So if you start thinking about doing an Ironman race in your late 30s, or 40s, you don’t want to sacrifice your strength, stretching and injury prevention programme. That is a pre-requisite. So for people who are first starting, weave that in at least twice a week.”

Related: Iron-distance races: the 7 toughest? , Jan Frodeno’s 10 top tips for stepping up to iron distance

More by Dave Scott 

Dave Scott’s five tips for improving your swim technique for triathlon

Dave Scott on how goal-setting can help you focus when going long

Click here to hear Dave Scott talk through the importance of strength, conditioning, stretching and injury prevention:

See Dave Scott’s advice on goal-setting for Ironman and long-distance racing here.


Dave Scott is the first 6x IRONMAN World Champion and a Master Coach of IRONMAN U.  As the founder of the Dave Scott Multisport Institute, he dedicates himself to making triathletes of all levels faster and more efficient.  Learn more at www.davescottinc.com