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

Are you thinking of doing a long distance triathlon? We explain how many training hours you’ll need to commit

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

With so many top-notch Ironman and long-distance triathlons on the calendar each year, it’s no wonder that more people than ever are taking the plunge – but how many hours do you need to commit each week? Coach Joe Beer has the answers you’re looking for…


If you can’t ring-fence the hours, then you have to set some key sessions per week. Many athletes produce adequate Ironman races on 8-12 hours’ training a week, with several weeks where they do less. But you’ll have to be super-specific to make the most of your time:


Use the pool to endurance swim, not for technique sessions or short dips. It’s a 1hr+ upper body exercise and, come race day, few people are from such a strong swim background that they can wing it.

You won’t be able to swim four times a week, as I often hear suggested by default, but regular swims of 2.5-3.5km are central to adequate swim competence. The moment it’s possible to use a lido or safe outdoor swim environment, get in a wetsuit.


Biking is the big time allowance. It’s good to train with others and do real road riding on your race bike, but with small time chunks available indoor sessions can be very productive. Less changing time, constant pedalling at your desired effort, fuel all laid out – it all means you save on faff time.


When time is at its shortest and pool or bike is off the menu, run. Short runs, running errands or longer weekend runs – just get out on your feet to practise the final sport in your ‘big goal’ day. It’s less important to think about speed work, more a case of being mindful of efficient running and practising race nutrition.


Don’t get caught up in the ‘more hours equals fitter’ mentality. Instead, think of it as preparing your body for a 3.8km swim, knowing how to fuel and pace a 180km bike, and then mentally being able to endure the extreme physical effort of a 42km run at the end of the day.

This takes sessions that stretch you but also test all your race-day equipment. Taper for the last two weeks and smile as you cross the line.

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(Images: Ross Grieve / Dirty Green Trainers / Ironman / Jonny Gawler)


For lots more long-distance advice and plans head to our Training section