Rutland Cycling sponsored athlete, Ben Kenneally is currently training for his first Ironman which will see him endure a 2.4mile open water swim, a 112 mile Alpine cycle and then run a full marathon! In this post, Ben runs us through the strict training plan he is following to prepare for his first Ironman.
So, training. Not going to lie, it’s a pretty important component in preparation for an Ironman – one of the longest and toughest endurance events in the world. But how does one just jump into the daunting world of triathlon, with little or no experience, ensuring that you hit the ground running with enough direction and drive to keep the wheels rolling? Yes, all 3 puns intended.
Me? Whilst I have never done any running before signing up, I do have some cycling and swimming experience. I have cycled (semi)competitively for a few years now, for both my University and local club in various disciplines, at various levels (and even more varied success).
At school, the summer terms were tainted with compulsory swimming training. Despite being a big cricket fan, I was drafted into the (sub-par) school swimming team to bulk out the squad. It was tough. What I lacked in tanned skin tone, I made up for in goggle marks – a great trade, by anyone’s standards. However, it did leave me with a residual inkling of how to swim. 6 years later, I find myself voluntarily repeating the drills I so hated, as I meander methodically up and down the pool. Swimming in a straight line is still not my forte.
On my return to England and start of ‘proper’ training in January, I was in this situation:
My running had already seen a massive improvement from my spurious training in South America, but still at less than 2/5ths of the distance, there was a lot to be done.
I started my training plan by looking at the end – what is my goal? “Come the 23rd of June, I need to be able to complete an ironman”. However, I can’t just aim to do a couple of practise Ironmen before then. In fact, I can’t even afford to run a complete marathon before then, even though that’s just one of the 3 disciplines I’ll need on the day! “Why?” The issue here is recovery. At the long distances required in the running and cycling disciplines, as a beginner, the recovery time needed would prevent further training, and so is not the most effective training plan.
The same basic training sessions translate across all the sports, with endurance sessions necessary to get your body used to the distances for the event, and the shorter, more intense sessions used to try and actually improve your technique and aerobic capacity. The shorter, higher intensity sessions are also ideal for those more pushed for time, requiring shorter, but just as effective, training sessions.
So, the idea is to get in:
- 1 x long session - to build endurance (the main goal),
- 1 x shorter, higher intensity session - to build aerobic capacity (to try and go faster),
- 1x ‘medium’ session - to really focus on technique (to make it a bit easier)
for each discipline. I needed to spread the sessions evenly across the week allowing for 1 day off from training every week, and build the training plan such that every week increased in training volume, until the 4th, which was a ‘recovery week’ where the volume of training is cut (see below for an example of the volume building). The importance of recovery time cannot be stressed enough! And eating. Eat EVERYTHING. That’s pretty key too.
This is how my training plan looks:
- Week 1 - 12 hours
- Week 2 - 14 hours
- Week 3 - 16 hours
- Week 4 - 10 hours 'Recovery week'
- Week 5 - 13 hours
- Week 6 - 15 hours
- Week 7 - 17 hours
- Week 8 - 10 hours 'Recovery week'
In terms of discipline training compatibility, running and cycling are the two that use the most similar muscle groups, and so I took this into consideration when planning the endurance sessions (which are scheduled later in the training week, ideally just prior to the rest day). Then, I just had to synchronise my training plan to my social and work life to get the best fit!
This schedule above shows the order of the sessions, but the specific details of the sessions should be based upon your fitness and your goal. The plan is purposely not linked to specific days of the week, so that you can synchronise it with your social and work life. [For example, weekends are where I tend to socialise, and so I have chosen Day 7 to correspond to Saturday, as Day 1 is a shorter day than Day 6.]
An example week plan is included below, but for someone starting training, the plan would be a lot less intense. It’s advisable to follow the 10% rule, where you don’t increase the duration of any discipline by more than 10% week to week.
I hope this has given you a little insight into my training plan. In my next post I will tell you a little more about the training plans I have for each of the 3 disciplines (Swimming, cycling & Running) and give you my top tips for improving your technique and efficiency.
Note: we are delighted to announce that Ben came 14th in his age group in the Ironman Nice triathlon – his first ever triathlon! A fantastic performance – very well done, Ben!