Strength training in the lead up to an Ironman

In the lead up to my past Ironman, I decided to change my strength training program completely around from the past year to see what would happen.

Going against everything I have been told where and when to place gym sessions within an athlete’s training program, I decided to place my gym session after my weekly long rides.  Some weeks I would jump off my bike from a five – six hour ride and go directly to the gym.  Other weeks I would wait up to four hours to do so.

My weekly strength training program from twelve weeks leading into the Ironman was very much a maintenance phase.  I had done all the hard work in the gym in the nine months prior to this.  My week would look something like:

  • Two core strength sessions done at home
  • One full body gym session

 

Last year when I was within twelve weeks of an Ironman, I remained in the gym twice a week with the focus of maintenance. This year I decided to replace one of my gym sessions with an extra run.

I didn’t know if this was going to work in week one and I was wiling to make changes if and when needed.  For all gym sessions, I had written out the session, how many reps and the weights I wanted to lift for each muscle group.

The weeks looked something like this

  • Week 1: Gym session directly after a 5hr hilly ride. This felt hard but manageable and recovered well.
  • Week 2: Gym was placed in a traditional place
  • Week 3: Gym within 1hr after finishing a 6hr ride
  • Week 4: Gym within 4hrs after finishing a 5hr hilly ride
  • Week 5: Gym was placed in a traditional place
  • Week 6: Gym was placed in a traditional place
  • Week 7: Gym within 4hrs of finishing a 3hr hard ride
  • Week 8: Gym within 1hr of finishing a 5hr hilly ride – Starting to feel easy
  • Week 9: Gym within 1hr of a 6hr ride – I had to increase the weights as it felt too easy
  • Week 10: Gym session within 3hrs of a 3hr hard ride
  • Week 11: Gym was placed in a traditional place
  • Week 12: Race week – No gym

 

Results 

Yes the first week felt hard but I recovered fast from the session and it didn’t have a negative impact to my long run the next day.  From there, it really felt easier and easier each time and I found by week six of doing this, I would feel amazingly fresh after my long rides.

In the past, a six hour ride would feel like I have ridden six hours, now, I am getting off the bike and walking around the house questioning the ride and the effort I rode at. I would feel like I had spent the morning on the beach instead of the bike.

Week nine blew my mind, I got off the bike after a 6hr ride feeling fresh.  I had a shake and a shower and went directly to the gym. When I started doing inclined leg press, I had on my program 3×12 @ 130kg. I started and I thought I hadn’t stacked the weights correctly as it felt way too easy.  I stopped and counted the weights and yes they were right.  I had to put on another 20kg just so it could feel like I am doing something.

 

Ironman Performance 

While I didn’t have the ride I was expecting during my Ironman, the last 65km was a strong headwind.  This also turned out to be my fastest last 65km of any Ironman I had done and I got off the bike feeling I had just ridden 90km instead of 180km.

 

Would I do this again?  For myself, most diffidently.

Would I recommend others to do this or give this to athletes I coach? Depending on the athlete, I would strongly consider testing if it will work for some if I could be sure the athlete would focus on good technique during the gym sessions and recovery after the session.  I would also want a lot of feedback from each session and I would keep a close eye on their training performance in the days after the gym session.

 

 

Tim Egge

If we were to look in your fridge

I have cut up questions I have asked pro triathletes from an old media website I use to have.  Each week I will post a new question.  

 

LUKE MCKENZIE

Lot’s of fruit and veg and a lot of liquid! Plenty of water and all sorts of juices. There isn’t really much “naughty” stuff in there

 

Elly Frank
Vegemite, Berries, cheese, lots of fresh food, and milk. I love milk! Just don’t look in the cupboard because that’s where my lollies stash is kept

 

RONNIE SCHILDKNECHT

Chocolate, Coffee beans, Milk, Yoghurt and Cheese.

 

MELISSA HAUSCHILDT

Bread, milk, baby spinach.

 

IAN MIKELSON

Hahaha… well seeing as I am in between training locations right now, and staying with family, I don’t really have a fridge I can call my own. But I do my best to try and eat halfway intelligently. I like a few certain veggies (sweet potatoes, squash, mushrooms, peppers, spinach) and always try to keep some good fruit around (bananas, apples, berries). Unfortunately I have a serious problem with cereal and thus I try not to buy it and stick to oatmeal. I also try to eat a fair amount of brown rice and quinoa. COFFEE is a big part of my life and most days don’t start without it. I try to keep red meat to a minimum but grew up as quite a carnivore, so that is tough, so I typically eat it once or twice a week and get most of my protein from eggs, salmon and chicken.

 

GINA CRAWFORD

Probably nothing as I tend to eat all the best stuff as soon as it is bought!! Haha! There will always be some organic milk in there though for my protein smoothies.

 

JOHAN BORG

Food and lots of it.

 

CLAYTON FETTELL

Very little, I live across the road from Whole Foods in Boulder Colorado.

 

Matty White

Lots of fruit and veg from my garden and homemade pasta sauce which my wife makes!

 

SIMON COCHRANE

Meat, Veges, Fruit, Eggs, Yoghurt, Orchard Gold Frozen Berries, Red Wine, Dark Chocolate.

 

PHILIP GRAVES

Lots of Yoghurt and Milk, i could live off Muller fruit corners!

 

RICHIE CUNNINGHAM

Food

 

JOSH AMBERGER

Bulk leftovers. My Mums is a compulsive cook & my Dad is a chef. Nothing is ever in short supply and there’s always a myriad of things to snack or feast on. I also eat a lot of fruit, so expect some fructose goodness.

 

RICHARD WHITFIELD

Greek yogurt and bluebirds (do love a good smoothie)

 

GUY CRAWFORD

Pasta from last night, yogurt, chocolate if it’s hot and melting on the bench, Milk (low fat cause I watch my figure.. lol), beet-root, cheese, a meat of some sort for tonight’s dinner…and then there’s all Kate’s vege’s and fruit and stuff.. Oh and you’ll find sauces… I love sauces…we have like 10 half empty containers…(my bad).

 

JOSH RIX

Eggs, lots of eggs. Smoked Salmon. Cheese. Yoghurt. Coke. San Pelligrino mineral water. Milk. Chocolate milk. Butter. Cream. Blueberries.

 

JAMES HODGE

Nothing out of the usual, I need to work on my nutrition. Milk is definitely always in there for making my protein shakes after training.

 

Levi Maxwell

SALAD, WHOLMEAL BREAD, SKIM MILK, MEAT, TUNA, SALMON, VEGGIES, APPLES AND BANANAS, JAM AND MOST IMPORTANTLY NUTELLA!

 

MICHAEL LOVATO

A lot of food! We eat a ton of fresh food, and will often stop by Whole Foods to purchase prepared food items – this is essential in big training blocks, when we may not have the energy to cook a proper meal. We do love to cook, but sometimes we just can’t muster the strength. Currently the fridge has the following: kale “superfood” salad with acai dressing, carne asada, mashed sweet potatoes, turkey meat, Udi’s bagels, coconut milk, yogurt, lots of berries,eggs, hummus, carrots, fresh lettuce/ kale/ romaine. Really, the list goes on and on and on. Groceries are our biggest expense!

Nutrition Plan

There is so much that goes into a nutrition plan.  I’m not just talking about race day nutrition, I am talking about everything, all year round.
I wrote a couple of blogs on race weight hacks recently. More or less these blogs were a fast way to get down to race weight.  In a nutshell, it was eat less and move more. This isn’t the most optimal way to manage your day to day fuel intake but just a quick hack.
I wanted to do a blog with a bigger picture in mind.  When someone mentions “nutrition Plan” they are normally describing race week or race day nutrition.
To me, there are three main aspects to a nutrition plan.
  • Fueling & Recovery
  • Maximise Training & Raceing
  • Power to Weigh
There are many different ways to manage your day to day nutrition. Instead of breaking your diets into week long blocks or taking each day at a time, I really like breaking each day into segments.  A easy way to do this is using the traffic light system.
The traffic light system is
  • Red: calorie deficit
  • Amber: low carbs
  • Green: high carbs
An example on using this system, you might cut the day in three parts.
  • Morning: Green (training)
  • Midday: Amber
  • Evening: Green (Training)
A lot more goes into this than just simply looking at your watch to see if you can eat another banana or not.  Nutrient trimming can have a massive impact on the way you train, the speed of your recovery.  The quality of the food and drinks you consume also plays a massive impact.
Create your own plan
While it can be very hard to plan what you will have for each meal for each day of the week, especially for the people with families and a hectic lifestyle.  Here are some tips on creating your own nutrition plan:
  • At the beginning of each week, take your training program and pencil in where each session will go throughout the week.
  • Include work and other commitments in your week.
  • Over communicate with the people around you so you hopefully have everything for the week covered.
  • Mark each day into thirds or quarters and highlight the sections keeping in mind the quality and volume of each training session, power to weight, etc.
  • Use this plan more as a guide and prepare for things to change as life circumstances can change everything.
The aim is to do this for a few weeks till you turn this system into a natural habit. If you fall and find you are eating something you shouldn’t, don’t simply say “oh well, that’s it for the day or week” and keep eating. Stop, reset and jump right back onto the plan.
Tim Egge

What are your favourite training sessions for each discipline?

I have cut up questions I have asked pro triathletes from an old media website I use to have.  Each week I will post a new question.  

 

LUKE MCKENZIE

My favourite swim sessions is our weekly Wednesday mornings at Noosa main beach doing Ins & outs with the surf club guys. The Tuesday morning bunch ride is a really good hit out with a strong group of cyclists and my Sunday long runs in the Noosa National park can’t be beat!

 

Elly Frank
Swim: A great set for when I’m solo is a change of pace set. A constant 1500m made up of: 50 easy/50 moderate/50 hard x 10.I’m actually wishing I had done more of that session recently. I’ve been so caught up in getting in and swimming at the 1 speed!

Bike/Run: 90mins-2 hours on wt with some nice long efforts. (10 mins/9 mins/8 mins/7 mins/6 mins/5 mins etc.) Followed by a build run (10k).

 

RONNIE SCHILDKNECHT

In swimming it is short 100m sprints as long as it is in a group. Biking it is a 4h ride with two 12km passes in the middle of the ride. Running its again a group workout on the track. 10*800m! I love it!

 

MELISSA HAUSCHILDT

Swim – wednesday night speed/lactate session. This is my shortest swim session for the week but by far the hardest. I really feel like I’ve done something after this session.
Bike – I have two favourites. Wednesday morning hilly ride. At the time I hate it but I love the feeling after I’ve completed it. I also time myself going up the mountain so I like the challenge of racing the clock. And Saturday club ride. This is my long ride. I leave my house before 4am and ride 30km to meet my cycling club. Then I’m in for a 100km smash fest where all the boys are constantly trying to punish each other. Then I’ll ride home.
Run – Tuesday night I do my faster than race pace session with Jared. It hurts!!!

 

IAN MIKELSON

The refueling after :-)!! In all honesty I have a real love/hate relationship with most of the really challenging sessions. That is, while I may dread the hour and forty minute run with a big chunk of tempo in it, I usually take the most satisfaction from that session. Likewise, a tough swim session with say 5×400 at a high effort may give me pause while on the deck, but walking out to the car after, I feel the most satisfaction from the good hard effort. The same goes for cycling, and it is usually the mid range (3-4hr) rides with some good hard efforts in them that I enjoy the most.

 

GINA CRAWFORD

Swim Set of 15 200’s. Increasing in pace. So for example 5 on 3 min, 4 on 2.55, 3 on 2.50, 2 on 2.45, 1 flat out. Change to suit your own pace.
Bike Hill reps. 6 by approx 10 mins. 1 steady (stay seated to work quad strength), 1 med, 2 hard, 1 med, 1 steady (staying seated).
Run Some kind of fartlek session with sprints and hard intervals of various lengths. I much prefer to do this on the beach rather than on the track.

 

JOHAN BORG

Long runs and rides in the hills and open water swims.

 

CLAYTON FETTELL

Swim- surfing with the boys.
Bike- anything on the bike but a road race or crit is always fun.
Run- long runs alone with music

 

Matty White

Run – I really enjoy hitting the treadmill for a solid hour of power. I just set the treadmill at 18kmh and crank the tunes and get in the zone, I don’t have to think too much or stop for traffic lights so its easy on the mind.

Bike – I have been working with a couple of new sponsors of late Wattbike and ATS altitude technology systems, I have been using the altitude simulation at about 3400m and do a 3hr Wattbike session with 4x20min strength efforts trying to hold about 260 watts….and at about 12 percent oxygen its not fun!

Swim – I tend to swim how I feel depending how hard my bike and run sessions are, I don’t see the point of flogging myself in the pool when I am tired as it only creates bad stroke mechanics. I really enjoy swimming open water at West Lakes where I swim with a friend of mine who paces me through the session, nothing beats race simulation training.

 

SIMON COCHRANE

Swim – Ocean swim in the summer. Long relaxed aerobic swim.
Bike – 200km loop around the Coromandel. Awesome views with 2000m of climbing. Good Honest ride.
Run – Threshold intervals. Nice even burn between the legs and lungs!

 

PHILIP GRAVES

Swimming i would say a long endurace set, something thats really challenging, like 60 x 100s. When you get to the end you feel you have achieved something

Cycling i would say my long threshold ride, i have a 140km loop i do and i just ride it at best pace, it has 1000m of climbing in it and my best is 3h 35min

Running wise, i just like my long run, nothing like popping the ipod on and just jogging in some nice countryside

 

RICHIE CUNNINGHAM

swim – 2k time trial
bike – anything with a lot of hills and climbing
run – Teller Farm workout – it’s a hilly 10 mile tempo run

 

JOSH AMBERGER

On the swim, I like this main set…

400- 300 solid (s) 100 hard (h)
300- 200 s 100 h
200- 100 s 100 h
100- 100 h
100- 100 h
200- 100 h 100 s
300- 100 h 200 s
400- 100 h 200 s

On the cycle, I like nothing better than a solo long ride. 5 hours minimum, just me, the countryside, mountains and good music. A bakery stop is mandatory.

On the run, I’ve got some mountains that I like to run up at a threshold pace for strength. It’s always a nice view from the top, but a brutal session with at least 30mins of tempo up a 5-10% gradient.

 

RICHARD WHITFIELD

Swim: I love paddles, pool buoy, and band. I do a lot of my swimming like this to build strength in my shoulders.
Bike: FTP sets, they might only be short and hard but when working at 120% of FTP you know you have worked hard.

Run: My long run, I have been running off feel in the last few weeks. No watch and not stressing about minute mile ect. What I have found that I am running faster. I normally download IMTalk and listen to that, and just switch off. Off road running doesn’t do it for me, also I think you should train as you would race.

 

ANDI BOECHERER

Swim:
5 x 600m
1. 3. 5. pull break 15”
2. 3x 200m starting every 2:30
4. 6x 100m starting every 1:20

Bike:
3h on the tribike including 3x 10′ overgeared and after 30′-45′ easy riding 3x 5′ all out.

Run:
15-25x 1km 1 @ IM pace 1 @ IM 70.3 pace with my wife on the bike as company..

If we were to look in your fridge, what would we find?
A lot of fresh vegetables !

 

GUY CRAWFORD

Swimming: Would be 30×100’s on a short rest cycle.. I love sets based on 100’s.. However i don’t just do 100’s…

Cycling: Depending on what the weathers doing. (yep i’m soft and don’t like wet days)… Long ride in the hills…. But my favourite session is my river loop about 75km with about as many coffee shop stops…. Love the coffee…

Running: Trials and loops…. (I don’t like out and backs)

 

JOSH RIX

I like doing 10 x 400m in the pool because its like an Ironman Swim.. especially if I do some with the Pull Buoy and Paddles on my hands.
On the bike, I like doing strength hill repeats.
My favorite run session is either my long run, anything up to 35km, or getting on the track and doing some speed such as 8 x 1km repeats descending a couple of seconds each rep.

 

JAMES HODGE

My favourite set for each leg is when I get to train with other people. Swim would have to be 5x400m for main set, the ride I just hammer myself all the time so it does not change and for the run I like doing 6x1km with minimal rest.

 

Levi Maxwell

SWIM WOULD BE 100S SPEED SET, RIDE WOULD BE AT GEELONG WITH MY COACH AND RUN ALL THE TIME

 

MICHAEL LOVATO

Swimming: I love a nice 5k swim, with a group or with two key swim partners. My idea of fun in the pool involves a challenging main set of around 3k, where the rest is short and I attempt to negative split – one of my weakness in the water! I like basic, such as 10×300. With cycling I love to ride up one of Boulder’s long canyons, doing a combination of big gear (low cadence) intervals, followed by some time trials on the flats. My little group of training partners and I will often do pursuit-style starts, so we can chase (and run from) one another. I love running a longer session of 15 or so miles, with 4×2 miles at or below my half marathon pace. These force proper pacing, and they give me great confidence for upcoming races.

Pumpkin Soup

I mentioned on my daily vlog my wife’s pumpkin soup and how I think it is by far the nicest I have ever had. I said I would share her recipe for the soup on this site.

Renee’s Pumpkin Soup Ingredients 

  • 1 full butter nut pumpkin
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 500ml of chicken stock

 

How to make:

  1. Dice pumpkin and sweet potato
  2. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan, leave the garlic cloves whole.
  3. Cook until pumpkin and sweet potato are quite mushy and there is minimal amount of liquid left in the pot.
  4. Place in blender and blend to a smooth consistency
  5. Enjoy

 

 

 

The Ten-Day Diet Restriction

This is a great diet to lose some extra weight ready for that big race.  Given to me by my mentor Allan Pitman, the bases of this ten day challenge are:
• No Wheat
• No Sugar
• No Dairy

You can have beef/ham, chicken, fish (tin or fresh) and as much vegetables as you like. No need to go hungry. For the people who are active including athletes, include one cup of cooked brown rice.

Burning Energy
This diet is more of a high fat/low carb diet that is similar to the paleo and other high fat diets. While this is a high fat diet, this doesn’t mean fried fat. This is healthy fats found in the allowed foods within this diet.

What to expect
Most people on average will lose between 2kg and 5kg within the ten days. This diet restriction doesn’t need to be a ten day challenge; it can easily become a lifestyle.
You will find that by the end of the challenge, you will have more energy and need less fuel than before.

Tim Egge

What does your average training week look like?

I have cut up questions I have asked pro triathletes from an old media website I use to have.  Each week I will post a new question.  

 

LUKE MCKENZIE

My training doesn’t necessarily follow the same pattern week in week out but I generally train between 25-35 hours a week which includes swim, bike, run and gym work.

 

Elly Frank
My week is a combination of social sessions and key sessions. I am very aware of perceived effort- My easy is very easy, while my hard sessions I like to really push. I mix it up so it’s not the same every week. I aim to have a solid swim and a social swim. I do a long ride, a social ride with friends, and a solid ride either road or WT and a brick session. I really believe in wind trainer sessions to work on my threshold level for 70.3’s and Ironmans. I also do a long run, threshold runs or track, and the social runs where I’m chatting with friends.

 

RONNIE SCHILDKNECHT

I would say 20hours in average over the full year. I also tend to do much more quality know as I get older with 32 ( – :

 

MELISSA HAUSCHILDT

I do 6-7 swim session a week covering about 20-25km. 4-5 of these are with a swim squad under coaches Brendan Capell & Zane King. I’m on the bike 6 times a week. This includes one long ride, one hilly ride and one tempo/TT session. About 500-600km is my weekly mileage. I run 6 days a week, including a faster than race pace session, a threshold session and a long run. Plus some easier runs and brick sessions. I will run about 70km/week. Jared (my partner) and I work out my training program with regards to the bike and run.

 

IAN MIKELSON

Some swimming, running and cycling. 😉 Hahaha… I would say that my training weeks are fairly common, no real secrets or crazy workouts. Consistency is the main theme. So on average my weeks usually contain 5-6 swims, 5-7 run sessions, and 4 to 5 cycling sessions. I am a member of the Triathlon Squad under Paulo Sousa (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Triathlon-Squad/183206021698840) and we have month long training camps in different locales around the US throughout the year. During those camps training picks up a little, but not so much different than the rest of the year.

 

GINA CRAWFORD

My training has changed dramatically since the birth of my baby Benji in July 2011. Before that I was doing around 30-35 hr per week. Now I am doing around 20 hr per week with some big weeks of 24 hrs. I am more focused in training and every time I go out I have a specific goal of what I am trying to achieve. I coach myself and am flexible and work around my little boys needs. If I don’t get a lot of sleep some weeks I change what I am doing. I don’t get nearly the amount of sleep I used to get and am still breast feeding so it is important for me to be flexible with my training in order to stay healthy and have the energy levels required to make the most of the training I do. It is working for me. I am feeling fitter than ever and am beating all my previous times.

 

JOHAN BORG

Leading up to ironman a good week would involve 20-25h 3-4 swims (8-12km) 4-5rides (350-500km) 5-6 runs (70-90km).

 

CLAYTON FETTELL

Swim 20-30 bike 600-1000 run 80-120

 

Matty White

Due to working full time as a fire fighter my weeks change depending on the work. Sometimes we might have a busy night at work (saving cats, babies and old ladies from burning infernos!) So my next day’s training will be modified accordingly. While I was in the US on leave my training was about 120km running, 5-600km bike and about 15-20km swimming. I try to maintain these distances weekly with a rest day mixed in.

 

SIMON COCHRANE

Average week includes about: 5-6 sessions in each discipline, 2 x body maintenance sessions including: Gym strength/Core/Yoga/Stretching. (24-32hrs total)
Every 4 weeks I include a lower volume week.

 

PHILIP GRAVES

It really depends on the season, during the winter im doing upto 36/40h a week. In the summer il put in more intensity so obviously its not possible to do that massive milage but i am still up at 32/33h a week if im not racing. At the moment in january im running 70 miles a week, riding 300 miles a week and swimming about 15miles a week

 

RICHIE CUNNINGHAM

I average about 35 hours per week of training. During the winter I try to do higher run mileage and in the summer I do a lot more bike miles.

 

JOSH AMBERGER

Between 30-35 hours of trainings. In terms of totals, it’s about 15-20km of swimming, 500-600km of cycling and 70-90km or running. All of this is mostly aerobic work and not too much intensity. Over the years I’ve learned to back off intensity because it kills my longevity throughout the season. I’m also doing 2 pilates sessions for core strength and to promote good biomechanics throughout all three legs.

 

RICHARD WHITFIELD

I swim four mornings a week. from endurance sets too threshold sets (which are not my favourites)

Bike, in winter I do lots of FTP work on my computrainer. Based in the UK It was a struggle to get long rides in. Now it’s summer I have a long ride on a Tuesday. I ride 2.5easy then meet up with chaingang which is another 2.5 at a real solid tempo. Saturday I ride from 4hrs up to 6.5hrs all above IM pace.

Wednesday I ride 2hrs tempo with a runoff, Wednesday night I ride 2hrs real easy.
Run, I run 5 times a week. One long run 2/2.5hrs with changing of pace in the middle. it can involve 10k pace, HIM pace, then back tp IM pace. I have a double run day on a Monday, 1hr easy then 1hr of threshold in the evening.

 

ANDI BOECHERER

In average 4 swim sessions, 5 bike rides and 6 runs + 2 times wheight training and most important core work every second day.

 

GUY CRAWFORD

Depending on the time of year, but at the moment 20k of swimming 450k riding and 60-70k of running.
I built back into this over a 3 week period.

 

JOSH RIX

I usually swim about 5 times a week, totalling around 20km…. then on the bike i like to do 2 longer rides over 150km and then 2 shorter harder rides that are strength focussed. On the run I usually do between 80km-100km a week…. I have one big long running day and then a couple of runs off the bike and also a tempo run.

 

JAMES HODGE

I don’t record any of my training formally or follow a training schedule. I just simply get up in the morning and decide if I am going to go for a ride, run or swim depending on how I feel. But typically I do about three swims per week, between 4-6 runs including speed sets, and about 300km on the bike.

 

Levi Maxwell

FROM 20-35HOURS DEPENDING ON WHERE IM AT.

 

MICHAEL LOVATO

Typically I swim six days a week, aiming for 24,000 meters total. My cycling varies greatly based on weather (winter!), but I will aim for a minimum of four days, and a maximum of six. I find that I can do a lot with five days of riding, totaling about 280-300 miles. The running will most often be 45-65 miles, depending on the time of year – and I like to run six days per week (often one day of double runs). The total hours weekly are generally from 24-30. I don’t count the gym sessions in there, but I try to do a couple 45-60minute sessions.