Bulletproof yourself for Ironman: Part 2

Victory’s Head of Performance, Helen Murawska, is a super-fit sportswoman, with a sister who won a silver medal in the World Long Distance Triathlon Championships in Beijing in 2014.  So she knows a thing or two about training for endurance events!  But in 2016, Helen and her husband Paul had a crazy idea and decided to spend nearly a year preparing for their first Ironman Triathlon, in Barcelona.  In part 1 of this series, Helen talked about five vital questions that virtually nobody explores before signing up. Having got those sorted, it’s time to prepare your body and mind for the journey… 

In the first post in this series, I suggested some points to consider before entering your first Ironman, although this can of course apply to any long-distance endurance event or big goal you have. If you have taken everything into account and still decided to go ahead, which I genuinely hope you have, here’s what to do next.

Plan your schedule

It’s time to get geeky. If you’re not already into data and stats, you soon will be. Firstly, go ahead and enter the event you keep talking about! Then get it in the diary and work backwards from there. Find some smaller preparatory events in the build-up, for example a sea swim if it’s relevant to your race, or a half-distance triathlon and even a full or half marathon. How many of these you want to do depends on your start point/experience, and on finances. Get them all in the diary and then start to work out your training around these events. Make an overview plan for the year, then monthly depending on events that month, then weekly depending on what you need to prioritise for training at that time.

You are likely to adjust and change this plan VERY OFTEN so don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect. It’s a start point.

Get a movement screen or physical assessment 

Regardless of your current health and fitness level, go to a really good physio/rehab therapist/physical therapist to get a movement screening and/or injury assessment. You need to know how your body is moving right now, and if there are any imbalances or weaknesses that might need to be addressed. This is imperative before you launch into your new training regime and it’s much easier to sort out issues now than to start to break down with multiple issues a couple of months into training which can throw your plan off completely. Due to the large volume of training required for endurance events, it’s unfortunately likely that you will at some point experience a niggle or injury which you have to deal with, but it’s definitely beneficial to minimise the risk of it being anything serious or long-term by ironing out issues now that you currently have and may not be aware of.

Join a gym

Or at least be ready to do some basic strength work at home. It’s not JUST about the cardio endurance. You need to keep your joints and tendons strong by working them in different ways and not just pounding the road or turning the pedals. This doesn’t need to take up lots of your time at all, and will likely taper off much earlier than the endurance work, but it’s very important to include to bulletproof your body for this event. If you can’t join a gym, look for some home work-outs with small weights or even just body-weight that include things like lunges, press ups, core work, and balance work.

Sort your diet out

Put the time into researching how you might want to fuel yourself for your training and recovery, as well as for the race itself. DO NOT get sucked into the energy gel quicksand or carb-loading syndrome, at least not until you’ve read up on other options and experimented with a few different things. Some general rules I would suggest are:

  • Ensure you get plenty of natural protein in your diet.
  • Eat more natural fats than you might otherwise.
  • Eat natural, whole foods as much as is possible, as opposed to processed sugary, chemical-filled gels and bars or tonnes of heavy white carbs.
  • Have a vague idea at least of your calorie expenditure versus intake. It’s very easy to under-eat due to difficult logistics of training v life, but it’s also very easy to overeat if you get sucked into carb-loading or treating yourself to cake after every training session.
  • Explore different options, test different foods and brands for training. Also test different timing – try eating earlier/later, smaller portions more often etc. Different things work for different people and the only way to find out what gives you the best energy with the fewest side effects is to try it for yourself!

Build in some down-time

Mentally and physically. It’s going to take up enough of each of these capacities as it is, so allow yourself time each day and week to switch off from it. It will also allow you to remember to enjoy the journey as much as the event itself, and will help take the stress off when you’re injured or feel like you’re not at your best or miss certain performance targets. It’s not the end of the world, you have still achieved a lot, and you’re still doing it for a greater cause. Of course it’s also important to spend time with friends and family, too!

The last part of this blog series will look even more specifically at my favourite targeted exercises to help strengthen your joints and keep injuries at bay. Stay tuned!

Keen on cycling, swimming, running and into serious endurance?  Having ideas about trying an Ironman triathlon – or any sort of long distance event?  Helen’s final post in this series will explain how to reduce your injury risk as you train – but if you’d like help with that, from someone who really knows all about it first-hand, call us on 0207 175 0150 and book an assessment session with Helen today.