Top 9 Tips To Improve Ironman Performance

It’s inarguable that participating in an Ironman is an endurance challenge. But the good news is that there are more chances to modify and alter things that will bring about noticeable time-saving benefits.

If you make 3% improvements in a 12-hour day, you will gain 21 extra minutes. Which is huge! This is a great moment to begin adjusting and altering your exercise so that you can gain advantages when the competition begins.

The marathon is where Ironman’s dreams die. Completing a full marathon after biking 112 rigorous miles is incredibly difficult, and it rarely happens.

Consider the following example from the 2008 Ironman Arizona:

  • the fastest bike split was 4:26:12
  • the 50th-fastest bike split was 4:55:24—29 minutes and 12 seconds, or 10.9 per cent, slower

Compare this gap to the corresponding gap in the run:

  • The fastest run split was 2:46:38
  • the 50th-fastest run split was 3:20:22—33 minutes and 44 seconds, or a full 20 per cent, slower

It’s clear that on the biking section, the leading 50 athletes were all close in terms of performance, whereas, on the running part, their times were more varied.

It is clear in all Ironman competitions that the wide array of running talent is equal to that of cycling talent, rather than suggesting the involvement of runners is lower.

The notion of this pattern can be attributed to athletes commencing the bike leg with rested legs, which makes it possible for the better riders to demonstrate their proficiency.

In the long run, those who start with weary legs usually do not reach the pinnacle of their potential in terms of performance. They collide and waste tremendous amounts of time compared to the small number of competitors who manage to maintain their composure during long-distance events.

Therefore, without further hesitation, these pieces of advice, which are each aimed toward different running sessions, will help you to complete races quicker and more effectively during this race season.

1. Key sessions count

These sessions are key to your progression. The plan is to construct muscle and strength for three weeks and then recuperate for a single week to arrive at the competition feeling adequately prepared to complete the 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42.2km run.


Warm-up: 15mins steady effort in the chosen sport.


Main session

Run 200 meters quickly, then five times 100 meters with sighting and breathing every four strokes, 100 meters of bilateral swimming, 100 meters of alternating breaths to either side and finally, 100 meters at a racing pace. Go up to 7 reps in the second week and 9 reps in the third week before decreasing it back to 3 reps in the fourth week.


Work on any technique weaknesses.


Main session

65 miles mid–upper Zone 1, feeding just below race levels. Gradually elevate your mileage to 85 and 95 over the following two weeks and then decrease to 35 – 40 miles in the fourth week.


Go for a 10-minute light bike ride and take a 10-minute light jog to relax your body and loosen up your legs.


Main session

Twelve to fourteen miles at an altitude in the middle to the upper part of Zone 1, with a food supply just below the competition’s standards. Growing your mileage to 15–17 and 18–20 in weeks two and three before decreasing it to 9 in the fourth week.


Spin for 10 minutes at a fast rate, perform self-massage, and do some light stretching.

2. Smash it

Strong bikers run better. It is simple to overlook strength training for bicycles in preference to endurance training. Don’t make that mistake.

Be sure to commit to a high-standard workout at least once a week to raise your cycling strength and capacity for lactate regeneration. Training regularly at an effort close to 80% will make it easy to pedal at a relaxed rate of 55% on race day.

The first-ever Ironman Wisconsin event in 2002 was something special. A couple of elite Kenyan runners did the race. The tale was that a coach had gathered these men together as a trial.

The guinea pigs didn’t have a good time of it during the swim and the bike, and their running was even worse. This particular case illustrates that the most important factor in successfully completing an Ironman is not just having strong running skills but having strength while biking.

It makes sense, right? Your bike fitness needs to be at the highest level, so you can push your body hard over a 112-mile course, yet still have the energy left to complete the marathon.

No matter how much running you do to increase your fitness level, it won’t matter unless you take other steps. How do you get that strong on the bike? A lot of work is the way to go.

However, many of us do not possess the necessary amount of time to engage in the ideal measure of cycling. What is the minimum amount of exercise you need to do with a bike to ensure that a 112-mile ride is not a struggle?

Strive to do four individual 100-mile rides, two four-hour rides with no break, and one long ride spanning for about eight hours that you can take at your own pace.

These rides should take place in the 10 weeks before starting your taper, and before this the distance should be steadily increased, eventually reaching 100 miles.


Warm-up: 10mins steady effort. Build set: 5mins building up to the threshold for 1min.

Main session

Perform six four-minute intervals at 88 to 90 per cent maximum heart rate or 80 per cent peak power, with a rest period of two to four minutes in between each interval. Do this in an aero position. The essence of this session is to be able to finish all the reps, which entails not expending your energy too quickly, so begin with the exercises with less intensity.


A 10-mile trial with the last five miles is more difficult than the first by a 5% margin.


Spend 10 minutes doing a light spinning exercise followed by 10 minutes of light jogging to relax your posture and legs.

3. Strong not speedy

High-grade running workouts are essential for developing running endurance. Look for an incline that requires 5-7 minutes to traverse and that has a cushioned surface to promote good running form and protect your body from too much strain as you increase your oxygen consumption.

It’s essential to keep proper form in an Ironman marathon even when exhausted since you are running after having biked for 112 miles.

It may seem like running a lot of miles would be helpful for someone looking to run a good Ironman marathon, but in reality, it is not the case.

You need to be physically fit to execute a solid marathon, but you should only engage in only the necessary amount of running to ensure you are prepared for the race and dedicate the leftover hours to target those biking skills that will allow you to leverage your running potential.

A run that lasts all weekend is the most crucial one. Do a minimum of four runs that are each 18 miles or longer, and you can go up to 26.2 miles if you want to boost your running capability.

Put as much as you want into your long runs (within reason), but resist the temptation to do any more running during the rest of the week than is required to support your progress in these long runs, as it will only increase your risk of injury and burnout and take away from your cycling.


Warm-up: 10mins steady running.

Do five repetitions going up a hill that gradually speeds up to the threshold for one minute, then do an easy jog back down. Repeat the same process for the next repetition.

Main set

Do five sets of five minutes of running uphill at a heart rate between 86-90 per cent of your maximum, and then slowly jog down for active rest. Take a 10-minute light jog to cool off, followed by 10 minutes of intense spinning and ending with some stretching.

Joe Beer has advice for improving Ironman performances.

4. Course realism

Have realistic expectations regarding your results in the race given the track you are running on. Split and finish times can vary massively. Scott Neyedli’s performance is exemplified by comparing his run in Lanzarote to his run in Western Australia, which was nearly 10 per cent less swift.

Many age groupers will get an advantage from concentrating on pushing target power and not maintaining an average speed throughout much of the race. This reduces bike split over-exuberance.



10–20mins steady effort.

Main session

Do four twenty-minute bids of travelling on a route that is close to your competition venue and make sure that your output is around 55 to 60 per cent of your most powerful effort. Imagine that you’re racing and take in 50 to 75 grams of carbohydrates for every hour you are active.

Rather than going up to 65-70% grade when running on steep terrain, it is recommended to stay as close to 55% as possible to optimize performance for race day. 10mins active recovery riding in between. (Advanced option is 6 x 30mins)

Do 3 more minutes of light spinning, then go immediately into a 20 to 40-minute run at a slower-than-usual race pace to determine whether your pace is reasonable for race day.


On turbo or with light walking after race-pace running.

5. Take it easy

Be flexible and learn when to take it easy. You must stay persistent to progress, however, at times it will be necessary to take a relatively gentle swim to review your physical and mental well-being.



15mins steady effort.

Build set

Do five 100-meter practices at a speedy pace to activate the anaerobic energy systems and get accustomed to swimming faster.

Main session

Do five 400m intervals, taking a one-minute break in between each one. Attempt to match up or improve your times, and make sure to try to finish feeling fresh and powerful.


Swim four 100-meter sections, alternating between a faster pace for 25 meters with strong arms and a more relaxed pace for 25 meters; then changing to vigorous kicking for 25 meters and a normal pace for the remaining 25 meters.

6. Grit

It’s Ironman, it’s going to hurt. Especially on the run. You need to be prepared for it.

Chris Goodfellow, who was crowned Forestman in 2013, encourages people to find something to focus on and not let go of it. When it becomes difficult, hang on with all your might!



Do a leisurely jog for about 10 minutes at a pace that keeps your heart rate below 75% of your maximum on a 3-mile circuit.

Main session

1st loop: Around 80% HRmax.

On the second loop, increase your speed until you reach approximately 85% of your maximum heart rate and begin to concentrate on your “rock”. For the third loop, push your effort to approximately 87% of your capacity to assess your psychological control and skill to conserve energy while putting forth a great effort.


Running lightly for seven minutes, and then walking the rest of the time, followed by some stretching and a recovery beverage.

7. Self-assessment

To succeed in Ironman competitions, it is necessary to take lessons from difficult times. Take a bit of time every few weeks to review what you have written in your workout journal.

Evaluate everything from the important lectures and crucial weeks to the supplies, downshift period and competition-day execution. You must thoroughly examine everything to find out what needs to be improved.

It is infrequent that additional training alone is the solution; often times the smallest modifications have the most significant impact. We are concluding our guide to improving your Ironman performances.

8. Long View

Consider developing and advancing your Ironman journey through this season and beyond. Examining those lengthy periods that truly challenge your stamina.

Professionals will periodically take on extensive rides of 200–250km, swim lengthy 5–6km sessions, or run marathons of 40–50km to challenge their capabilities. It is essential to challenge whatever boundaries you believe exist.


Warm-up of 15mins steady effort in the chosen sport.


Main session

What is the longest continuous swim distance that you have not yet accomplished?


Minimal rowing, different swimming styles or jogging in the pool.


Main session

Bike the longest continuous distance you have yet to complete. Gather as many extras as possible, quite a lot of gasoline and money.


Take a 10 to 15-minute stroll, jog, or sprint to loosen the stance and legs.


Main session

Divide the day into two or three parts, and keep adding up the furthest distance you have journeyed so far. It may be best to do a trial run of two to three attempts to determine what you can accomplish, and then try to surpass it in two weeks. This is the most challenging of the trio, so you may want to take extra precautions.


After each workout, spend a few minutes on the treadmill or walking and give yourself a massage as well as drink a recovery drink or whey protein beverage (approx 25g) to help you recover quickly.

9. Don’t banquet on the bike

Nutritional issues often ruin Ironman marathons, and in almost every instance, it is due to consuming too much, not insufficient amounts.

Triathletes commonly assume that they need more nutrients for an Ironman race than their body can actually take in and utilize.

If you consume 60 grams of carbohydrates and 750 millilitres of liquid per hour while cycling, you should have no trouble accomplishing this goal with a simple sports drink. Not a lot of athletes can take in and take advantage of more than 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour.

For a larger athlete competing in a race on a warm day, it is essential to intake 1.0 to 1.2 litres of fluid per hour to stave off any reduction in performance due to lack of hydration. However, 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour and 1-1.2 litres of liquid per hour is much less than what a lot of triathletes attempt to consume.

The problem is that during cycling, the body can take in a much greater amount of liquid and carbohydrates than while running, as the movement of the body while running causes the stomach to shake.

The result of this is that athletes will consume as much nourishment as their bodies allow on the bicycle, then after that transition to running where they may experience sickness, swelling, or even more serious issues.

Take caution to not consume too much nourishment near the conclusion of the bike part so that your digestive system will not revolt when you begin the critical full marathon.


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