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Top tips for taming your first Ironman

18 Apr, 2019 • by Admin

The one thing that connects almost every successful Ironman race performance is a clear and concise race-week plan

You have trained your butt off for several months, if not years. You have made endless sacrifices throughout the process. You feel fit and confident. Simply put, you are in the best shape of your life and ready to have the race you have envisioned.

Hone your taper

Everyone has their preferred approach to tapering for an Ironman. Some like to keep their training volume high all the way up to the race, others prefer to decrease the volume and rest more. Either way, race week poses its own set of challenges that can complicate your taper, whether its travelling, accommodation or acclimatising. So it’s important to have a tapering plan that’s flexible and adaptable

Internal check-in

Studies have shown that the mere awareness of upcoming exercise is enough for your body to regulate pace, but due to the sheer length of an IRONMAN, this isn’t enough. Reassess your body every hour to make sure you aren’t expelling unnecessary energy on things like improper form or tensing up your shoulders. Little corrections can save you precious energy later on.

Think performance

It’s easy to want to distract yourself from discomfort by thinking of your favorite song or focusing on the scenery, but this dissociative method is often unsuccessful. The strategies used by elite athletes involve focusing on performance-based thoughts: concentrating on stride length, for example, or assessing your heart rate and breathing. During the final half of the marathon, instead of thinking of how much you still have ahead of you, focus on regulating your pace and performing strong.

Self-efficacy theory

Take a moment to reflect on your last race and remember how you felt during each leg. Coming off the bike and seeing the marathon ahead of you can be daunting, but knowing that you’ve made it through once before can be enough to help you keep pushing. Whether it was your last IRONMAN or that time in training where you thought you hit your breaking point, reflect on your successes—the pain is now a distant memory! You’ve made it through before and you’re going to make it through again.

Talk that talk

The road to an IRONMAN finish is a long one, and your biggest competitor and supporter is yourself. Instead of telling yourself you can’t swim faster or bike harder, speak positively to yourself. Positive self-talk has been proven to increase performance, so create an internal dialogue (either out loud or in your head) to interpret your feelings, give instruction to your body and receive feedback. This can be especially useful during the swim, when there are no true markers to tell you how far you’ve gone. Try a back-and-forth dialogue that will help you tap into how your body is really feeling. Then you can moderate and respond to these "voices" in a productive manner that will lead to greater success.

Create a what-if plan

Prepare for all eventualities by creating a ‘What-if’ plan. Note down all your concerns and worries about the race, and work out what you can do to avoid or deal with each one of them. It seems defeatist to plan for all the things that could go wrong but it’s a great mental strategy as it’ll help you be fully prepared for every eventuality and feel more in control of the situation should one of those issues arise

Map out transition

Known unofficially as triathlon’s ‘fourth discipline’, transitions can be a help or a hindrance depending on how well you get through them. It’s easy to go wrong and lose vital seconds as the size and scale of an Ironman transition area can be overwhelming. Mentally mapping out the swim, bike and run exits, knowing precisely where your bike is racked and where your kit bags are placed will enable you to efficiently navigate your way through.

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