Just when you think you're tough enough


3 months to IRONMAN 70.3 Putrajaya

Image from Facebook/Ironman Malaysia
Image from Facebook/Ironman Malaysia

So you’ve signed up for your first Ironman 70.3 but have you commenced your training? Here’s a basic guide to what and how you should be training.

By now you’ll have decided on the race you’re aiming for, and assuming you have a reasonable level of base fitness in all three disciplines, count 16 weeks out (approximately four months) and start the journey.

When planning your program, remember the following tips:

  • two sessions per discipline per week is adequate (ie: two swims, two bikes, and two runs per week)
  • three sessions per week per discipline is even better
  • four sessions per discipline per week is for the advanced athlete. Remember, if you’re training at this end of the scale be sure to take every fourth week easy with at least a full day off from training.


Weeks 12 to 9 

This is where you should be if you’re racing at Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya in April. Make the most of it.

Swim: Much the same as for weeks 16-13, make the most of swimming with others, especially in open water.

Bike: Stick to the same three sessions as weeks 16 to 13, but build the long ride to four hours.

  • Practice race day nutrition over these four weeks
  • If using power or heart rate to gauge your progress, remember to perform the above reality checks

Run: Endurance with strength focus.

  • Add hill reps into a session: 5 x 3 minutes, with 3 minutes jogging recovery
  • Run off the bike: increase by 10 percent each week
Caroline Steffen leads out the chase pack in the cycle leg of Ironman Kona 2015. Photo from Ironman.
Cycle leg of Ironman Kona 2015. Photo from Ironman.

Weeks 8 to 5

Swim: Continue with three sessions

  • Open water swim: Don’t panic if you can’t, and substitute a 2000-yard/meter time trial in the pool
  • Strength session: i.e. 400 warm up; 3 x (400 pull with paddles and breathing every third, fifth, and seventh stroke) at a steady pace, 100 drills, 400 moderately hard); 100 warm down
  • Endurance session

Bike: Race-specific training

  • One interval workout, i.e. 8 x 5 minutes hard (with 2 minutes rest interval)
  • One race-pace session building up to 60 km/40 miles at race pace
  • One endurance ride (4 hours).

Run: Same as for weeks 12 to 9

Daniela Ryf running her way towards a win. Photo from Ironman.
Daniela Ryf running her way towards a win. Photo from Ironman.

Weeks 4 to 1

These last few weeks focus on race specifics within all three disciplines.


  • Make your key session part of your race simulation
  • Open water swim practicing race start, sighting and exit
  • Other two sessions: strength and endurance


  • Alternate your key session with a race simulation and a time trial over 60 km.
  • Endurance ride: 4 hours
  • Easy ride: 1.5 to 2 hours


  • Key session as part of your race simulation
  • Race-specific with intervals
  • Endurance run up to 2 hours, nice and easy. 

John’s Top 3 Tips for IRONMAN 70.3

1.  If using heart rate don’t go above 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Your bike max will be about 10 beats lower than your run max.

2.  When pacing don’t set targets. On the bike, conditions can play a massive role in speed at any given time. On the run set an upper speed limit of 90 percent of your current fresh 10k time.

3.  Practice, practice, practice nutrition—use whatever works for you!

Keep your expectations in check throughout and remember to have fun.

Former New Zealand international triathlete John Newsom coached in Hong Kong before establishing the NZ Multisport and Triathlon Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

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