How to train like an Ironman

Jan Frodeno

Jan Frodeno

The gruelling event requires participants to complete a 1.9km swim starting around the iconic Burj Al Arab, followed by a 90km bike ride and a 21.1km run around Jumeirah. The world’s toughest triathlon comes to the UAE this month and it’s a complete sell out. 

What does one have to do to get in shape to complete in such a testing competition? Here’s 24 hours in the life of a competitor as explained by two-time Ironman world champion Jan Frodeno.

5:30am: Training with a specialist, the day begins before sunrise with a 5.7km swim. Swimming is a full body work out but it’s easier on the joint than other forms of exercise, so it’s a good way to start the day.

10:20am: 10km run along with sprints and other training drills. The 10km itself its more of a jog and the high intensity is on the track. Throughout an active training week 130km are clocked up. The key is to consider the intensity in order to raise the fitness level for an Ironman.

3:30pm: Two hours of cycling warms up the legs and covers around 60kms, that’s generally a way of strengthening the legs ahead of more running sets. 750kms are done over a typical week.

6:30pm: Hill sprints 2 x 2km follow the bike ride, which are high intense going uphill with a rest coming down. The exercise will last around 30 minutes.

7pm: 20 x 400m (yes, you read that correctly!) with 200m active rest. The 400m are run at race pace so it takes around 70 seconds to complete a lap and the rest will last around a minute. By now the sun is setting on the day and it’s a case of mental toughness as well as physical after a whole day of training.

8pm: Rest! This is as important as the training itself as the body needs time to recover. It’s important to fuel your body at this time as well, make sure you eat after your training is complete.

The diet.

The diets of Ironman competitors vary from each individual but there are some no-lose tips out there to best prepare your body to compete:

Don’t miss meals.

Firstly, don’t skip breakfast! Endurance athletes need a mix of protein, carbs and fat. Greek yogurt with granola, nuts, and dried fruit go perfectly with oats. Breakfast quinoa has twice as much protein as normal cereal too, making it a great option.

Eat lean protein after a workout.

Muscles need to recover after exercise as microscopic damage is done to the muscle tissue during a workout. Foods like lean chicken, fish, nuts and beans are perfect for repairing the muscles. Wash it down with a protein shake with low-fat or skimmed milk.

Eat your greens.

Fruit and veg provide fiber and antioxidants, which aid digestion and your overall health. If you can get in the habit of eating your vegetables raw you’ll get the most out of them. Spinach, zucchini and kale are packed with iron, which is key to an athletes diet. Snack throughout the day on apples and bananas.

Don’t be scared of complex carbs.

Potatoes, rice, whole-grain pasta and cereals are a vital part of an endurance athlete’s diet. Don’t over-do-it however; these should be consumed in equal parts to your protein and vegetables.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

The importance of water for an athlete can’t be stressed enough, you can also include low-sugar sports drinks (not to be confused with energy drinks loaded with sugar and caffeine), which will ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day. Avoid anything fizzy.


3 events you can try this month

RAK half marathon Feb 9th
Nshama cycling challenge Feb 16th
Dubai desert run and 3k (all abilities) Feb 17th