Minimum Ironman Training

My ironman isn’t till July but I was thinking about how I would train for it. When I trained for Lanza it consumed my life, I hit 19 hours one week, and plenty > 15. To quote my wife, “when I wasn’t out training, I was sitting around in compression gear drinking chocolate milk or sleeping”.

I also have got in the strength training a lot, especially with my home gym now. I want to lose the weight and build some muscle which 6 hour bike rides and 3 hours runs wont help with.

I was thinking of maybe doing 1 swim, 2 bikes, 2 runs. The bikes would be an intense session indoors and the other a long Z2, with some pushing in to Z3 for long periods. But would keep the rides at around the 3 hour mark. Same for running, 1 intervals and 1 easy run, with some pace efforts.

Swimming I am not bothered about. I am a good swimmer and I think 1 week to keep my technique in line and a bit of fitness would be fine. Would alternate between an endurance session and speed.

Is this going to be enough? I am not looking for a time, just finish and the course has no significant difficulties. Sea swim, flat bike, flatish run.

I’m not fast at all but for reference. In 2017 I was averaging 8hrs a week with two 40min (sometimes less) swims and pretty even bike/run. That netted me 15.44 at an atrocious weather IM Wales.

In 2018, I averaged 11hrs with the same weekly swim time but went very hard and short in the week on the bike ad really concentrated on the run. (did a longish ride every couple of weeks but nothing over 4hrs).

IM Wales 2018 saw me knock 76mins off my previous time for a 14.28.

A couple of caveats. I absolutely had my gearing and knowledge of the course nailed on for both years, due to competing in the LCW previously.

My average training time each week was real training time, didn’t include padding like getting changed, recovery, coffee stops, time stood at the pool wall etc.

So I reckon if you have a base, 8hrs will get you around, 10-12hrs will make make it a whole lot more comfortable and enjoyable (not to mention contingency time for unexpected mishaps). 13-15hrs should see you being able to set some realistic FOMOP goals anything more than that you’ll be showered and changed before and eating dinner at the regular time. :laughing:

5 workouts per week?

Id be the first to say you dont need 15-19h, but you sound like youre pushing the limits of feasibility.

You’re better off with three rides per week for the same hours with more intensity.

And running, 3pw same total hours perhaps most of the year but youll need to build some longer runs.

I finished 2 IMs last year on an average 8h but that was aiming for more and missing, and a couple of 15h weeks in there.

Of course it depends on your starting fitness…but Id deffo recommend 70.3 instead.

Swim is in the bag… one hour per week should see you right.
Your a big guy… it’s a flat bike… cycling endurance and nutrition is key.

Comfort is king surely ?

Your a big guy, balance of running enough to get round and not getting injured, weights won’t hurt unless your emptying the fridge every three days .

Time wise a guy got round Bolton …it was the year it was cut short 2018… but he was 13? Hours
On one hour per week of swim bike and run.

He did other stuff… no idea what that was but he did it…

We do this for fun… enjoy.

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Feasible yes, but as you say, you need to drop your weight (and get faster) to fit sufficient training into the sort of time volumes you’re talking about. So you may have to do more volume, then reduce as you get lighter and fitter/faster.

If you want to lose weight and be strong, then it’s high reps low weight obvs. Diet too of course. More volume will also help shed weight (sorry!).

What @Poet or I have historically managed in a 8-12h training week for example, is not the same as someone looking to finish an Ironman in 15h.


Interesting question. I’ve always tended towards “less is more”. If I was setting out a “minimum training programme I’d probably say as follows: One swim a week should be fine, but mix it up - consistent endurance swim one week, intervals another week, swim “toys” the next week. I would say one long run per week plus one short run (20mins) off a bike would do, again mix the long run up - race pace consistent pace one week, hilly run another week, over/on/under race pace fartlek-type run another week. I would say 2 bikes would be a minimum but ideally 3. One long bike per week, again mixing it up - consistent effort one week, hills another week, high/low cadence work another week. Then a second bike would be 80-90 minutes with an hour at 10-20bpm above race bpm and again mix it up - high/low cadence work. A short 20min race-pace run off this bike would help. And then if you’ve time, a third bike per week just nice and easy spinning the legs for 1-3 hours depending on time available and how far out from race day, maybe throwing in a few sets of single leg pedalling. If I had to choose my minimum core/strength/stretching work I would say focus on back stretching, and some squats for leg strength, twice a week. Have an easier week once every 3 weeks where the long ride and run are shortened by half. That’s what I’d try!


10 hours a week is a sweet spot for me. That allows me to do reasonably well and still keep my wife happy. I peak with a few weeks of 13-14 hours, and low season is maybe 8 hours.

If I wanted to go to Kona, which I have no interest in, I think with my genetics I would need to move from 10 hours average over a 9 month period to 15 hours average, with at least 3 of those being swimming.

If I had 5 sessions, maybe 6 hours, I would just do Olympic or 70.3 and enjoy those rather than being undercooked for full.


I think it all depends on how you approach endurance, what your base is and how you historically cope with low volume, big race.

Everyone will have their own styles, strengths and weaknesses as is pretty evident from the responses already. So I’m not sure what I can add other than to offer my own experience which may or may not work for you.

I’ve been doing endurance stuff for a few years now. I’d be pretty confident I could blag an IM next week if I needed to. I’ve got enough endurance experience, mental and physical to get through it. It would totally wreck me for weeks if guess. But I think I’d get through it. I’ve run 12-15 hour runs off very minimal training.

Based on that, I would say it certainly is possible off that volume. I like @jaylen84 suggestion of mixing stuff up. That’s a nice way to look at it and think it would be effective.

Either way, best of luck on whatever you decide.


All very interesting responses.

I think we know weight loss and muscle retention is the most important thing here ,as you specifically mentioned.

I like the idea mentioned by jaylen84 too, just because keeping your system guessing by varying workouts seems to be the basis for theories on why HIIT works for weight loss.

I know when I lost loads and loads of weight starting out in tri it was using the dreaded intermittent fasting allied to regular training, but it was a sprint tri FFS and so the calorie deficit states I got myself into were as nothing compared to IM training.

IM training was a totally different kettle of fish. Early starts and late rides fitted in around family and work, plus the dreaded century rides at weekends 3-4 times in a build left me not knowing what day of the week it was, never mind where I was nutritionally (my nutritional plan was, “eat less crisps, drink no booze!”).

So I don’t know the answer, would love to know, but I’m guessing I’ll be following a reduced calorie, no booze, slow build from current 8 hours/week up to peak 12 weeks of 10-12 hours with the usual 3 weeks of superlong rides. But it’s not science, it’s not even feel. It’s pure superstition and I reckon there’s probably a better balance for those willing to try to find it.

I suppose, looking at myself as an example, I need to focus much more on how I fuel my training rather than the training itself. I think that would reap far more dividends than increasing training itself, and likely would more than offset reduced training time.

Sorry for lengthy post. Just happens to be something on my mind too.

Any anybody with any cookbook recommendations for training that don’t ask you to have a pumpkin in stock (sorry again: Micky Flanagan joke); gratefully received.


Depends on your past.
I did IMUK last year off virtually zero training all year and a few bike rides in June. I finished in 15:57 or something. I’ve usually gone around 12:30 with half decent training.


Completely depends on what you want to achieve?

I did my first IM (Outlaw 2013) on 4.5 hours/week averaged over 6 months. My first! That’s usually where everyone frets and thinks they need at least 15 to get in before then 17 hour cut-off (I took 13.5). I actually had a couple of coaches specifically saying it was impossible. :man_shrugging:

I’ve since then done Triathlon X on 4 hours/week since I have more experience and body is just more used to long distance.

So “can you do it”, hell yes, easy. Will it be fast, no.

So, what is your actual target again? :slight_smile:


A few other random ideas for the mix.

  • originally cross fit (in it’s infancy, not in its current media/money grabbing form) was designed to give you endurance on low hours training. It used the idea of functional gym training to gain ‘non gym’ fitness. However it may not have worked as well as it thought it did.

Mark Twight, who is an endurance/training machine, tested the ideas in a ski mountaineering race and wrote gushingly about it. But he wrote a much more detailed follow up here:

Definitely worth having a read.

More specifically, a guy on slow twitch did something very similar to what you are doing and did IM Texas on something like 6 or 7 hours a week. He did have an amazing history though and looked like he could do with a few pies, even by IM standards. Again, worth a detailed dive into his ideas:

I see actually it was 9hours max. But some ideas you might poach.

I’m interested in this as I’m getting pretty frustrated with training at the moment. I can’t put the long hours in at the moment, but don’t enjoy exercising at lower fitness levels.


I recon that the relationship between race time and training time is a sin curve, somewhere between 7 and 9 hours per week training, give biggest drop in race time, less than this and you will struggle (unless you have a really good base fitness), more than 9 hours per week, still gives a benefit, but the reduction in race time is relatively small

For me, key sessions for the next 6 months would be a hard interval running set, ideally on the track, once per week, if you can do this with a club, it is much nicer. A couple of Zwift races of up to 1 hour each. a 2 - 3 hour easy ride, club ride is ideal as usually includes some willy waving intervals, an easy run of 1.5 hours. I would try to get in a HM distance run once per month. Add on a swim and you are at 8-9 hours. CTL would be around 90-100 (Weekly TSS 630 -700)

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His history is pretty deep, and still had recent things like OtillO in the bank.

Doing a 5:00:xx bike off 2 turbos a week and no long rides is !!!

Yeah, like anything on Slowtwitch, there is small print involved.


I was just linking to stuff for some ‘colour’ around the topic. I don’t think the slowtwitch guy is ‘typical’ in anyway, but worth reading the article if you are looking at potential low volume high results ideas.

Yes definitely, I’m a big believer in the TR plans if you can be strict enough to do nothing social whatsoever.

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It depends. I did MnM in 2015 on a base of track cycling. 15min races and efforts couple times a week. I ran 10k furthest and was lucky if I ran 40k per month. Swim was non existent but I swim a bit. Went 14.40 .4th out the water in 1.10 (it was 4.3km), a very conservative but comfortable 7.30 bike, and largely walked a 5.35ish marathon but I had stomach issues throughout and ate hardly anything all night as well.
Its largely mental, you can get through on very little as long as what you do is focused but its not recommended.


Not this coach :rofl:

I did my first in Vichy in 11h50m off less than 7 hours training for 6 months, I was nothing like the shape I am in now. If you get the nutrition and mental side right that is more than half the battle