Updated: Aug 12
Read time: 4min.
By Coach Yan Busset
Let's explore the art of balancing training volume to find your sweet spot. By following a more systematic approach and embracing self-awareness, you can discover the right training workload that propels you towards the finish line.
Let's discover together the roadmap to your Ironman dream.
How much should I train? Is the most common question I am asked as a triathlon coach. There is no simple answer as the training volume depends on:
-Your initial level
-Your lifestyle (which will determine your ability to recover)
I usually return the question: 'Tell me how much time you have for recovery, and I can tell you how much you can train.'
To hear the race speaker on the finish line saying at you 'You are an IRONMAN!' and enjoy the rightful lifetime bragging rights that come with it: There are no shortcuts; you will need time and consistency
Typical training hours for someone preparing for their first full-distance Ironman may vary on average from 10-16 hours per week. It can take you anywhere from one to three years to be ready to safely complete the race. There are no numbers that fit everyone. For a total beginner, I recommend taking your time for this journey. First work on your triathlon ABC before ramping up to a full distance. Spend your first season experimenting with Sprint and Olympic distance then your second year testing yourself over half distance, and go for a full distance in your third year as a rookie. It may take three extra years to master the distance and achieve a lifetime peak performance. But, if you are already experienced enough to cover a 2km swim, 100km bike, and a half marathon, a 12-months preparation could be enough to complete a full-distance .
What is important to keep in mind is not to rush it. Respect your body. It takes time for the system to assimilate the workload. What we are talking about here is giving your body time to rebuild itself better and stronger. We are talking about changing:
-the shape of your body
-the volume of your heart
-the mapping of your veins
-the structure of your bones, ligaments, and muscles fibers
-building the mental resilience
-learning new motor skills such as improved swimming or running technique.
It does not happen overnight, no magic. If you want it easy, you have picked the wrong sport.
How do you find the training volume that suits you?
Imagine a graph where "y" represents performance/fitness level and "x" represents the volume or training hours. Your fitness will improve as the volume increases until it hits a plateau for a certain volume. If the volume is too high, too demanding, your fitness will drop. We are not all equal when it comes to our potential to adapt to training stimulus, and none of us have exactly the same lifestyle that allows us to train and sleep more. Also, does your fitness level start from zero? From the couch? Or do you already have a certain level of fitness? This will define the volume level from the start of your journey.
Take two athletes with similar initial fitness and potential. Athlete A has a lifestyle that allows them to have more volume (For exp. a less demanding job), while athlete B has fewer hours to dedicate to this hobby. It is then logical that the level of peak performance will be limited for athlete B, and an increase in volume could lead faster to fatigue or burnout.
I would recommend these steps to find your volume sweet spot:
-Identify your available sustainable weekly training hours. Not your wild dream scenario, but the realistic maximum you can sustain without compromising your family, job, and social life.
-Build a plan and set goals. If you train randomly, you can expect a random results.
-Ramp up. Over the weeks, increase progressively your training volume to allow your body to adapt.
-Use a bio-feedback loop to track your daily recovery values and assess how your body is adapting. Pay attention to data such as resting morning heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), overall feel and sleep. Identify any red flags and adjust your volume accordingly.
-Use measurable fitness goals as milestones in your training journey to check if your training is heading in the right direction. Once again, adjust your volume or change the plan if necessary.
It's important to note that when defining the right training volume, talking about training hours does not paint the complete picture. Instead, we should consider workload, which also takes into account intensity. One hour of easy running will not have the same impact on your recovery as one hour of high-tempo pace.
Also, be forgiving with yourself. Your training plan is not written in marble, and life often gets in the way. Be flexible and don't confuse stubbornness with grit.
In conclusion, if you follow these recommendations, you will be able to find the right balance of training hours to get you to the finish line. Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Definitely.
-training volume depends on: Your initial level, lifestyle and goals
-Training hours for preparing for first full-distance may vary on average from 10-16h/week
-No short cut, don't rush, give your body time to rebuild
-Preparation can take from 12months to 3 years depending on your initial level
-Built a plan, ramp-up, track recovery data, set up milestones goals and reassess.
-Adapt, be forgiving and flexible with yourself.
Thank you for reading and see you next week!
Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:
1. If you are looking for support for your triathlon journey, I recommend you book a 30min 1on1 video consultation with me here.
2. If you are looking for an online coaching service check here.
3. if you are in the Helsinki area and looking for the best training group check here
Join our newsletter subscribers and
get actionable training tips every week