How hard is it to complete an Ironman?

It's hard, but it's not impossible. If you break it down by discipline, you have:

  • 2:20 to do the swim which is a 2:42/100m pace
  • Even if you max out the swim time, you have another 7:40 to complete the bike (14.6mph)
  • And if you max that out, you have 7 hours to complete the marathon (a 16 min/mile pace)

If the goal is simply to cross the finish line, it's actually quite 'easy'.

The harder part, certainly is the training to acclimate your body to the stress it'll feel on that day.

So let's answer some questions:

How many days per week should you train for an Ironman?

5-6 days is the recommended schedule. Typically a weekly schedule includes:

  • 2-3 runs (1 being long)
  • 2-3 rides (1 being long)
  • At least 2 swims
  • 1-2 strength training workouts

That could be a maximum of 10 workouts per week, and if you're doing 2 per day it could be 5 days. If you do what most do and stretch the long rides and runs onto their own days, it is easier then to run a 6 day per week schedule.

How many hours per week should you train for an Ironman?

It's going to range from 10 to 20+ hours per week.

If you were to ask, 'how man hours per day should you train for an Ironman?', well that answer is going to be 2-6 depending on number of workouts that day, and the length.

Our Ironman training plan tops out around 19 hours in a peak week. That breaks down like this:

  • Monday: Rest (0)
  • Tuesday: Swim (1.5hr), Run (1hr)
  • Wednesday: Strength (1hr), Brick (1hr)
  • Thursday: Swim (1.5hr), Bike (1hr)
  • Friday: Strength (1hr), Run (1hr)
  • Saturday: Long bike (6hrs)
  • Sunday: Long run (4hrs)
  • Total: 19 hours over 10 sessions

The above is an example of one of the longest weeks in the plan. The first few weeks would be an hour or less per session and you'd build up over time.

But in those 4-6 weeks of really peak training, it really does become like a part time job.

So, how hard is it to complete an Ironman, exactly?

The short answer is, it's as hard as your training allows it to be.

If you execute a solid Ironman training plan, even one designed for beginners like this one, you'll be in good shape come race day.

You can get away with significantly less if the goal is to finish in 16:59, but you run the risk if injury.

You can also train quite a bit more if you're able, but again, injury and 'time' come into play.

Ultimately, find a plan that fits your LIFE, and if you do the work - finishing won't be all that hard!