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How to Prepare for Your First Ironman 70.3


  • What is Ironman 70.3?
  • How to prepare and train for your first Ironman 70.3
  • How to increase your endurance and speed in cycling
  • What’s the best nutrition plan for triathletes?

Triathlon Essentials: How to Prepare for Your First Ironman 70.3

Ironman events are some of the most anticipated sports events worldwide. Each event comes with the perfect venue, obstacle course, and challenges. Each event is different, and there’s no denying that Ironman 70.3 is the best and most demanding of them all. After all, nothing but rigorous training and strong spirit can prepare you for the demands of Ironman 70.3.

With the latest one being held in Egypt in November 2021, Ironman 70.3 is touring around the world to look for the best triathletes who can conquer every challenge. If you’re one of these aspiring triathletes, here’s a guide to prepare for your first Ironman 70.3.

What Does An Ironman 70.3 Consist Of?

The Ironman 70.3 is a triathlon event that highlights the best-of-the-best race features and obstacles in running, cycling, and swimming. It is exclusively hosted by the World Triathlon Corporation and the IRONMAN Foundation, an organization that hosts multi-sports events and supports athletic communities through philanthropy, volunteerism, and grant-making.

The ‘70.3’ in each Ironman triathlon event refers to the total distance required to be completed by the participants. Each Ironman 70.3 consists of various races totaling 70.3 miles or approximately 113 km, and each of the race types is half the distance of the original segments in a regular Ironman Triathlon. Here’s the default structure of Ironman 70.3:

  • 1.2-mile (1.9 km) swim
  • 56-mile (90 km) bike ride
  • 13.1-mile (21.1 km) run

WTC and the Ironman Foundation host multiple Ironman 70.3 triathlon events in different countries, mainly in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America, for 12 months. The series culminates with a World Championship competition annually. For one, the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Egypt, will have a 70.3-mile race in the Red Sea to offer 30 qualifying slots to the 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Taupõ, New Zealand.

How to Prepare and Train for Your First Ironman 70.3

If you think you’re finally ready to brave the challenging courses and obstacles of Ironman 70.3, then it’s time to condition your mind, body, and spirit. Here are steps and strategies that can help you conquer the 70.3-challenge:

Come Up With a Program

Since Ironman 70.3 is a triathlon sports event, it consists of various running, swimming, and cycling activities. You’ll need to master all three and improve your endurance and performance, so an organized program can help you eliminate weaknesses and enhance strengths in a balanced manner.

As a beginner, you can start with a simple 20-week plan leading to the competition. You can extend the program or adjust the difficulty level if you’ve competed in other Ironman events in the past.

An effective program should contain a one-day rest day, preferably during Sundays. You can alternate between running, swimming, cycling training sessions, and other workout activities, such as weight lifting and yoga classes from Monday to Saturday. You can add more training activities and adjust the level of difficulty for the following weeks.

Prioritize Cycling

During your training sessions, focus on improving your endurance in cycling. This doesn’t mean that you’ll completely ignore other elements of the Ironman 70.3 triathlon, such as running and swimming. However, keep in mind that most of the race would revolve around cycling (56 miles / 90kms of bike ride). You need to learn how to bike faster and further.

Train the most on a bike every week as you’ll spend approximately 50% of your race time cycling on race day. Here are some tips that can help increase your endurance and speed in cycling:

  1. Train on hills
  2. Join a cycling community
  3. Incorporate interval training (rigorous training with periods of recovery)
  4. Train close to your VO2 max, the maximum oxygen consumption of your body
  5. Maintain the condition of your bike; pay attention to the saddle and handlebar

As you improve your endurance and speed, don’t neglect the technical skills associated with biking. Possessing and enhancing your technical skills can prevent injuries and make you a more competent biker.

Swim on Open Water

Swimming in open water can condition your body for triathlon better than swimming in a pool. Open water has the right size, temperature, and obstacles for your training. Meanwhile, pool swimming has a very controlled environment. During your weeks of training, you can add an open-water swim day at least once or twice a week or alternate between swimming in a pool and open water.

Most triathletes don’t have easy access to open water, but this is a highly recommended part of your training. You can find a lake, river, or beach near you, then practice swimming in a straight line to correct your course based on unpredictable currents and your choice of wetsuit.

Since some open water locations have unsafe conditions, you can bring a friend or a team when you train. Ensure that the part of the open water you plan to train on is safe for public use. Alternatively, you can also join swimming clubs and short competitions.

Stick to A Race Day Nutrition Plan

Proper diet and nutrition can enhance an athlete’s performance and endurance. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, diet is one of the critical components that can make or break an athlete’s performance.

“A number of factors contribute to success in sport, and diet is a key component. An athlete’s dietary requirements depend on several aspects, including the sport, the athlete’s goals, the environment, and practical issues,” said the study.

Given this, you need to carefully craft a race nutrition plan fit for triathletes, and adjust it according to your personal needs and preferences. A 7-day meal plan should contain sufficient protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, water, and other fluids.

For food rich in carbohydrates, aim to get 45% to 65% of calories. For protein, aim to get 10% to 30% of calories. Healthy fats should have 20% to 35% of calories. All in all, aim to consume 250 calories per hour. Water and sports drinks are also essential, so make sure you drink plenty of liquids even when you’re not training. Drink water or fluids every 15 to 20 minutes during training.

Nutrition information for athletes varies. So, if you’re not sure about the type and amount of food you need to consume based on your physical requirements, you can seek help from a registered dietician or nutritionist.

Get a Suitable and Comfortable Gear 

If you don’t know, gear and clothing—including their size and material, heavily affect performance and endurance. It’s one of the external factors that contribute to your race-day performance and even psychological state, proved one study published in the Sports Journal of the United States Sports Academy.

Pick the right gear during your training and for the actual race day. Invest in a couple of pairs of wet suits, swim caps, gloves, running shoes, or bike shorts, and choose varieties with your comfort in mind. Comfortable clothing and gear can provide more freedom to your movements and aid you during race transitions.

You can change into sportswear specific to each leg of the race or wear multi-purpose sports clothing on the actual race day. Some triathletes opt to finish the entire race in a swimsuit to allow faster transitions, while others change clothing at each transition in the name of comfort.

Find Training Partners 

Ironman 70.3 may be a solo pursuit, but you can improve your performance and boost your spirit by training with like-minded individuals who can relate to your goals and struggles as an athlete. You may want to join a running club, a cycling community, or a swimming team before race day. Find group activities that won’t disrupt your training program.

Another tip is to communicate with other athletes who’ve already experienced Ironman 70.3 or other similar races. You can ask for advice, tips, or strategies and apply them to your training or on the race day itself. But make sure that the things you’ll gain would actually improve your performance and experience. Don’t do any ‘first’ or anything new on race day, as it might disrupt your flow and momentum.

Conduct a Practice Triathlon

If you have the means to conduct a practice triathlon, schedule a one-day mock race. It doesn’t have to be a 70.3-mile race; half marathons will do. Alternatively, you can participate in short marathon events near you if you don’t have the resources to plan a short triathlon by yourself. You can join in at least one short-distance triathlon that has similar features, courses, challenges, and logistics as Ironman 70.3.

A triathlon race could help you fine-tune your body to an actual Ironman 70.3 event. Through a triathlon practice, you can familiarize yourself with race-day logistics, practice race transitions, make adjustments to your training program and nutrition plan, discover your race day pace, and find equipment or gear that can enhance your performance.

Don’t Neglect the Recovery Phase 

Your recovery phase is just as important as your training sessions. It gives the body time to repair damages and strengthen itself. Don’t neglect your recovery phase, especially when race day is fast approaching. You need to allow your body to recover and refuel to compensate for all your rigorous training sessions.

Aside from not doing any rigorous training activities, sleep is another essential part of the recovery process. According to the Michigan State University Extension, sleep-deprived athletes will often experience subtle changes in hormone levels. These changes cause stress hormones to increase and human growth hormones to decrease. The latter is responsible for repairing tissues. Hence, athletes should ensure that they get regular sleep cycles during training.

To help athletes plan a sound recovery phase, the Michigan State University Extension recommends monitoring workouts with a training log. This can assist athletes in keeping track of their bodies’ conditions after an exercise session, helping them determine recovery needs and loopholes in training programs.

Pack Your Essentials Early

There’s nothing more stressful than forgetting important things and essentials during a vacation. What more if it’s a competition? As such, we highly recommend you pack in advance to avoid stress come race day. Stress and the absence of your race-day essentials can affect your overall performance. They can flush all your efforts and energy down the drain.

Aim to cover all details and prepare all essentials weeks leading to the race. Have a race checklist, if you must. Prioritize and maintain your wetsuit or tri-suit, googles bike, running shoes, and race documents. Then move on to other non-essential items that you might also need on race day.

Along with packing early is ironing all your minor and major problems regarding clothing, gear, and equipment. You need to ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible during the race. Make changes during your recovery phase or downtime.

Visualize Ironman 70.3

The best way to condition your body and mind is to visualize the race and map out your plans. You can use a pen and a paper or just your wild imagination to play through your first Ironman 70.3 in your mind. You can even go as far as using training simulations to mimic the feeling!

Sarah Huntley, a renowned sports performance psychologist and business coach, stated that visualization could ultimately help individuals become better triathletes. “Visualisation is one of the most well-researched mental skills in the sporting arena and, with practice, can really make the difference on race day,” Sarah said.

To visualize, you can start meditating in a comfortable and quiet place. With your eyes closed, try to focus your mind on you doing your absolute best at your first Ironman 70.3. Repeat the process on your recovery days.


Ironman 70.3 is not your regular triathlon race. It’s called as such for a reason. Just taking part in a regular Ironman event can put you under immense pressure, so as a beginner, aim to get through your first one. Keep your expectations realistic, but always push yourself to go further and farther to succeed. The preparation steps and tips mentioned above will help you hone your strengths and improve your weaknesses.

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