Training For An Iron Man? Here’s How You Can Nail the Swim

BESTPIX  Kelloggs Iron Man - New Zealand


As USA Today reported in May, triathlon participants have grown from 193,000 to nearly half a million in less than eight years. This growth has resulted in tighter competition for all contenders. Perhaps the most challenging part of a triathlon is the dreaded 1.5 mile swim. The Ironman kicks it up a notch by increasing this distance to 2.4 miles. Mastering any sport requires mechanical efficiency–essentially, maximizing the calories expended to propel motion forward. According to Terry Laughlin of Crossfit Journal, water is 900 times thicker than air, making swimming a tougher sport to become mechanically efficient at. Compared with the 90% mechanical efficiency of world class runners, swimmers are only 9% efficient. Translate these facts to the novice level and you are looking at about 3% mechanical efficiency. You can surpass these odds with the right type of training, one in which form is refined to generate increased efficiency. Check out these 3 tips to achieve killer results in the Ironman swim in just 6 months:

Slow Down

Traditionally the swimming portion of the Ironman begins the race. This means that if you can gracefully tackle this leg of the event, you are setting yourself up for success in the next two portions. Your first task should be to perfect your stroke. Becoming a more efficient swimmer requires that you learn how to move through the water fluidly. Laughlin suggests slowing down and pacing your strokes across the length of your pool. The fewer strokes, the more efficient you will be. Set up a measurable goal to reduce your stroke count. Drilling yourself in this way will help you overcome resistance and move quickly through the water. Practice and refine your stroke in the beginning 2 months of your training. Spending about 80% of your laps in stroke time will help eke out all imperfections before building endurance, according to’s library.

Training Schedule

With your form in line, you will be ready to make strides in building stamina for those grueling 2.4 miles. In this regard, it helps to have a pool available for use on a daily basis. Keep your pool running smoothly by replacing and maintaining your liners. Visit for top of the line options designed to outlast harsh weather conditions. Since swimming is not the only thing you must conquer in order to finish strong in the Ironman, the following schedule accounts for cycling and running training as well. John Newsom of suggests a 6 day rotation that includes days of rest in between hard sessions. Spacing it out as you please, spend two days swimming for 1 hour, one day cycling for 1 hour, one day running for 1 hour, one day of running for 45 minutes, and a day of 2-3 hours of cycling. Use this regimen as a guide to build the rest of your training. In the first two months of your swimming sessions, remember to perfect your stroke. For the other two disciplines, increase your time spent with each activity by 10% each week. Once you reach the 4 month mark, take a week off to recover before you intensify your routine, as suggests.

The Home Stretch

The final two months before the race should be spent refining your skills and training your muscles to remain sharp. As Ironman trainer Kevin Mackinnon suggests, you should build in 30-40 minutes of circuit training to help condition you to rapidly switch from exercise to exercise, while also building core stability and balance. As you integrate circuit training into your routine, you should also increase your time spent by 10% on each specific activity. Pre-race week is a good time to taper off your training and help you conserve energy for the big race. Newsom advises a 20 minute swim, 30 minute bike, and 10 minute run for the day before the race.

Using these guidelines from experts in the field, you can outline a training schedule that works best for you. Just remember, you can nail the swim with a focus on technique and form while putting in the necessary time for the other events.