Why you should not do an Ironman
by Coach John Taipale, Soles Inspired
Triathletes are most commonly asked if they’ve ever finished an Ironman Triathlon. This is misleading, as triathletes then assume they must participate in one of these races to be successful in the sport. However, being a successful Triathlete is independent of race distance. Therefore, here are some reasons why you should consider shorter distance triathlons.
Entry fees for Ironman races are in the neighborhood of $700 – $1,000. There is also the requirement to be present at least two days before each race, which means you will have to purchase a longer stay in a hotel room and more meals. Also, driving home after the race is unlikely. Training requires more sports nutrition products, more time spent away from family, and a greater cost to the body. Not too mention, many of these races require a substantial amount of travel. Take your money and spend it on some great local short course races.
The feeling of competition is present during short course racing. It is fun to go fast, to exchange back and forth for a position, to be pushing yourself into the highest speeds you’ve ever gone. It feels like racing. Consider planning out a schedule with a number of short course races through the year. Improve your Sprint or Olympic distance speed and watch your progression through the age group as the season goes. Short course racing will allow you more chances to meet and socialize with other local triathletes. It will make you strong, powerful, athletic, and it will improve your aerobic fitness at a greater rate.
Aerobic fitness (measured by V02 max) is one of the best predictors of all cause mortality and mortality specifically from chronic disease (1). Individuals can improve this via participating in triathlon. However, the culture of the sport is always implying that more volume is better for aerobic fitness. This is true – to a point. Excessive endurance activities are associated with structural remodeling of the heart that may have adverse effects (2). Speed and interval training have a greater and safer impact on aerobic fitness compared to endurance (3, 4). Keep in mind, there is a possibility of participating in too much speed training and fast racing as well. The key is balance: some endurance, some speed, and some strength training.
Ask yourself, why you’re doing the races that you’ve selected for your season. Is your motivation internal and you’ve decided that you love the distance and the benefits of the sport fully outweigh the costs from an intrapersonal standpoint? Or is your motivation external and you’ve become dependent on the thoughts and concerns of others and your intention is to satisfy and prove yourself to those around you? Find what motivates you internally. Do the sport because you love it. If you do the sport for extrinsic reasons, you will surly fall off the wagon at some point. Make triathlon a life long habit and don’t feel that you must finish an Ironman to be a Triathlete.
- Blair SN, Kohl HW, Paffenbarger RS, Clark DG, Cooper KH, Gibbons LW. Physical fitness and all-cause mortality: a prospective study of healthy men and women. JAMA. 1989
- O’Keefe, James H. et al. “Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 87.6 2012
- Bacon, Andrew P. et al. “VO2max Trainability and High Intensity Interval Training in Humans: A Meta-Analysis.” Ed. Conrad P. Earnest. PLoS ONE 8.9. 2013
4. Guiraud T, Nigam A, Gremeaux V, Meyer P, Juneau M, Bosquet L. High-intensity interval training in cardiac rehabilitation. Sports Med. 201