Not knowing when to take a rest from Ironman training can lead to Ironman burnout and have an adverse effect on your race results.
For many, reaching the Ironman finish line just once is their main objective and often Ironman burnout prevents them from getting there.
There’s no doubt that becoming an Ironman is worthy goal because it makes you a member of a very special family.
More and more novice Ironmen are taking up the Ironman challenge. A very small segment of the world population that will ever experience what it’s like to cross the Ironman finish line.
There are those who return year after year to take on yet another Ironman. It becomes a constant cycle of training, dieting, racing and sacrificing all else to relive the magic of crossing the finish line. Often this leads to over extending oneself physically and Ironman burnout is the result.
ONE IRONMAN TOO MANY
I know from experience what a heavy toll racing year after year can take on your body and also the family, career and social aspects of your life.
Its important to consider how year after year of tackling the Ironman can impact your life and the life of those around you.
At one stretch I raced in the Ironman for nine years in a row. It seemed that after reaching the finish line for the first time the next one presented a new set of challenges.
With the growing amount of Ironman races around the world it’s become the norm for some triathletes to take on the Ironman challenge 3 or 4 times a year.
In Ironman Los Cabos there was one guy in the race who finished this 164th Ironman. You might say he has the Ironman bug.
When I think back to when I trained all year for one race. I might just as well have raced 6 or 8 Ironman’s a year because I was constantly in a state of training or racing anyway.
These always seemed to be new challenges in the Ironman. To swim faster, run the marathon without stopping, achieve a personal best overall time, or even place in your age group and go to Kona.
IRONMAN DIMINISHING RETURNS
The problem is your body never totally recovers and it could mean that you will never realize your full potential. It gets to the point that you are just going through the motions and doing just enough to get to the finish line.
The point of diminishing returns is often reached and you stop improving from pushing too hard.
Like many, I believed that the more I raced and the more I trained, the more experience I would have and the faster I would go.
That was true for a few years, but then I started to slide backwards. Regardless of how much I trained or how long I prepared for a race, I just couldn’t improve. My times began to get slower.
Looking back I believe it was Ironman burnout brought on by years and years of constant training with insufficient rest. In my last few races I reverted back to where I started in the very beginning of my career.
I eventually gave up on trying to improve my Ironman time and just went into the races to experience the high of being part of such a great event.
It would not surprise me if this pretty well describes the triathlete who finished his 164th Ironman.
TAKE AN IRONMAN BREAK
In my case, the constant training had taken away the competitive edge that drove me in the early years of my career. Probably all I had to do was take some time off from intense training and I would have remained competitive for years.
Consider taking a year off from Ironman and “then” coming back.
I really believe that if you are planning a long Ironman career it might beneficial to take a complete year off after you’ve competed in 3 or 4 Ironman races.
This will let your body fully recover and will also give you time to get back in touch with the other aspects of your life. Take some time for all those things that were put on the back-burner while you pursued your Ironman goals.
It doesn’t necessarily mean letting yourself fall completely out of shape. There’s no reason that you can’t stay fit and compete in shorter races. Run some 10K races, Olympic distance tri’s or maybe plan one marathon a year.
Go for nice relaxing swims and go for easy bike rides in the country. Don’t worry about times and splits and training schedules. Stay physically active 3 or 4 days a week to maintain your fitness, but make it enjoyable and easy.
When you resume Ironman training after giving yourself a long break you’ll be completely rejuvenated. You should have no problem settling back into your Ironman training program.
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