Staying motivated during Ironman Triathlon training

What is the key to staying motivated during Ironman Triathlon training? There will always be ups and downs over the months, or perhaps years, that a person spends preparing to take on the Ironman challenge.

As much as crossing the Ironman finish line is their deepest desire, there will be days when it’s hard to get out the door for a training session.

Ultimately, it has nothing to do with loosing interest in the goal of becoming an Ironman. In fact it is the burning desire to succeed that is the catalyst for a loss of motivation.

More often then not it is over-training and physical burn-out that’s the culprit.


As the sport of triathlon has evolved over the years, there are more and more sources of information(and misinformation) on how to train, how much to train, and what gear and supplements you just have to have in order to succeed.

It’s easy for someone to say, “you need to train at least 18-20 hours a week if you want to be an Ironman.”

Yet, a blanket statement like that doesn’t make any sense because everyone is individual and has a unique combination of physical ability and skill levels in the swim, bike, and run.

Staying motivated durning Ironman Triathlon training

There is no advantage to training dead-tired.

Unfortunately there are many people who train far more than is really necessary, and that’s where the downward spiral begins.


When you put together your Ironman training program it’s important to realize that it’s all right to deviate from the plan.

Unfortunately, there are many well-intentioned triathletes who try and follow their training program to the letter, and this is a recipe for disaster.

Having the mind-set that you have to get in your five or six days of training at all costs can easily lead to disappointment, injury, and ultimately, a lack of motivation to carry on.

Sooner or later you will end up training when you should be resting. You will go out that door no matter how tired you are and end up having a crappy work-out. You will begin to wonder what you have to do in order to improve.

How can you be struggling in the pool so much and why are you out of energy thirty minutes into a scheduled two-hour bike ride? After all the training you have done, you seem to be going backwards and not improving.


The Kenyans are some of the greatest runners and endurance athletes in the world and much of it has to do with their attitude about training and resting.

When they feel great they run fast and have excellent work-outs, and when they can sense their bodies need rest they take it easy.

One of the greatest Kenyan runners in the world would simply stop running and take three or four weeks off right in the middle of the training season if he felt tired.

When he came back he was totally rested, ready, and motivated to get back into training.

At the time he was World Champion in three different distances.

Often what seems like a lack of motivation is just your body telling you that it’s time for a rest.

If you have a 90-minute training run planned and feel like you have nothing in the tank after the first ten minutes, you are far better off to stop running and walk back home and take some time off.

To push yourself through that run is counter-productive and is doing nothing to help you get to the Ironman finish line.


There is saying that goes something like this…..”When I am not training, there will be someone who is, and on race day he will beat me.”

That line of thinking seems flawed on so many levels. You have to do what’s best for you, and not worry about what everyone else is doing.

Contrary to popular belief, you will not lose your endurance and conditioning by taking some time off from training.

–There is nothing wrong with taking an unplanned rest day during your training week.

–there is nothing wrong with training for three days and resting for four if you are feeling drained of energy.

–There is nothing wrong with taking an entire weekend off from training and doing nothing that involves swimming, biking, or running.

Staying motivated during Ironman Triathlon training

It’s okay to rest. Take a week or two off it you feel you need it. You will come back stronger than ever.

–There is nothing wrong with taking a full week or two off if you are constantly feeling tired and are finding it difficult to stick to your training program.

By putting pressure on yourself to get the workouts in you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Once you establish in your mind that it’s okay to deviate from your training and rest when you need it, you will take a ton of pressure off yourself.

I truly believe the key to staying motivated when you are training for an Ironman Triathlon is to train because you want to, and not because you feel have to.

You should be enjoying the Ironman journey. It’s supposed to be exciting. You should be thrilled to see improvement in your skill and fitness level as time goes by.

When you stop feeling that, it’s time to take a step back and let yourself recuperate and you will come back motivated and stronger than ever.


2 thoughts on “Staying motivated during Ironman Triathlon training

  1. Hi Ray,
    I’m wondering what your thoughts are on a training program that somewhat mimics the IM event by having the athlete doing a long bike (ex. 160km) on Saturday followed by doing a long run (ex. 30km) on Sunday, is this a good training idea or is it leading the athlete toward over-training?
    Cheers, Sean

    • Hi Sean…

      Thank you for your comment and question.

      You left out the most important component in your question, and that would be the timing of this training strategy. And the timing is everything.

      I really believe a four-week taper into an IM event is best which means keeping all long training workouts out of the equation in those last four weeks.

      The long training ride and run you mention would certainly prepare you for the race and build your confidence as far as handling the distance, but I would be sure to do it with six or at the very least five weeks to go before your race.

      It could actually be the last long workout of your last weekend before you begin your taper. As I said, timing is everything. Using this time-frame that I mentioned will give you plenty of time to recover.

      With two weeks left before your race and half-way through your taper you could mimic an Olympic-distance race. Don’t enter a race, just do it on your own a little faster than your usual training pace, but not all out.

      Do your swim, bike 40k or so, and than do your 10k run and keep the transition times short as possible. This will give you one last tune-up to keep you sharp and will also serve as one last practice at the transitions.

      The last two weeks before the race reduce your training time considerably, but keep up your usual intensity when you do train. Ironman week should be almost all rest with some very short swims to get used to the venue water, and short bikes in the cool, early morning hours. The only purpose of these short bikes and runs is to stay loose and there is no need or advantage in exceeding 20-30 minutes.

      It’s also a good time to make sure your bike is running smooth as far as shifting and braking and your bike computer is working properly and has a fairly new battery that won’t quit on you half-way through the race.

      Avoid any sort of physical stress in the heat of the day as it will dehydrate you and serves no good purpose. Begin hydrating on the Wednesday before a Sunday race.

      I hope this helps,

      Have a great 2014 and best of luck on race-day.

      IronStruck Ray

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