Racing, Training

7 Reasons Your Half Ironman Training is Not Effective

 October 29, 2016

By  Mikael Eriksson

You’ve pushed yourself hard, spent months upon months following a strict half Ironman training regimen, and are trying to adopt the healthiest lifestyle possible. You can swim, bike and run with speed and stamina. But why, then, do you still feel yourself falling flat? Many 70.3 triathletes actually stagnate in their performance or even go backwards.

The truth is, you may be making some simple mistakes that are costing you big time. Consider these 7 common mistakes and if you can identify just 2-3 ways to improve, your performance will dramatically improve again.

1. Overtraining

It’s important to be disciplined when you’re training for a triathlon, but it’s also vital that you pay attention and listen to your body. There’s a big difference between pushing yourself to be the best athlete you can be, and becoming a complete slave to your 70.3 training plan.

In fact, overtraining can lead to fatigue, injury or result in a disappointing underperformance. The sad part is that this happens so often for athletes that there’s medical terminology for it – Overtraining Syndrome.

So how do you avoid overtraining? When writing up your workout plan, include at least one rest day per week. On top of that you may also need to do a few easy sessions- called “dynamic recovery” to allow the fuel systems to the muscles, bones, joints and tendons the rebuild and recover.

Rest is a crucial tool to get improvements in any training plan.

Your fitness level won’t change if your body is too tired from yesterday. When you do need to deviate from your plan due to fatigue, don’t stress out about making up for lost time. Just get back on your program where you left off.

The other secret is to intersperse long steady state sessions with short intense speed sessions. These will get you quick performance gains and won’t take all day, allowing you more time to recover.

2. Cramming Half Ironman Training in Too Late

Fitness improvements do not happen in an even, liner fashion. You must start early enough to build your base, build endurance fitness and build top line power. You must also allow for illness, unexpected events and injury.

half ironman (70.3) training dont start too late

Too much high volume training too soon or too high much intensity training without enough recovery time will leave you burnt out and injured.

With sprint or Olympic triathlons many people “wing it” and do OK. But with 70.3 Ironman training, you really need to follow a well thought out schedule based on periodization. This means specific training blocks of 4-6 week to achieve a certain goal, followed by a rest, then start the next 4-6 week training block which has a different goal and so on.

Your total time in peaking for a half Ironman race could be anywhere from 3-6 months depending on your initial fitness at the start.

3. Failing to Pace

During the actual race, you’ll find that many athletes start out too strong then lose momentum and fade as the race goes on. You need to set out your race plan well in advance, test it out many times then stick to it!

Work on tempo workouts and maintain your control, starting at a slow and steady pace and then increase the pace gradually in the second half of the race to finish fast. This is sometimes called running a “negative split” race where you finish the second half faster than the first. This type of patience and discipline is incredibly valuable to any triathlete.

Practice your discipline by sticking to your desired training heart rate or power outputs during training sessions. Get into the habit of “whatever you say you will do- that IS what you will do”.

4. Ignoring a Good Diet

The longer the distance of your race, the more important a good diet becomes.

There are a ton of different diet plans out there and everyone’s individual needs are different. But the most important thing in every diet is to eat mainly real food, minimise processed foods, excessive sugar and junk food. Drink plenty of water, eat more vegetables and reduce alcohol.

Apart from that whether you eat meat, or are vegetarian or are Paleo, or Atkins are things you need to test and tweak and keep a record in your training journal of how they affect your performance.

Do not make the mistake of thinking you are “fit” so you can eat junk food and “get away with it”.

Sure you can get away with it in the short term- but unless you regularly fuel your body with great sources of fuel, you will not be healthy or get the best performances from yourself.

Plenty of anti-oxidants are essential to help quick recovery so you can train just as hard the next day.

5. Not Setting Short Term Goals

Your goal should challenge you, not be almost impossible to achieve. If your goal is to win the 70.3 Half Ironman you may be able to achieve that in 2-3 years time. But make sure you set a challenging (but realistic) yearly goal. Then break that down into monthly and weekly goals.

This is important so that you know you are on track. If you just focus on the one yearly goal it might seem completely impossible or might feel like you are not making progress and you may easily become discouraged.

However if you are regularly achieving and ticking off monthly and weekly goals, you remain highly motivated and can see the yearly goal getting closer.

Base your goals on the amount of training time you have available, how much you can commit to it, and a general knowledge of your body and remember to factor in time for unexpected events and injury. If these do not happen, this is a bonus but do allow for it.

6. Not Training At Race Pace

A large proportion of your training needs to be at race pace. Make sure you rehearse everything exactly many times in advance.

half ironman 70.3 race pace training

Swim, ride and run at race pace. Do plenty of brick sessions under time pressure. Wear your exact race outfit and make sure it is comfortable and does not chafe. Eat and drink the exact food/drink and exact amount you plan to consume on race day. Practice transitions many times and make sure you have developed your own system so nothing is forgotten.

Also if you know you will need to get up at 430am in time to eat breakfast on race day in order to get to the race on time, make sure you practice this a few times as well.

Your aim is to ensure there are no surprises on race day and that you are fully prepared. Never make your first time for anything be on race day!

7. Getting Flustered In The Pre-Race Hype

You’re ready to race. You’ve been training for months, and you’re well-prepared and the feeling of anticipation is really starting to get to you. But it’s important not to ruin it at the last minute!

Remember to keep your diet in check. Don’t binge on food you wouldn’t have dared eat throughout your training. Stick to the plan and what you know.

Get enough rest in race week and conserve energy. Remember to allow time for a decent taper in your training plan. Most half ironman plans allow for 2- 3 weeks.

Focus on positive mental focus during race week and on race day. Only allow positive vibes and positive images to flood your mind. Do not worry about all the things that could go wrong. Only focus on having the best day of your life, a successful race and feeling in control on the start line and throughout the race.

So now you know what training mistakes to avoid.

Stick to the plan and good luck!

Guest article written by Dan Golding
Author of "Winning at 70.3:How to Dominate the Middle Distance"
Writer at

Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

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