Avoiding Burnout: Lead-up to My First Ironman Triathlon

author : mikericci
comments : 0

I recently registered for Ironman Florida. My ambition and dream was to take part in an Ironman. Does this schedule set me up for burnout, or should I just build the distances in 2013 very gradually?

Member Question

I'm coming off of a season where I have raced three sprints, two olympics, two 1/2 marathons, an aquabike, a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike.

I recently registered for Ironman Florida.   My ambition and dream was to take part in an Ironman and luckily I registered online and got in!

My 2013 schedule looks like this:

February: 1/2 marathon.  May: Olympic distance triathlon.  June: half iron distance triathlon.  July: bike metric century.  Aug: half iron distance.  November: my A race, Ironman Florida.

I'm about 30lbs over weight, I'm injury free. The bike is my biggest weakness.

Does this schedule set me up for burnout, or should I just build the distances in 2013 very gradually? I plan on using the Beginner Ironman plan here on BT.

Answer from Mike Ricci
Head Coach, D3 Multisport.com 

Congrats on getting through a successful season of triathlon and for getting yourself signed up for Ironman Florida. It looks like you had a pretty full schedule in 2012 with eight events and as long as you feel as though you finished the season strong, I find no reason to think you’ll experience burnout in 2013.

For a long lead up to IMFL, I would definitely structure the year so that you avoid the burnout and there’s a few ways to do that:

  1. Start the off-season out by working on your weakness.
    We call this Sport Focus Training (SFT). We take your weakest sport and focus on that for eight weeks at a time. It’s very hard to get better at one sport unless you are focusing on that sport specifically at that time. I recommend that athletes do SFT for each sport (eight weeks per sport) so it ends up being a total of 24 weeks or six months. This would work well if you started December with a bike focus and then started into the run focus leading into your half marathon in February.
  2. Work on frequency of workouts vs. total volume.
    If you are currently training three times per week on each sport, then increase it to four-five times a week.  This one change will help your body adjust slowly to increasing the volume over time vs. trying to do iron-distance volume on three workouts per week per sport.
  3. Take a break!
    About halfway through your season, and for you this would be AFTER your June Half Ironman, I would take some time off. Schedule a family vacation or just take some time off from structured training. At this point, you’ll have been training for a long period of time, with a long way to go until you get to your Ironman.

With regard to the issues involving the weight loss, I think there are a few things you can do to improve this situation:

  1. Eat healthy.  Easy to say, harder to do. Get your fuel sources from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and avoid processed everything, including power bars, gels, shots etc. The ‘cleaner’ you eat the easier it will be for the weight loss.
  2. Ride your bike. A lot. This is a ‘kill two birds with one stone’ type of philosophy here and here’s the reasoning: The safest and easiest way to lose weight is to ride your bike. You won’t have the same stress on ligaments and tendons as you would while running and with an indoor trainer you can conceivably ride every day if you had too. On the other side, since cycling is your weakness, then this is something you need to do if you want to improve your bike fitness. Lastly, make sure you get a bike fit from a qualified bike fitter so you are putting in all those miles safely and not with a substandard bike fit. In reality you shouldn’t ever get hurt riding your bike if you can keep your bike up. In other words, ride safely, and ride a lot.
  3. Be consistent with the training. This goes back to the sport focus, but if you can train often, even if it’s a short workout, over time, you’ll see huge benefits in your fitness.

One last thing with regards to your season planning

Think about adding in a few short, fast races that you can train through in your lead up to your half iron distance races. This will allow you to race fast on tired legs and force you to push yourself pretty hard. This will benefit you as you move to the longer distances and you’ll have to push very hard in the second half of your races to reach your goals!

Good luck with your training and if you have any questions on your season planning please feel free to contact me.  

Best Wishes,




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date: November 19, 2012