Triathlon Training: Your First Ironman – A 12 week plan for busy dads!


I’m not sure what came over me but a few months ago I thought it’d be a good idea to enter an Ironman. This will be my first Ironman… and it could well be my last! In fact it could be my last anything…!

I guess I’m slightly above average in terms of my fitness; I play football once a week, I cycle when I can and go running when I’m motivated to but jumping from entering a few sprint triathlons to an Ironman is probably a bit more than I can chew.

I think that was why I did it though. I’ve always been keen to challenge myself and push my limits as far as I can. The challenges on TV you see like ‘The Island’ and ‘Mantracker’ etc, appeal to me greatly.

I’m drawn towards challenges that are going to push my mind & body to the maximum and whether it’s through ability or sheer stubbornness, I won’t accept anything less than completion.

So, this Ironman is in June. It’s part of the official Ironman circuit, so the pros will be competing on the Saturday and the crazy amateur’s just out for a ‘stroll’ in the Exmoor countryside, compete on the Sunday. My race is called Ironman 70.3 and comprises of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile cycle and a 13.1 mile run. That’s right, 70.3 miles! What was I thinking? – I find driving 70 miles quite hard work!

Anyway, there’s no time for regrets now. I’m waist high into this challenge so I’m gonna prepare myself as best I can. The trouble is, a tired, busy dad doesn’t have much room in his timetable for training. I am realising that, from entering this, I have not only put a pressure & strain on my physical condition but also a huge pressure on my already highly pressured and valuable time.

I called for help and Protein Dynamix (one of our sponsors) has come up trumps and helped me put together a 12 week triathlon training plan. Ollie Matthews, the creator of this plan and experienced Ironman himself, took some of my vital stats and put together a training plan; taking into account that I work full time and have a young family. Obviously, there is no escaping the fact that you need to be committed to training and so there will inevitably have to be some sacrifices along the way.

Firstly, here’s some helpful pointers & advice from someone who’s been there before:


You need to be confident in your decision to do it. You must actually ‘want’ to do it for yourself and be sure you want to commit to it and the whole process will be a much easier ride.


Training for an Ironman event requires consistency. You will need to be ready to stick to a training plan for a good stretch of time with minimal disruptions.


Planning your training schedule right up to the event is a must. You need to be sure you are doing enough training for each discipline (running, swimming and cycling) with a good balance through your week and month. The plan below requires around 5 days training per week. Whilst this sounds a lot, if you plan it correctly and get the most out of each session it shouldn’t impact on too much on the rest of your life.

Mental Strength

You must be prepared for your mental strength to be challenged. Both the training and the event itself will be a real test of character and your dedication. If you feel ready for this you have a far greater chance of succeeding.


By the time you reach event day you’ll be fitter than ever. There’s also a chance you’ll have a lowered immunity and higher risk of injury. Be able to train consistently requires you staying healthy so take care of your health and stay on top of other distractions.


Training for an Ironman means you’ll probably need to eat a lot more food than you did before. You will probably need to consume more carbs to keep your energy levels up and more protein to support muscular recovery and repair. Listen to your appetite and don’t go hungry when training.


I’m sure you’ll already be aware that patience for such a big event is key to performance levels. You won’t see results overnight but you will improve over the course of your training. Patience is a naturally learned trait of becoming a parent anyway right?

Keep Track

Keep track of your progress with a diary. It will help you see the improvements and keep you aware of what’s to come in the coming weeks.


Allowing your body to recover is just as important as the training. It must be taken seriously for the sake of your physical and mental health. One method can be to lower the volume of training. Every 4-5 weeks be sure to include more rest days and sometimes it’s appropriate to even lessen the intensity of each session as the weeks get closer to the actual event. Be sure to get as good sleep as you can, certainly not easy if you’ve got a newborn!

Family & Friends

Ironman training can take over your life so make sure your family and friends are also aware of this. You will probably see them a fair bit less as you start training and especially 3-4 months before the event. Be positive for your family as they will need your support as much as you’ll need theirs.

Training Challenge

Training is the time to iron out the creases. Make sure you experiment and push yourself to be truly prepared for the event itself. If you can replicate the event as best as possible in your final months and weeks of training you’ll go into the event feeling confident and ready.


If you want to perform at your very best, then it may be worth getting help to improve your technique at each discipline. Have your running gait analysed. Get a swimming coach to look at your swimming style. Make sure your bike is fitted properly and is comfortable. Do this all in good time.

Enjoy It

Ironman events are tough there’s no denying it but keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it. Training will leave you feeling awesome. Your progress will keep you smiling. On the day of the event – remember to enjoy it because you certainly deserve to.


Now, I’m well into my 2nd month of the training plan… not that I’ve been able to religiously stick to it, but don’t worry, month 2 is the same plan as month 1 only increasing the time spent on each discipline by 10% each week. So you only need this one table for the first 2 months training.

Ironman training month 1

I’ve just come back from my 1 hour swim and thought I’d add on a few miles on foot, so ran for 6 miles too… #knackered #needrest #why

Now, remember, everyone is individual so the above plan should be viewed as a rough guide in terms of how to break your training sessions down and the switch from one discipline to another. You may not be able to fit 5 sessions in each week (I rarely do), so adjust the plan before you start to accommodate what you can do and make sure a similar intensity and variety are applied to your plan.

Please do get in touch with any training tips you have and any events you’re booked in for so we can check in with each other and encourage one another. Also shout if you have any questions. It’s worth following Ollie Matthews on twitter and checking out his website too.

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  1. Stephanie 19 May, 2015 / 9:45 pm

    EEK!!! Good luck – but I think I’ll settle for something less physically demanding, like cycling up hills followed by a cream cake :) #sharethejoy

    • Al Ferguson 20 May, 2015 / 1:09 pm

      Sounds much more appealing. Thanks Stephanie :)

  2. Troy 25 May, 2015 / 10:38 am

    It’s one thing that I like to run but Ironman looks like SERIOUS work. Good luck with the training

    • Al Ferguson 25 May, 2015 / 7:01 pm

      Thank you! I think it’s gonna be bloody hard work!

  3. Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks 25 May, 2015 / 7:11 pm

    Yikes good luck! The tip one of the girls I worked with gave me was to add runs on by running to and from training places. She used to run to work as well. Crazy!

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