For many, reaching the Ironman finish line just once is their main objective. Certainly its a worthy goal, because it makes you a member of a very special family. More and more novice ironmen are taking up the challenge, but still, it is a very small segment of the world population that will ever experience an Ironman finish line.
However, there are some who return year after year to yet another Ironman and it becomes a constant cycle of training, dieting, racing and sacrificing all else to relive the magic.
I know from experience, what a heavy toll this can take on your body and also the family, career and social aspects of your life. Its extremely important to consider how year after year of tackling the Ironman can impact your life and the life of those around you.
From a physical stand-point, even if you’re single and live on your own, it might be wise to consider giving yourself a bit of a mental and physical break from the rigors of Ironman preparation.
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, each race after that presented a new set of challenges. To swim faster, run the marathon without stopping, achieve a personal best overall time, or even place in my age group. There are always new challenges in the Ironman.
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.
In hindsight, I believe it was physical burn-out brought on by years and years of constant training with insufficient rest. In my last few races I reverted back to where I started. I just wanted to experience the atmosphere and finish the race any way I could. Unfortunately, there really is no halfway in the Ironman. Just to reach the finish line and meet all the time splits along the way requires quite a lot of preparation.
I really believe that if you are planning a long Ironman career, its wise to take a complete year or two 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 that were sort of 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 ten K 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. At the same time maintain a good sound diet and get tons of rest.
Believe me, when you resume Ironman training after giving yourself a long rest, you’ll be completely rejuvinated and should have no problem settling back into your Ironman training program. You may even find that you have the race of your life.
I believe that by taking long periods of rest between every three or four Ironman races a triathlete can avoid serious injury and burn-out and look forward to a long, successful career. Athletes have already proven that its possible to compete into your fifties and beyond.
There’s no reason why you can’t as well.
My name is Ray and I have built a site full of racing and training tips for triathletes/novice-ironmen that may help you realize your triathlon goals…
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