Kudos for even thinking about competing in an Ironman 70.3, or half Ironman -- you deserve it. In order to complete the 70.3, you'll swim 1.2 miles in an ocean, lake or river, bike 56 miles and finish up with a 13.1-mile run. Getting in shape for such a challenge requires months of preparation; a 22-week plan is common when training for this demanding competition. You can find a 22-week plan at the Intend Integrated Endurance website.
Intend Integrated Endurance recommends a 12-week base phase to build to a level of fundamental fitness needed to finish all three grueling events. The base phase uses slow-paced workouts, which enable you to improve your technique in all three sports. Triathlon coach Joe Friel explains that you should devote 10 to 14 hours to training during the first week and increase that amount by 10 percent the second and third weeks. On the fourth week, reduce your training volume 50 percent to allow your body to recover. The second and third months of training follow the same pattern.
Although you only train 12 to 17 hours per week during the eight weeks of the build phase, high-intensity workouts will tax you to the max. You'll push yourself through hard and fast workouts to enable you to run the 70.3 at the fastest possible pace. Brick workouts -- a bike workout followed immediately by a run -- are incorporated to get you up to speed. During this phase, you might run as much as 110 minutes on flats and hills, bike for 3 1/2 hours and swim for 60 minutes. As in the build phase, you go hard for three weeks and cut back the fourth week.
Peaking, also called tapering, takes place the last two weeks before the week of the race. Cut back on training volume by at least 20 to 40 percent. Short sessions should be done at high-intensity to keep your edge. Train on the same type of terrain you'll encounter during the race in order to avoid surprises.
Cut down even more in volume during the week of the race. A total training time of seven to nine hours, mostly early in the week, should be sufficient to boost your enzyme activity and blood volume heading into the race. On the big day, get to the venue early and organize your gear so that everything is easily accessible.
You probably shouldn't tackle a 70.3 until you've completed a few Olympic triathlons at a shorter distance. If you can't comfortably complete the workouts during the first weeks of the basic training phase, you'll have to lower your goals and improve your fitness. Be sure to check with your doctor before training for a half Ironman, especially if you haven't competed in triathlons before. Part of your training involves working out a routine of drinking and eating to ensure you're fueling your body properly during the long day. Since you're likely to be charged up at the start of the event, go out easy in every stage and save your strength for the home stretch.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.