The Athletes Guide: Can I do an Ironman?

Before anyone decides to train for an Ironman they first ask themselves: ”Can I do an Ironman”, with that comes the question of “Should i do an Ironman?”

This blog will give you an insight in how the decision of training for an Ironman should be made and what you can expect from that decision. Ofcourse, this not only accounts for Ironman but also for other triathlons and sporting events.

Can I do an Ironman?

The answer to this question is much simpler then most people expect it to be. They can’t imagine doing anything that even remotely looks like an Ironman and they doubt the athletic ability that their body has or will ever have. Before you let your doubts take over I will tell you the answer to the question which is: Yes, yes you can. Truth is, anyone can do an Ironman. If there are people out there in wheelchairs, are older then 75 or people who even carry there son with them throughout the race, then sure as hell you can do it.
But wait, before you jump on the bike for a 6 hour tempo ride through the mountains, let me tell you why anyone can do an Ironman.

Anyone can do an Ironman because the process of getting to the starting line doesn’t involve any magic or secrets, it’s about hard work and commitment to the goal you have set out for yourself. The trick then is not to ask yourself if you can, because the answer to that is as simple as I explained above, it’s about how bad you want it. Which brings us to the next question:

Should I do an Ironman?

This one is trickier then the “Can I?” question. Reason for that is that the answer to this question differs from person to person. To answer this question a person has to look at their motives, what is their why? Having a why is basically half of the battle because if you have a strong reason then that reason will help you get through the tough moments in Ironman training and the Ironman itself. If you don’t have a strong reason why you do what you do then you won’t find the strength to do it and you will ultimately end up not finishing the job, which is not something you want to experience.
To give you an indication of what are good reasons and what are not, I will state a few examples below for each category:

Good Reasons

  • You are an experienced athlete and you feel that this would be a good next step in you athletic career. If this is your motivation then you know what you’re up to and I certainly advice you to go for it!
  • You are sick and tired of that unhealthy lifestyle you have been living. If this is your motivation then Ironman can be a greet step, you learn everything about what your body needs and living an unhealthy lifestyle won’t be one of them! However, don’t rush into it, maybe your body isn’t used to that, take your time and see how your body reacts.
  • You feel like life isn’t providing you with a challenge and for that reason you’re not living life to it’s full potential. Also a great reason, if there is one thing in live that will definitely challenge you then it’s an Ironman. This is my personal motivation.
  • You’re doing it for a lost son/daughter/father/mother/relative etc. Lots of people do an Ironman in honour to their lost loved ones. Eventhough this is not my personal motivation I think it is great because you will always have somebody by your side who can help you through tough moments.
  • Set an example for other people. Many people do an Ironman to show other people (for example their kids) that it’s necessary to live an healthy lifestyle if you want to become a happy person. Eventhough I’m no parent, I definitely feel that they are certainly setting a great example.

Bad Reasons

  • “I feel that I’m not a real (tri)athlete if I haven’t done an Ironman”. This is the no. 1 example of a bad motivation. Other triathlons and sport events all represent their own unique challenges. For example, the concentration needed in a sprint triathlon is much more intense then the one used in an Ironman because during sprints a loss of it could mean the difference between a 1st or a 5th place. If this is your motivation then it is better to not do an Ironman.
  • A new years resolution. Please don’t. If you want to do an Ironman because of a promise you made to yourself in January without some real motivation then, for your own good, don’t.
  • You’re looking for a new hobby. I promise you Ironman is not a ‘hobby’. For all means, Ironman has more in common with the average part-time job then with a hobby. Unless you are already used to spending 10-20 hours a week and a few thousand euros on your hobby,  find something else or start with shorter distances.
  • Do an Ironman as part of a bet. Unless, and this is the only valid reason, you’re already an Ironman, simply because you know what you’re getting yourself into, otherwise don’t even think about it. The pain that you will have to endure is not worth it. Believe me, when you’re on a 4 hour bike ride with constant headwind and every muscle in you body is hurting you couldn’t care less about that bet. Even if the bet is about a few thousand euros, you will already have to spend a few thousand on all the equipment needed. It’s just not worth it.

Is that all?

No, this is certainly not everything you need to do to finish an Ironman or any major sporting event. It requires a lot more in-depth knowledge about all the subjects that come with the decision to do an Ironman. However this is the first step you need to make before actually deciding if you want to do an Ironman or not, you have to create a good mindset and understand why you want to do what you want to do, from there on everything will be a lot more doable. I will write more blogs about what it takes to train for an Ironman in the future so stay tuned!

If you have any additional reasons or any comments about the subject/blog, please feel free to leave a comment about it. I would really like to read your view on this!

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