Couch to Ironman

Here's a rough guide to my gradual couch to ironman steps... if you don't fancy reading this all, skip to the summary.

As of 2008 I'd never run further than a 10km, and hadn't run one in years, after a few years of university and not running or doing much I was in pretty bad shape..

Stats, August late 2008

Weight: 205 lbs / 93kg
BMI: ~27
Body fat %: > 20%

First things first, I initially had no plans to compete in an ironman, or any triathlon for that matter.. I just started with running and it progressed from there. I ended up starting with a bootcamp for general cardio work once or twice a week, and slowly upped running miles until I was ready for a 10km, I entered the Brighton 10km in November 2008.

Weight progress, August to December 2008

Firstly running is the best way to lose weight fast. I hardly changed diet, was still a slow running but dropped almost 40lbs / 18kg in about 4 months, success!

Next step, half marathon. I signed up to the fleet half marathon in March 2009.. I gradually was increasing my running distances, getting in a few 10mile + runs, then had a steady race. Gradual progress, but slowly improving.

Later in 2009 I signed up to a very hilly marathon (Greensands marathon, 5200 feet ascent) in October 2009, at 2 weeks notice. The only reason I signed up to this was I knew there was a half marathon option that you could choose to do during the race. Foolishly I decided to keep on going and run the full distance, I highly recommend not doing this, that is, running a hilly marathon without any real distance training. I was absolutely destroyed and ended up walking quite a few miles near the end, ending up with a time of around 5hrs 40mins. My first marathon done, and I'd never felt worse, but still, a milestone.

At the end of 2009 I was asked if I fancied doing a olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) triathlon in June 2010, sure I said, and signed up to the Windsor triathlon. In 2010 I also decided to have another go at a marathon and entered the Midnight Sun marathon in Tromsø and give it a bit more effort.

2010. a busy year

Starting off with a couple of half marathons, working towards the marathon in June, it turned out my triathlon was a week before the marathon.. I bought my first road bike (I'd hardly ridden a bike at all since I was 15 or so) in March 2010, and gradually worked up from 7-10 miles to 20 miles, initially having to stop every 30mins or so. By June I was ready for the 40km bike, despite having flat pedals, and having various tyre issues, I finished the race, albeit in a very slow time. Another milestone done.

After the marathon and and triathlon and various other shorter races, I was invited on a Cycle to barcelona in August 2010, this was the point I realised cycling was for me, and I moved away from running.

2010 summary

  • 4x half marathons
  • 1x marathon
  • 3x 10km
  • 1x olympic triathlon
  • 1x duathlon
  • Cycle to Paris ~220 miles
  • Cycle to Barcelona ~850 miles

2011, a more focussed year

After doing entirely too many races in 2010 and not really focussing on anything, this year I had a target. At the end of 2010 I was asked if I fancied doing an Ironman in late 2011, of course.. it was over a year away, I signed up to Ironman Wales.

The race was in September, I started training in late April. Having signed up to a half ironman as a practice run, I started with a few half marathons early in the year, Windsor triathlon again and some sprint triathlons.

Ironman training plan

Monday: 5-10km steady run + 1hr circuits/bootcamp
Tuesday: 1-3km swim + 5-10km steady run
Wednesday: 1hr circuits/bootcamp
Thursday: 1-3km swim + 5-15km steady run
Friday: 40-60km bike + 5km steady run
Saturday: rest
Sunday: 4-5hr steady bike ride.

Ironman, complete: a steady swim, a steady bike and a slow run.. but I finished.

Ironman onwards, I've subsequently finished a few more races, a 10km swim, a few more triathlons. I'm now working towards Roth ironman in a week, and a double ironman in September, I'll do a followup post on potential completion of that one!


  • Start small. Enter a 10km, a half marathon and progress
  • No need to necessarily enter a marathon before an ironman
  • Hours on the bike and steady running is always beneficial, regardless of speed
  • HR training is great, always keep your HR within Z1 or Z2
  • Set yourself a target for 6-12months of something you can't currently achieve or contemplate, and work towards it
  • Anyone who can run a half marathon, or ride 40miles can do an ironman with steady training

My progress summary

  • Late 2008, first 10km
  • 2009, first half marathon, first marathon
  • 2010, first triathlon, another marathon
  • 2011, first half iron, first ironman
  • 2012, first double ironman?

Also, whatever you're doing, enjoy it.. If you don't enjoy swimming or running, try Audaxes or Randonees.

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