Training: Dealing with Ironman Blues

By Coach Alun Woodward, ironguides.net

Ironman is an epic undertaking and can take over our lives for a significant time period as we plan, train and mentally prepare for the big day! Not only does the training side take a huge commitment but there is so much more involved from making sure your getting the best nutrition to fuel your training, keeping your equipment clean and in good condition and also making sure other area’s of your life are maintained. For an athlete with family and working long hours this can mean very busy times in the run up to ironman, having this full on life suddenly stop after the event while we may crave it at times during training is usually greeted with despair after the race and leaves an athlete feeling lost and not knowing what to do. There is so much information on getting ready for this big day in your lives but very little advice and guidance on what to expect after ironman and how to deal with it.


Following your big day you will be sky high, remembering every little detail from the event and telling your story time and time again to friends and fellow competitors. This glory though does not last forever and along with the pain and aching muscles you will experience after the event it will fade and be replaced by a feeling of loss! Not only are you lost without a goal but so many friends family and colleagues will have been building you up to the event, always wondering and asking things are going, what your doing and usually in awe of the task your undertaking. Having this removed post event and just that return to ordinary life can be hard.


This is not a phenomenon just for ironman it is seen a lot with professional athletes when they retire from sport, this is an extreme example as sport will have been dominating their lives for years but at the very top level in sports like American Football there is a documented high incidence of depression following retirement.

Like anything in life when one thing has dominated our thoughts and daily routines for so long having it removed will lead to a sudden feeling of loss. Maintaining training and staying active can to some extent can help but it does not remove the feeling of loss and you will find these feelings wash over you again and again for a period of time, this feeling is the ironman blues.

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So what can we do to overcome this and avoid these feelings?

Firstly when planning your season and especially your first ironman try to ensure that the ironman event is not the final event of your season, having one or two other goals following the ironman can be a big help in avoiding the ironman blues. Your goals do not have to be sport related they can be family or business goals just something significant for you to focus your time on after your ironman event.

A family event such as a holiday can be great immediately after the ironman. This is a great way to say thank you to family who have supported you during your training and no doubt suffered from your absence and distant behaviour at times while training. Also having a family holiday will allow you to fully recover from your event without the thought and temptation of training, being away from your normal training grounds and group of friends is a good thing at this time.

Once you are recovered and back to training its good to have some new goals to focus your training on and there are many different things you could look at either related to triathlon or not.

Strava has provided a great platform for setting mini goals and many of you will have used strava in your ironman training, maybe you have a favourite route and have always fancied having a go at seeing how high you can get up the leaderboard on your favourite segment but have never done a stand alone effort as it simply did not fit in with your training. Now you can focus your training on becoming as fast as possible at climbing or prepare for an all out 20min effort or 10mile time trial.

Off the back of your ironman training you will have a great aerobic base and a few weeks of work focussed on developing speed and pain tolerance will see some great performances over shorter distances. There is a great example of this at the famous Noosa triathlon which takes place over olympic distance 3 weeks after Ironman Hawaii, so many top australians following great performances at ironman have rested after the race and travelled out to complete at this event and had some of the best races of their careers!

Maybe you have always fancied seeing how fast you can run a 5km, the popularity of Park Runs taking place every Saturday morning throughout the country have made this event easily accessible to all and a change of focus to pure speed and pain tolerance over a 6 to 8 week time frame should see you get very close to your potential over the distance off the back of your ironman training.

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Your events and goals do not need to be specially triathlon related, in fact having something outside of your triathlon goals can be a great motivator and help refocus your mind to a new task and avoid the blues altogether. Maybe its something that was risky to carry out when training for your ironman or something that would have effected your performance on race day.

A great example of this might be strength training, while you may have been doing this as part of your training maybe you have held off trying heavy weights as this does carry an injury risk especially when you would have gone into sessions heavily fatigued from your triathlon training. Developing the strength for a heavy squat or deadlift for example where a good sign of strength is to be able to lift 1.5x your own body weight – a great target for most individuals.

Maybe you have seen some athletes in the gym performing the olympic lifts, the Clean and Jerk and Snatch and always wanted to try this. Now would be a great time to look into doing this, these are very complex lifts and essential that you get some technique coaching to help you stay safe and lift effectively.

The olympic lifts can be a great addition to your training as they are full body moves that require speed, strength, muscle balance and mobility – working on all these areas will always have a positive effect on your triathlon performance once you start back into training.

A little planning of your time post ironman and you can easily reduce the effect of the post ironman blues or not suffer from them at all.

Enjoy your training

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