The excuses people use to avoid an ironman and my questions to them
Being a part-time coach (and spending half of my time either in lycra or IM branded gear) it invariably comes up in conversations the number of full and half Ironman distance races I have completed. One of the more consistent responses in these conversations is somebody explaining to me how much they would love to but could never do an ironman race.
Initially I nodded and agreed but as I built my coaching expertise – I found myself challenging peoples standard answers which normally fell into 5 categories
Reason 1: I am too old/big/slow/tall/short (delete as appropriate) to do an ironman …..
My response to this is have you ever watched an ironman event in person? And by in person, I specifically mean not watching on TV where the cameras zone in on the chiselled pros battling it out at the pointy end of the race. Because if you have you will have witnessed athletes of all ages, shapes and sizes racing on the exact same course as the professionals.
An ironman is a very personal journey/challenge and people will have different race strategies/goals on the day from just finishing to qualifying for the world champions – my point is there are no physical barriers to doing an ironman, if you are willing to really chase your goal.
I always push the fact that people should see a race in person – at a minimum you will be uplifted by the strength of human spirit and more than likely be inspired to take on a challenge of your own.
Reason 2: Oh I would never have the time to train for an Ironman …..
Typically when people say this to me – I conversationally ask them what box sets, TV programs they are following at the moment and how much time they spend on social media. When we go through the list and add up the hours – it can come to around 10 + hours a week! That is where I tell then I “find” the time for myself and my athletes.
So essentially it is a question of priorities – we can find time if we want to – it is up to you if you choose it to be on the couch watching Celebrity big brother or out on in the fresh air getting in great shape on the journey of a lifetime.
Reason 3: I would not know where to start….
When I hear this excuse, I inquire about what the person does for a living. The breadth of answers always fascinates me – as it covers firemen, office workers, construction workers, CEOs etc. Digging a little deeper – I ask do ever face a scenario/challenge in work where they need to reach out to experts – without fail, the response is yes.
I ask them why is this different to approaching an ironman challenge – i.e. they should look for someone who has completed an ironman and ask them how they went about it and start their research there. Better still, if really serious – they should seek out a plan or a qualified coach to help them guide them on their journey.
WARNING: Asking a recent first time finisher can turn into quite the monologue as they eagerly share every detail of their journey including swim sets, weight loss stats, epic cycles to the feeling of accomplishment as they turned onto the finishing chute.
Reason 4: I would love to if only I could swim ….
My response to this is when was the last time you were in a pool and people’s minds typically drift back to the last holiday where they splashing around in the sunshine. So having established they can actually swim – I ask whether they have ever had their stroke analysed or taking swim lessons.
For novice swimmers – by fixing a few key elements from stroke analysis and/or lessons – they can make huge leap forwards in their swimming ability.
This as a coach is one of my favourite disciplines to teach/monitor as always lots of low hanging fruit that will help the athletes confidence and ability soar to the point they are chomping at the bit to tackle the 3.8km swim!
Reason 5: I have never even run a marathon….
To this – I ask have you ever swam 3.8km or cycled 180km and the answer is typically never. People fixate too much on the marathon element of the ironman – mainly as it a more tangible event to people being around years as a single endurance sport.
However, in the ironman world, as I tell my first timers – it is just a long run at the end of a long day.
It is not a prerequisite to have completed a marathon before the race – it does help but not as much as people think. Even in my training plans – I typically do not let my athletes exceed 26km in the longest runs they will do – the body can only take so much mileage.
If you trained and prepared properly, you will be amazed what your body can do on the day boosted by adrenaline and thousands of cheering spectators ….
No more excuses so….
In conclusion – unless someone turns to me and explicitly says I have either no interest or the stomach to take on such a challenge that is a half or full ironman – I can easily dismantle the excuses they are using to talk themselves out of it.
So if you have ever watched an ironman race or jealously viewed a clubmates finisher medal – I would urge you to challenge your own limitations.
Feel free to drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to explore what would be involved in taking the first exciting step of a journey of a lifetime.
Steven is an Ironman All World Athlete with numerous Ironman finishes and an Ironman University/level 2 Training Peaks certified Coach.