What It’s Really Like to Train for An Ironman

May 19, 2021

And why you should start adding more impossible things to your bucket list.


Bucket lists. We’ve all had one. Maybe you’re actively adding to it or maybe you started one a few years ago and lost it after a vigorous spring cleaning session. Either way, most of us have hopes, dreams, and goals we’d like to achieve, but sometimes those items on our bucket list seem impossibly out of reach but… what if they aren’t?

6 years ago, Body Alive instructor, Chris Foley, added: “Finish an Ironman” to his bucket list. In just a couple of days, he’ll finally be turning that dream into a reality. We asked Chris what his training process looked like, how yoga has helped him prepare, and what advice he has for other people looking to achieve “the impossible”. Cue the motivation you’ve been looking for to start ticking off those items on your bucket list.

So, what made you decide to sign up for an Ironman?

6 years ago I was at my sister’s wedding, talking to one of her old high school friends, and he told me how he did an Ironman. It sounded crazy hard, but also awesome. That planted the seed. It just sounded like an impossible thing, super hard, that required a lot of dedication. So, I stored that away and always kind of had it on my bucket list. Mind you, I’ve never done a marathon or even a 5k. 

Flash forward to 2019, I bought a $25 Timex watch at Walmart because I was going on a road trip and figured a digital watch would be useful. As fate would have it, it was an “Ironman” branded Timex watch. So the seed returned. 

Flash forward to 2020, I go to Body Alive for the first time and I got the hot yoga bug instantly. I was hooked. I loved how welcoming it was for beginners. I loved sweating my ass off. I loved the quotes at the end, being surrounded by other folks who loved to sweat and work hard. As I started to really get into it I got in better shape. As I got in better shape than Ironman seed returned and it seemed like it actually could be, maybe, a possibility. I talked to a friend of mine who is a big marathoner and asked if he would be interested in signing up for it together. He was. After a lot of debating about if it’s possible, costs, timing, training, and, we finally decided to pull the trigger on Thanksgiving Day 2020 and signed up for Ironman Tulsa. The race is May 23, 2021.

What has your training looked like?

Tough. It’s a grind. I normally get 2 rest days a week, typically Monday and Friday. Every other day I’m either swimming, biking, or running. On some days I double up. I also teach yoga and try to take yoga classes as a student when I can, as long as I’m not pushing myself too hard. 

The hardest part about training has been to realize that it’s a slow burn. Progress isn’t made in leaps and bounds. It’s made one day at a time. Just showing up is huge. I always tell my students in yoga that showing up is THE toughest thing and I truly believe that. But when you show up and you show up consistently results will come. 

Has your yoga practice influenced your training at all? If so, how?

Oh, a ton. Man, I genuinely love hot yoga. I love what it does for the body and the soul. Not to go all zen yogi on you, but I think one of the best things yoga teaches you is patience. In yoga, it isn’t about pushing and pushing and pushing. It’s a slow build. You learn poses. You get better at them. Then you learn advancements. Then you get better. Then you learn more. And it just keeps building.

One of my favorite things about practicing yoga at Body Alive is seeing all levels around me in every class. I have rockstars next to me doing headstands and I wanna be like those girls or guys. Then, I have beginners just learning down dog, reminding me of where I was at when I started and being super happy for that person as they start their journey. 

Taking that patient mindset and getting better by showing up has helped me a lot. 

How are you mentally preparing for the race?

Funny story- I found out the other day that the Ironman headphones aren’t allowed, so that was fun! *facepalms*. But it goes to show how important the mental aspect is. 

In terms of prep, I think number one is setting a goal, and making it an attainable one. I have three goals with this Ironman.

  1. Finish. 
  2. Finish with my friend, both of us healthy, celebrating the accomplishment together at the finish line. 
  3. A very distant third, but since I love competition I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wanna finish ahead of him. 

Additionally, I practice transcendental meditation (TM). I have for about a year and a half. Twice a day every day is just the kind of mental reset I need no matter if it’s a tough day or an enjoyable one. I love talking about the benefits of meditation. Both TM and guided meditations (via Headspace or Calm). If anyone ever wanted to talk about their practice stop me after class! 

Which course are you looking forward to the most (or dreading the most)?

I’m most excited about biking. When I was a kid I used to bike to school. On the ride home I would always try to beat my school bus. It was so fun. 

On the other hand, I’m dreading the run. Just gotta remember to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. 

What have you learned so far from the experience? 

You can’t push your body every day. Rest is so important. Not only that but if you’re trying to get personal records every time you go out you’re gonna get hurt. I learned the hard way running the other week. I set a PR, felt great, then the next time I went out I breezed through warm-ups, didn’t listen to my body, and pulled my calf. So I’m no expert, but if I could recommend anything it’d be to listen to your body, treat it right with rest and recovery, and know that you don’t always have to go for PRs. 

What is your biggest goal for yourself?

So I listed the 3:

  • Finish 
  • Finish with my buddy
  • Distant third, beat my buddy. 

Other than that I wanna enjoy the ride. Enjoy the training. Enjoy the race. 

There’s a phrase out there- “embrace the suck.” I think about that whenever I go into chair pose I try to smile in the mirror to remind myself to embrace the suck. The same thing applies when training. Embrace it- and even smile at it. 

Anything else you’d like to say about the experience?

Big shoutout to Sarah Crabtree and Gina Weisgerber. Those two girls are badasses. They both did Ironmans and I love talking about it with them. They were big inspirations for me signing up and have been super helpful to talk to as I go through this.

Lastly, if I had any advice to give it’d be to write down your bucket list items. The crazier the better. Who knows, maybe you’ll do them this year, in six years, or in ten years. But it all starts with writing them down. Then you may just start to notice synchronicity start happening. Some call it fate- where stuff will just start pointing in the direction of your bucket list item.

Now, we’re not saying you need to go out and sign up for an Ironman, a marathon, or even a half-marathon (unless that’s on your bucket list!). What we are saying is that if there’s something you’ve been dreaming about doing- go do it. No matter how hard, crazy, or impossible it sounds- find a way. Your bucket list will thank you. 

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