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Mon 4th Jul 2022
Post injury: getting back to it
Posted by: Simon Ward
Posted on: Thursday 28th April 2016

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From broken body to Ironman - the big picture plan

Yesterday we published part one of the journey of Simon Ward ( to Ironman Austria 2016. This mini-series however is not a typical one. Having had a bike bike crash just before the New Year, Simon's approach this time around would have to be very different - with expectations reset accordingly. So, how do you revise your approach to training with enforced limitations? This is Simon's approach to training for Ironman while recovering from injury.

Back to a proper training routine

In my last post I told you all about my most recent setback. Now I'm on the road to recovery, but I'm not going to be at full fitness in time for the Ironman.

That means I have had to reset my goals. You may have been in the same situation yourself.

Many people have written to me asking how they train for a race that they are already committed to, but when they are recovering from an injury. Without knowing their background its difficult to be precise, but I can tell you how I'll be doing it and you can make your own plan up from that.


This is my strong suit, but obviously with an injured shoulder, swim training is a bit behind.

Finding fitness is a balancing act. Too much and I'll risk a different shoulder injury - tendonitis or something. Too little and fitness and feel for the water will come back slower. It seems as though I can swim most days but only for 1-1.5k. Or, I can swim three times per week.

I'm used to exiting the water in around 55 minutes and being in the top five in my category. That's not going to happen in Klagenfurt. I'm currently able to hold 6:15 for 8 x 400. I think a sub 65 minute swim might be possible. That's a pace of 1:42/100m. I'm sure that most readers would be well happy with that and whilst it's 10 minutes below what I'm capable of, in the grand scheme of things, it's a good swim.

To get into that sort of shape I'll be swimming three times per week - 3k on Tuesday and Thursday with a 5-6k swim on Saturday morning. I have little weekly markers to hit based on a non-stop swim. This is because although intervals are a good indicator, I also need to know that my shoulder can cope with 65 minutes of continuous swimming. My goal is to have  completed a pool swim of 3.5k by the end of May and then I have Great North Swim 5k, two weeks before Ironman.

12 weeks of not using my right arm has also meant a significant loss of muscle and strength not just in my shoulder but the entire right side of my upper body. Thrice weekly strength and mobility sessions will be critical to regaining strength and power. The only downside to this is that it means the tightness that goes with strength training, so again a balancing act.

My current swimming is OK at a steady pace but I can definitely feel the lack of power and it's important to consider the added resistance from a wetsuit, even a hyper flexible BlueSeventy Helix.


This is the one I'm least worried about. Two weeks after the crash I was back on the CompuTrainer wearing a sling and riding 30 minutes per day. In early April I rode the 80 mile Tour of Flanders sportive (with all of the cobbles), and my shoulder and fitness were fine.

As long as I can get enough flexibility in my shoulder joint to be aero for long spells, I'm pretty confident that I can be close to my fitness from 2015 which got me a 5hr 30 bike split at Austria.

Unless you fall off your bike it is a lot harder to injure yourself by cycling. Thus, it represents the best opportunity for building training volume and overall fitness. Being limited by how much swimming and running I can do, I can and will have to do more riding. If I can pack in six to seven weeks averaging over 200 miles each week this will give me good general aerobic fitness, confidence and strength for the longest section of the event. It also provides the opportunity to burn more calories, something I need to shift some of the weight I gained during my lay off.


Not surprisingly, my running was affected by the shoulder injury.

The obvious disruption was that for 10 weeks I couldn't really jog because the impact of landing jarred the bone and the subsequent healing process. On top of that, the risk of falling and landing on my right arm was too great. Less obvious was the jarring to my whole spine.

Before Christmas I was having treatment from Alison Rose (Coach House Sports Physiotherapy Clinic) in Leeds. Ali was helping to rebuild my running technique after she identified that the chronic Achilles/calf problems I'd been suffering from four a few years were strongly linked to a lack of rotation and mobility in my thoracic spine. I'd been making good progress up to the crash but the heavy landing was a massive impact (literally), on my back. If my ribs broke you can imagine the jarring my whole rib cage and spine took.

I hadn't been doing a great deal of running since Ironman Mallorca in September anyway, so by the time I was able to manage a few pain free steps it was mid March, 2016. That's six months without running and just three months to Ironman!!

I can run now and I'm up to 40 minutes, three times a week. I know from the people who have connected with me in recent months that many of you have such running problems approaching big events so you have probably also had the same concerns about whether you can actually make it through 42k. The answer is yes you can…..but!

My approach is this:

I'm not thinking of running the whole marathon or even about the time. Many times I have run and walked (either planned or because the chimp invaded my head), and many times its taken me between 5-5 1/2 hours. So, that's the target. If I can do that, coupled with the swim and bike estimates, a sub-14 hour finish is within reach.

Now, thats is well below what I'm capable of but remember, for this one, I ONLY HAVE TO FINISH!

The limit is 17 hours. What's not to like about being three hours inside the cut off?

Of course, there's a lot of work to do. I'm aiming to run three times per week. My long run will be every two weeks but it will be a run/walk combo to help me get the time into my legs. I'll be using the exact same strategy for the race - 16 mins of running + 4 mins of walking (designed to get me between aid stations and then walk to take on water/nutrition).

OK, thats it for training.

However it will be very difficult to complete all of this and stay healthy so I will also have to be exemplary with my approach to rest and recovery. In the next article I'll talk about the other steps I'll be taking to make sure I actually arrive in Klagenfurt in one piece rather than more broken. I keep saying that I'm treading a fine line and it would be very easy to get this totally wrong.

Thanks for reading.

Simon Ward About the Author

Simon Ward is the founder of, the most experienced group of coaches in the UK. You can contact him on 08700 418131, by e-mailing [email protected] or by visiting

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