Ironman Training and Pregnancy: The Parallels

Official photographer and mother of three, Janene, recently commented that completing an Ironman is much harder than childbirth. With all due respect to Janene, I’m not sure if she’s right, especially since she hasn’t done an Ironman (yet!).

That got me to thinking (in the middle of the night). In a lot of ways, pregnancy and Ironman training are similar.


Ironman training and pregnancy are roughly the same length of time. People always ask me if I would do another Ironman. My answer is that the race was hard, but manageable. It was the training, however, that was the hardest thing. It was roughly nine months of hard work and sacrifice. I’m not sure if I want to do that again. Pregnancy…yeah. It’s long. It can be difficult. I am only part of the way through, but I am willing to bet that the nine+ months of pregnancy are more trying than the one day of childbirth, but I could be wrong about that.


Both endeavors require a lot of attention to what you consume. You constantly think about whether you are giving yourself enough of this or that nutrient, all with an eye on the goal. In addition, for me, both often result in sleeplessness due to hunger. One of these days I will figure that out.


In many ways, the energy roller coaster of pregnancy is a lot like IM training. One day you feel great and the next you are totally dragging. I distinctly remember sitting on the couch one weekend day during IM training thinking to myself, I have some free time, I should really get up and DO something. But I just didn’t have the energy. That is much like what I am going through now. I want to take advantage of all of my childless time, but sometimes it is just better for me to continue bonding with the couch.


I don’t have to tell you that like most pregnant women, I spend a lot of time thinking about the pregnancy and my baby. I’m not sure if it is more or less than the time I spent focused on IM training. Maybe I just have an obsessive personality.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “plan the race, race the plan” and other such expressions. A lot of IM participants, including me, go so far as to write out an actual plan that includes everything from logistics to attitude to nutrition. It also covers how to handle the unexpected. I haven’t gotten to the point yet, but I understand there is a similar tradition in developing childbirth plans. Maybe I can use the IM plan as a template.

One long day

Dr. Keith, my fabulous chiropractor, laughed at me last week when I told him that Ironman and childbirth really come down to one really long, uncomfortable (or painful) day. Call me crazy, but when I think of it as “just one day” it is much less intimidating.

Repeat performances

As challenging and painful as both race day and childbirth (and training and pregnancy) are, people who’ve been through it generally seem to be willing to do it again. The same goes for Ironman and the training. After my first marathon I said, “That was okay, but I don’t see why anyone would want to do that more than once.” Call it amnesia, but I think it was four months before I signed up for number 2. That period of time has steadily decreased with each additional marathon (yes, I’m thinking about when I can do #9). When I start to have a little anxiety about what lies ahead, I remind myself that there are lots of women who voluntarily go through the experience more than once, so it can’t be that bad. Right?

Joining the Club

When people learn that you are training for an Ironman, or that you’re pregnant, it is like you are a member of a special club. The members of the club welcome you in. Everyone wants to share their stories – the good, bad, and the ugly. Because you are fellow club members, ordinary conventions regarding TMI (too much information) are greatly relaxed.

Feeling special

There is something about being pregnant that makes you feeling like you are royalty. Strangers want to talk to you – or touch you. People want to hear about how YOU are. It is much like IM training. It is so fun to tell people you are training for an Ironman and see their reactions. At the same time, it is fun sharing the pregnancy news with people. Both periods involve people caring about how you are doing and often wanting to hear about your experiences.


Both undertakings are hard, for sure. There certainly are sacrifices. But I hear that pregnancy is worth it in the end, and I definitely think that Ironman training was worth the investment.  Hearing the words “You are an Ironman” is pretty darn great! Not to mention that Ironman medals are cool. Of course, at the end of this pregnancy thing, we get the most amazing prize of all. I can’t wait!

I’ll be sure to report back in about 6 months and give you my newly enlightened assessment.