8 Useful Success Lessons From Elite IronMan Athletes

ironman triathlon success lessons

Hands down, the ironman triathlon is the toughest and most trying sports event a human being could go through!

In my books, successful athletes lead the field (no pun intended) when it comes to incredibly powerful mindsets. I enjoy watching documentaries about athletes, because I get a glimpse into their thought and behavioural patterns.

I enjoy Ironman triathlons a lot because of the sheer resilience and strength it brings out of an athlete.


So what is an Ironman triathlon?

As lifted from Wikipedia word for word:

An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world.[1][2][3]



I recently watched a video called “The Iron Minds” (click here to check it out) where 3 top Ironman athletes were interviewed about what it takes to succeed in their craft.

These lessons can be applied in our own lives.

I picked out 8 crucial nuggets of wisdom that we can all use in our everyday lives:



If you watch any documentary about a successful athlete, you will see how dedicated they are to their craft.

They have a strict daily regiment of how many hours they will dedicate to their practice.

They do this even more successfully with the help of a coach, and because of this, they are able to reach heights of success that they themselves did not believe was possible.


Our lesson:

Majority of us on this planet are reactors.

We come into each day without a plan or motive for what we want to achieve from it. We simply react to the circumstances of our daily lives

…and because of this, our days turn into weeks, into months and finally into years of empty promises and broken dreams.

Purpose to have a deep, underlying reason why you have the privilege to wake up each morning healthy and of sound mind.

Of course, it makes no sense to have daily discipline about what we have no interest in or what bores us half to death. And this is what brings me to the next point…



The elite Ironman athletes in the world put themselves through the most mentally and physically grueling daily regiments in order to get the results they desire.

Ironman triathlons are the most taxing competitions on earth.

So you can only imagine how much an athlete has invested in themselves in every aspect of their lives to not only complete a triathlon, but also win one!


Our lesson:

There is only one reason why passion and persistence works, and that is because when you are doing something you truly love to do, you will go through the fire with it no matter how bad the circumstances get!

So if you want to be truly disciplined at something you want to make a success out of, let it be something you have a deep, passionate and compelling reason WHY it is important to you.

Let the cause make you unstoppable.

Let the cause be greater than your fears.

Let it be greater than your tendency to procrastinate or be easily distracted.

Devote yourself entirely to it

this is how discipline will come about!



The best athletes in the world have no problem putting crazy hours in at any time of the day, be it 3pm or 3am. This is the kind of mind power that takes years, even decades to develop!

This is because they have spent years, often from childhood, priming their mindsets for success. They have done it so much and so often that it is part of their DNA!

This is why they are so successful.

They understand that it all starts in the mind 1st!


Our lesson:

Everything takes practice, even embodying new emotions every day requires time.

So for you who has embarked on making real change in your life, know that it is a journey.

For a day to be successful, each morning will require you to put yourself in the best frame of mind for it.

Do what gets you excited each morning.

Pop in a DVD and do a work out.

Put on your iPod or phone and listen to your favourite playlist.

Sit in silence, in gratitude for the new day that has come.

Whatever works for you, do it. Get yourself in the most empowering mood you can…

… it’s always hard at the beginning, but like any other new thing, with persistence, it becomes a learned habit, and you will make each day your

own personal success!



Ironman triathlons are long distance oriented competitions consisting of swimming, a bike riding competition and lastly, a marathon.

Athletes have learned how to use their energy to the very best advantage during different races, slowing down when they need to and speeding up in other instances in order to maximize on their energies.


Our lesson:

We all know our bodies. 

We all know what time of day we are most energetic, and what time we are less enthusiastic about our activities.

Use this understanding of yourself to prioritize on when you should do the more demanding activities of the day, and when you should be doing the least difficult activities.



IronMan athletes say when they are getting tired they use their mind power to keep them from feeling the pain until they reach the finish line.

They focus on finishing in top form.

A big one is in order to get the motivation to keep going, they focus on something bigger than themselves, like why they are doing what they are doing, or who they are doing it for.


Our lesson:

There will be times when we go through incredibly difficult stages in our lives, especially when we are going after our dreams.

When the chips are down,

When our resources have depleted

When there is nobody there who understands us,

When common sense keeps reminding us that there is no point in trying anymore,

Let us remember why we are putting ourselves through it!!

Let us remind ourselves of who we are doing it for…

Let us remember that this struggle is building our strength and our resolve to evolve…

Let us never give up until we finally achieve our goals!



The athletes take a lot of pride in making their bodies do things that they did not think was possible, and that is what keeps them aiming for higher goals, because they realize their capabilities lie in the mind, and not the bodies!


Our lesson:

We will never know what we are capable of unless we go the extra mile.

Unless we put ourselves under the right kind of pressure, we will never stretch ourselves and discover new and hidden abilities in us.

So finish that extra chapter in your book instead of retiring for bedtime…

Push yourself for another 15 minutes in the gym,

Take that speaking class that you are afraid of,

Actually, do anything that you have always wanted to do but have hesitated.

Nudge yourself further, and see the remarkable results you produce!



One of the ironman athletes talks about what happens in his mind when something happens that is outside of his control, either during a race, or during practice…

e.g. if he is having a really good race, and he suddenly finds that one of his tyres is flat.

Naturally, the mind tends to focus on the negative, like initial disappointment, or wondering what he could, should or would have done to prevent the problem, but this only brings him down.

He talks about “mental maturity” and how important it is to force your mind to find any positive aspects within the disappointment, and use them as an anchor to motivate him to keep going.

Carol Dweck, author of the book “Mindset” refers to this ability to re-align one’s mentality with the good of a negative situation rather than the bad, as the “growth mindset.”

It is when you are down that you need your abilities the most, to re-align yourself with your intentions and to keep moving, no matter what the setback is!


Our lesson:

How many times have we received disappointing news, encountered some setback during the day, and decided to call it quits…

Go shopping and max out the credit card,

Have a few more rounds of drinks than we know we can handle,

Sit at home with a huge tub of ice-cream and cookies and pig out…

We always wind up paying for these impromptu decisions we make out of deep disappointments.

Perhaps the next time we encounter an unexpected setback, we can make a conscious decision that it is not the end of the world.

We can actually choose to learn from the mistake and from there, apply the new knowledge in the next situation we are in.



This was actually comforting to hear. An athlete said that even with all the work they put in, the outcome may not be what they expected, but they do not beat themselves up about it.

Athletes understand that there will be setbacks in their careers: physical injuries can wipe out an entire season of participating in anything, but they still choose to work with what they have, and keep practicing and perfecting their skills!

Our lesson:

Stop putting unreasonable pressure on yourself.

Even as you seek to reach your highest goals, remember, you are still a human being.

Focus on your progress, and not the outcome of the progress, because it is not in your control.

You will have good days, and you will have bad days,

Take them both as steps towards your highest ideal.

Both good and bad are needed to achieve your vision!


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