Variables that influence Ironman triathlon performance – what changed in the last 35 years?

Erin Cameron Blog, Competition, Dr. Erin Cameron, Research Abstract, Training Leave a Comment



This narrative review summarizes findings for Ironman triathlon performance and intends to determine potential predictor variables for Ironman race performance in female and male triathletes.


A literature search was performed in PubMed using the terms “Ironman”, “triathlon”, and “performance”. All resulting articles were searched for related citations.


Age, previous experience, sex, training, origin, anthropometric and physiological characteristics, pacing, and performance in split disciplines were predictive. Differences exist between the sexes for anthropometric characteristics. The most important predictive variables for a fast Ironman race time were age of 30–35 years (women and men), a fast personal best time in Olympic distance triathlon (women and men), a fast personal best time in marathon (women and men), high volume and high speed in training where high volume was more important than high speed (women and men), low body fat, low skin-fold thicknesses and low circumference of upper arm (only men), and origin from the United States of America (women and men).


These findings may help athletes and coaches to plan an Ironman triathlon career. Age and previous experience are important to find the right point in the life of a triathlete to switch from the shorter triathlon distances to the Ironman distance. Future studies need to correlate physiological characteristics such as maximum oxygen uptake with Ironman race time to investigate their potential predictive value and to investigate socio-economic aspects in Ironman triathlon.

Keywords: swimming, cycling, running, age, body fat, sex.

Practical Implication:

A huge bucket list item for many people: the Ironman Triathlon. Many of my former teammates have made the transition from collegiate swimming to triathlon with the ultimate goal of completing an Ironman. This study provides us with a list of the best predictors of Ironman success, which can help guide training and preparation for making the jump to long distance triathlons. 


  1. Knechtle B, Knechtle R, Stiefel M, Zingg A, Rosemann T, Rust CA. Variables that influence Ironman triathlon performance – what changed in the last 35 years? . 2015; 6: 277–290.

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