How Actor Sean Astin Is Training for His First Ironman

Sean Astin knows he'd never make the cut to compete in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on his own. But he's making the most of his celebrity status and entering one of the world's toughest races — despite having never never finished a triathlon in his life.

Astin is plenty familiar with endurance races, however. He ran over 1,000 miles last year, including the Marine Corps marathon in October, the Rock and Roll Vegas marathon, and the 48.6 mile Disney Dopey Challenge in January. Dave McGillivray, founder and race director of the Boston Marathon, introduced Astin to the organizers of the Ironman in April, and the actor has been training for Kona since. We recently talked to Astin about his training and he offered some tips for anyone interested in running a marathon or tackling a triathlon. — especially inexperience athletes or those who think they're over-the-hill.

Don’t overdo it.
"I've run ten full marathons in my life and in most of those marathons I've had some kind of injury going into them because I my nutrition wasn't right, or I just didn't prepare properly for it by overtraining. I've torn calf muscles, I have had Achilles strains, I have had hamstrings. But with this training, I've been great."


But don't look for shortcuts.
"Developing a routine that works is not obvious and it's not easy, but it's certainly worth figuring out what it is and making sure that you commit to it. There's no shortcuts at 44 years old, unfortunately."

Prepare mentally.
"I love playlists when I'm running," Astin says. "I've gotten through most of the marathons enjoying my own little space with music. There's no music allowed in this. And most of the time I'm training on my own. You just go to places in your mind, and there's a lot of times where you just stop and ask, 'Why am I doing this?' There's been a couple of times where I was supposed to do a three or four hour run and an hour and forty-five minutes into it I looked around and my head wasn't ready for it, so I just stopped. This whole thing is really mental."

You have to put in the hours. 
"He's an extraordinary swimmer with a huge pedigree and he's like, 'Listen man, it's all about being in the pool. You just got to be in the pool. You got to swim. Start putting in the hours.' He couldn't give me more specific instructions until I had that base level of confidence and strength in the pool. His biggest compliment to me was, "Hey, you were here four days this week, right on!'" 

Eat your veggies.
"Vegetables are really important," Astin said. "It's a simple thing to say, but at night if I eat a bunch of broccoli and whatever the other vegetables are and then I get up to do a ride starting at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning I feel great. If I eat something with sugar in it like pasta, I wake up with a headache and it's hard to move. I don't feel good on the bike for the first half hour. If I could say anything at all to my fellow 44-year-olds who have set their ambitions on something cool like this, or a half-marathon, or a 10K or whatever, it is that have to eat right and vegetables are the single biggest oversight. That, and you just got to put in the hours. It sucks, but that's the way it is."