Ironman University Certified Coach

For anyone still reading this blog, I have to apologize for having been a bit out of communication here over the last few months. Besides the busy holiday season, I had been heads down working through the Ironman University online coaching certification since September. This course pretty much consumed the majority of my free time from September until I submitted my final assessment a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

I have to say that the course was very well done, despite all the negative comments it generated from people in the triathlon community. The Ironman folks and the top-level coaches involved in it surely put a lot of time and effort into this online curriculum. The course was very thorough and it covered topics such as Exercise science, kinesiology of each sport, training plans, strength training, nutrition and even touched on the business side of coaching. My wife, who works in the Physical Therapy field, had walked past while I was taking the exercise science module   and said “you are going to know more than me!”. I don’t know about that but, it was very definitive and provided solid core fundamentals about what your body is doing when you are performing.

Ironman University Curriculum Menu

Ironman University Curriculum Menu

I was also very impressed by the lack of sponsor influence in the nutrition module. Ironman is part of a corporation that has many corporate sponsors, so I figured the nutrition part of the course would be heavily influenced by these sponsors. Much to my surprise, it was not at all. The nutrition advice they gave was very sensible and based on the most current common sense nutrition concepts. I surely thought they would be pushing Chocolate Milk and Gatorade down my throat, but they did no such thing.

Another area that impressed me was the strength training module. I thought that they would be prescribing the traditional bodybuilding-style weight training which isolates specific muscles. Instead, they provide some good functional and stabilization movements that work the entire body, which I now know is most effective for endurance sports. Thanks to my strength coach Fernando Paredes. Several of the exercises they listed in their database were ones that my strength coach prescribes.

Overall, the course drove home many standard concepts that are used by many of the top coaches in the business. The coaches driving the course content were Troy Jacobson, Lance Watson, Matt Dixon, and Paula Newby-Fraser. Basically, the best in the business! They also identified some of the different philosophies that the master coaches so that you can have some alternative approaches to add to your coaching toolbox. In addition to the great course content, they also provided numerous handouts and worksheets that you can use and refer to later on as you work through developing training plans for your athletes.

The online program also worked pretty well the entire time. The only exception was the one time when it crashed on me, which just happened to be on question 35 of 50 during Part 1 of the final assessment test. AAAHHH!!! I was flipping out when that happened!  I was quickly in touch with a support person for IMU and she gracefully calmed me down and helped me through it. Fortunately, the questions were pretty much the same the second time I went through it and I remembered my original answers. If you are thinking of taking this class, you may want to jot down your answers while taking the during the assessment portion.

The final assessment consists of a 50 question multiple choice online test for Part 1 and an offline, subjective, long answer style test in a MS Word Document for Part 2. The multiple choice portion was not an easy off-the-top-of-the-head type test. Many of the questions required me to dig back into my handouts and notes to derive the proper answers.  The Part 2 assessment basically has you build the majority of a season training plan for a given athlete profile provided in a completed athlete questionnaire. This second part took me a relatively long time to complete due to looking things up and analyzing the athletes profile. You will surely need to know your stuff to complete this part. I was exhausted by the time I was done here. They do give you a second attempt at it if you don’t do well on the first try. I surely didn’t want to have to do that again. So, I was relieved when a week or so later I received an email indicating that I had passed!

ronman University Coaching Certificate

Ironman University Coaching Certificate

I don’t know if I will ever actually coach anyone other than myself, but I believe the course was worth the $599 I paid just for all the knowledge I gained and the materials that I received. Hiring a coach can cost from $130/month and up. Multiply that by 6 months and you are already over $600. So if I only coach myself for another season I would have already broke even. Maybe if a friend decided to do a triathlon and they ask me to coach them I will, but I don’t know if I will put it out there to the general public. For now, I want to continue to learn and gain more information from other experienced coaches in the field.

If you are self-coached triathlete reading this and considering taking the Ironman Univeristy I would highly recommend this course just for the vast amount of knowledge it provides. I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it would be either. Although they do not require it, You really need to have some experience training and racing in triathlon to draw on for this class. If you don’t you will struggle a bit. This really came into play during Part II of the final assessment when you have to create the majority of a full season training plan for a given athlete. I spent an entire week on this alone and handed it in a few hours before my course deadline was reached.

IRONMAN Certified Coach

IRONMAN Certified Coach


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    • Jon on February 19, 2016 at 01:31
    • Reply

    Great review of the IRONMAN University. I recently completed the course and it was much more than I bargained for in a good way. I sure did learn a lot, and was surprised to find so many people bashing the ‘concept’ of IRONMAN University without actually seeing the product for themselves.

    Much like the armchair quarterbacks on Sunday evening chatting about how they would have played the game much differently, until you are there on the field you cannot grasp the concept of the dedication it requires.

    Not only am I an IRONMAN Certified Coach, but also a former Semi-pro football player – so I can speak with confidence about both.

    Thanks for the great review, especially about the subject of sponsors being left out of the program. That was a huge benefit and a surprise.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jon and congrats on completing the IronmanU course! It was definitely more than I expected as well. Best of luck in all your races this year!

    • Russ Dawkins on May 13, 2016 at 11:42
    • Reply

    I am very grateful for your review of the Ironman course. I have been on the fence for a few months now as to if I should take the course. I am wanting to coach other athletes and myself. I had looked into USAT, but the requirements are difficult to obtain if you are not already coaching. It seemed backwards to me, but so be it and I will pursue my USAT certification after I complete Iron U. Thanks again for the review and all the best this race season.


    1. I totally agree with you Russ! This course is a great way to learn the proper methods of coaching before getting certified. I have expressed these same comments back to USAT. They really need to provide some learning path to becoming a coach. For everyone that was bashing IM about this program, I think they should have cast a more critical eye on USAT for their lack of such a program. Best of luck in your coaching! Thanks for your comment!

    • Alex on August 14, 2016 at 23:12
    • Reply

    oh man… you are right, the second part is taking forever, a lot of info you need to process… and even love the stuff I m reading, I get tired of… Any help ?

    1. Yeah man it is surely not easy. Take your time and make sure you know your stuff. Best of Luck!

    • Steven on August 16, 2016 at 16:14
    • Reply

    Have you used the online coaching match program advertised as a part of IronmanU. Just curious if more athletes have reached out to you for your coaching services?

    1. NO I haven’t heard a word from the coach match. Although I didn’t put too much effort into my profile either. I am a little disappointed, although not surprised that WTC now wants to charge me $10/month to be a coach “in good standing”. So thats not happening either. The way I look at it, I am still learning from being coached at this point. Maybe someday I will feel ready to coach others.

    • Kevin on March 15, 2017 at 17:36
    • Reply

    How many hours a day or week did you put in getting the certification? I am thinking about going the IM U route and want to gauge the time consumption. Thanks for any feedback.

    1. Hey Kevin,
      I would say I probably did about 4-6 hour per week. I spread it out over the couple months they gave to complete it. The biggest time suck was the part 2 of the test. It is a case study where you have to develop a plan for an athlete. This required a lot of time(several days) to complete and I was submitting it on the last hour I had. It is very subjective so it is hard to gauge if you enough information or not. It does demonstrate whether you know your stuff or not. My wife is PTA and she was amazed at some of the material. Good Luck! 🙂

        • Kevin on March 16, 2017 at 19:16
        • Reply

        Thanks. That amount of time is doable. I appreciate the response. Good luck in all your training and races.

        1. Sure thing! Good luck to you too!

    • Mike on April 19, 2017 at 21:12
    • Reply

    Great review! I just completed it also and I love the comment about part 2 “time suck”. I realize that I now have to sit and “grind” on coming up with true knowledge and not just good ideas. Congrats on your Certification. WELL Worth it! Priceless.

    1. Congrats Mike! Completing that is quite an accomplishment. Use that knowledge well and best of luck in all your races!

  1. Mike / anyone who has taken the IronmanU course, could anyone provide insight into the assessment a bit more? If you do not pass the first time, do you get any feedback on what you missed to do better the second time? I’m about to take my test this week and I want to try to set myself up for success, but I had to rush through the modules more than I would have liked as I was running out of time to complete. I agree that the course was worth the $$, in not just for the resources provided, alone. Also, once you pass the assessment, do you still have access to the lessons as a resource?

    Thank you!

      • Kevin on April 30, 2017 at 19:17
      • Reply

      Kelly. The first assessment you have 2 attempts. I passed the first attempt so I’m not sure if you get feedback or not (don’t think you do since it’s 50 questions). Assessment 2 you get a second attempt with some feedback. The 2 assements were a lot more in depth than I thought they would be and really make you think. Hope this helps.


  2. With 17 years of coaching Triathlon, I like the fact you actually need to spend real time on this course as the questions although having more than one answer at times, played out to a neat IMU coaching and planning model.
    I recommend starting out coaches give this course a go and ignore the doubters!

    • Andreas on October 24, 2018 at 10:14
    • Reply

    Greetings, I am desperately trying to get the online modules to run on my new mac, however after module 1 the system is not responsive… Ironman U has not come back with any solutions so far… Can someone advise me on systems specifics? E.G the videos inside the module don’t play… Thanks, Andreas

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