Hines Ward preparing to tackle Ironman

Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward loves a challenge.

So imagine what happened when the future Hall of Fame wide receiver, who retired in 2011, was asked to train for October's Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, and to document it in an online series.

Partnering with Refuel's "Got Chocolate Milk" campaign, the 36-year-old Ward has been training since November for the 140.6-mile triathlon, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile marathon.

Playbook had a few minutes with Ward to discuss his training.

Do you realize how difficult the Ironman is?

"Ha, ha. ha. Yeah, a little bit. I didn't realize it until I actually started to train for it. I questioned myself on why I'm doing all this. Each day I'm getting better and better."

I know you're working with eight-time Ironman champion Paula Newby-Fraser. What has training been like for you?

"It's more a mental thing, trying to understand what goes into training for an Ironman. Swimming was new to me. I'm working on my breathing. And I'm working on biking for that many miles. I also had to understand the nutritional side of it and how to refuel after a hard workout."

Normally in the spring, you wind down from football season. And now you're actually ramping things up.

"My body kind of shut down after football. I wasn't preparing for another season of football. I'm trying to change my body into an endurance athlete. When I first began training, my body went into shock. Training by running with headphones was pretty boring. So I started cutting, moving and dealing with hills. I was doing what I could to get into real shape."

You appeared in the most recent "Batman" movie and you also just finished a spot on a Food Network cooking competition. Why have you been taking on all these new challenges?

"People always told me that I couldn't be this or couldn't be that. I'm just proving people wrong. When it comes to the Ironman, I'm not only doing this for myself. I'm hoping to be an inspiration to those sitting on their couch. I'm living proof to do this. I know I was in football shape, but I never ran more than a mile, and now I'm competing in the Ironman. If I can go out and do it, others can too. I'm just out there trying to prove myself. It's me versus me."

I've seen the videos and photos of your training. Looks like you could return to the football field.

"I don't want to do that. It's a lot easier to walk away when you've been to the mountaintop. I've been to three Super Bowls, won two and was MVP of one. It was a great ride. It's the best organization. For me, to be a part of that was a blessing. Now it's on to my next chapter of my life. And it's the Ironman competition. I'm just excited about this opportunity."