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by Tim Steiskal

1. What is your age, title 

Age 29, Sales & Member Engagement Director, Patchogue Family YMCA

2. How did you become a triathlete? How long have you been doing this?

I started my endurance adventure as a highly competitive youth swimmer. I decided to start running to strengthen my endurance. I found incredible personal and team-based fulfillment with both sports. This led to a coach approaching me about a local triathlon. At 13 years old, I competed in my first triathlon. This endeavor would positively affect the rest of my life. I am now 29 years old and have competed in triathlons for sixteen years with well over hundred races under my belt.

3. What are your top 5 tips for training for a triathlon? Through many years of competition, I have been able to compile five triathlon-training tips that can be useful for both beginners and seasoned athletes. 

• Take your time and enjoy the experience. Over the years, I have witnessed countless individuals going too far, too fast who end up injured and out of the sport. It is important to understand that there are different distance triathlons: Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, and Ironman. Each doubles in length to the next. You don’t need to start with an Ironman to be considered a triathlete. I suggest getting into the sport with a local indoor triathlon and moving up from there.  Putting together all three disciplines, (Swimming, Biking and Running) is incredibly fulfilling when you take the time to embrace the process

• A well-balanced training plan is the best approach for healthy progression. When putting together a plan, it is beneficial to have proper mixture of fast-paced intervals, low and slow distance, and tempo work within each discipline. This is an individualized process that should be geared towards your specific fitness goals.

• Find a local triathlon group or experienced training partner to help guide your journey. Even though this is an individual sport, reaching out to those with experience will not only be helpful but also make the entire experience more enjoyable. There are a plethora of Long Island-based triathlon teams, coaches and originations. The best place to look for these resources are the local YMCA’s. They are the choice training facilities for many seasoned endurance athletes.

• Goal setting is the foundation to a successful triathlon experience. Realistic yet challenging training/racing goals is key to progression without getting burnt out. Pick an important event and sign up early enough that it becomes a reward for all your hard work. As per Tip #3, it is helpful to get involved but make sure your goals are personalized to your specific situation and not anyone else’s. 

• With most nonprofessional triathletes, time to train becomes the largest hurdle. Whether it’s work, family or other commitments, time feels like it’s against us. A great way to combat this is through intensive-based interval training. Utilizing a responsible amount of this type of effort will give the best benefit to time ratio. These workouts consist of relatively short intervals at a moderate-to-hard effort followed by rest at a much easier effort. This can be done within all three disciplines and should be a challenge if done properly. 

4. What are the common mistakes people make while training? 

Feeling the need to add more training volume to improve. An over-trained athlete that consistently goes above their ability is likely to get injured, burnt out and or mentally/physically drained. This, in many cases, will lead to an individual leaving the sport. I feel the approach of quality over quantity gives a better probability of success and longevity within the sport. 

5. How does the staff at the YMCA of Long Island help prevent these mistakes?

YMCA staff can offer safe, high-quality programs that are designed to build individuals up without breaking them down.  Instructors will notice the signs of an athlete going above their means and should make appropriate adjustments on an individual basis.

6. What are realistic goals to set for yourself while training

A few realistic goals:

  • Learn your body’s aerobic capacity through both perceived effort and technical measurements (heart rate, power data, VO2 max and form efficiency).
  • Calculated progression that builds within your specific ability in all three disciplines. 
  • Most importantly have fun with the journey. For most people, this is a big endeavor so enjoy the process and challenge of doing something out of your comfort zone.

7. What advice would you give to someone looking to get started as a triathlete?

As mentioned in Tip #1, take it slow and build up your experience, technique and overall knowledge of the sport. I’ve been in this sport for sixteen years and have been lucky enough to win over thirty races but I’ve only done one ironman. I respect and understand the commitment it takes to successfully compete in that long of an event. This mentality has kept me happy and healthy all these years. 

8. How does the YMCA of Long Island help someone achieve their triathlon goal(s)? The Y offers strength-training classes and access to countless amenities such as a fitness center and pool in one facility to train, coaches, access to personal trainers, as well as nutrition guidance.

In my opinion, the YMCA’s across Long Island are the centerpiece of the thriving triathlon training community. This is mostly due to our beautiful facilities that are a one-stop shop for anyone looking to train all three disciplines at the same location. This unique environment brings both beginners and seasoned veterans together in one place to learn from each other. It is not just a training ground, but a tight knit community.