Local YWCA challenges community


There were no losers at the April 8 YWCA Indoor Triathlon as participants celebrated personal fitness. A group of about 36 everyday people swam, biked and ran a carefully measured course at the Midtown YWCA, 2121 East Lake St., while receiving heavy encouragement from employees, volunteers and fellow competitors.

“It?s easy to give up in the fitness world,” said Hannah Peterson, a YWCA member who participated in the event. “You have to be in good fitness.”

Sweaty and short of breath, Peterson appeared to be on cloud nine after completing the triathlon. Not the prototypical multisport athlete, she stands about 5-feet-2-inches tall and lacks the long, muscular limbs usually seen on triathlon competitors.

By committing to events like the YWCA triathlon and 5K races, Peterson stays motivated to exercise, which helps keep her in shape, she said. She schedules another competition every three or four months, giving herself something to plan and train for.

The YWCA held special group fitness sessions leading up to the triathlon to help people prepare for the event, even conducting a slightly easier version of the full triathlon. The YWCA employees wanted to make the triathlon accessible to everyone and encourage first-time participants.

“Getting here after work is hard, but group fitness really helped prepare and motivate me,” Peterson said.

The triathlon was open to Y members and non-members who could register for either the advanced or rookie course. A youth course was offered for 8 to 14 year-olds, but no kids signed up.

The advanced course began with a 600-yard swim, followed by 13 miles on the exercise bike and ending with a three-mile run around the indoor track. The rookie course consisted of a 500-yard swim, 10-mile bike ride and three-mile run.

“It?s just a great event to train for when you?re trying to keep the weight down during the winter,” said Ben Lee, YWCA personal trainer.

The Midtown YWCA has held an indoor triathlon every winter for the past four years but this is the first time it has conducted two indoor triathlons in the same year. The January triathlon had about 70 to 90 participants, but many of them could not wait an entire year for the next one, Lee said.

“Multisporting is one of the fastest growing sports in the country,” Lee said. “[The indoor triathlon] encourages people to do cross-training.”

Multisport or triathlon was created in the early 1970s by the San Diego Track Club as an alternative workout for track and field athletes, according to the Web site Triathlon.org. The popularity of triathlon grew to become a worldwide phenomenon. The first world championships were held after the International Triathlon Union was founded in 1989 in Avignon, France.

Triathlon made its Olympic debut at the 2000 summer games in Sydney, Australia. Today there are more than 100 affiliated national multi-sport federations worldwide, according to Triathlon.org.

However, the unpredictability of weather and other conditions mean outdoor triathlons can be grueling and can result in injuries even when people are in peak condition.. The YWCA Indoor Triathlon is a much safer way for individuals to compete, said Michelle Hoard, YWCA employee.

“You don?t have to be in top condition to participate,” Hoard said.

The Olympic triathlon consists of a 1,500-meter swim (.93 miles), 40-km cycle (24.8 miles) and a 10-km (6.2 mile) run, which is also the standard for the ITU World Cup series. Then are triathlons like Hawaii?s Ironman competition, where athletes compete in a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile cycle and 26.2-mile marathon. The 1,800 Ironman Kona competitors have 17 hours to finish and must do so in temperatures as high 95 degrees, with humidity around 90 percent.

Participants of the YWCA triathlon did not have to endure the rigors of an outdoor triathlon, and the only times they were aiming to top were their own. Fifteen to 20 YWCA members and past participants helped by recording split times and encouraging competitors.

“It takes a lot of work to get this going,” Lee said, “but it?s totally worth it.”

“This is a good community place,” said Heath Bredeson, a volunteer who competed in the January triathlon. “Everyone is unique in their reasoning for being here.”

Some people train hard and have a set time they shoot for, while others are just looking to try something new.

“I like the exercise; I like the variety,” Hannah Peterson said. There?s never a dull moment when training for three events, because there is always something different you can work on.”