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Trying For a Triple in Fitness

Patch got some expert training advice from a local triathlon coach on what it takes to become a triathlete.

Bob McKeown knows what it takes to complete a triathlon: the Babylon Village resident and West Babylon school teacher got the ultimate notch in his fitness belt when he finished an Ironman triathlon, otherwise known as a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and then a marathon run.

McKeown, 40, now trains others to achieve their own fitness goals, whether to simply finish a shorter sprint triathlon or to improve race times enough to qualify for competitive events.

McKeown's company, South Shore TRI Coach, is thriving and he counts Tara Costa, a finalist from the 2009 season of The Biggest Loser as one of his clients.

Many local residents rely on his coaching to structure their workouts and for the motivation of having to be accountable to someone on a regular basis. Some just want to get back in shape, a situation McKeown was in a decade ago.

"I was an athlete in college, but I had kids, started working, and I was getting fat," he remembers. After getting exposed to the sport through charity work with Team in Training and other groups, he was hooked.

"Triathlons are great as you get older because you only compete against your own age group, and you don't have to run every day. You might not be able to compete in just a running race against the younger guys, but with triathlons it's a combination of mental and physical endurance."

Triathlon events have become more plentiful in recent years, and Long Island boasts a schedule of varying distances. Many beginners start with a "sprint" triathlon, usually consisting of a half-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a 3-mile run.

"You have to learn how to transition [move from one leg of the race to the next]. I see so many beginners make stupid mistakes. I teach my athletes how to get dressed while they're running, and how to put their cycling shoes on as they ride their bike. Otherwise you could beat everyone in the swim and the run and still lose because you lost five minutes in transition."

For many recreational fitness buffs, the last time they donned swim goggles was as a kid during lessons, but McKeown says don't be afraid of the swimming portion.

"Everyone says they can't swim, but they can. It doesn't matter how slow you go."

McKeown recounts one client he trained who at the beginning "couldn't run down the block," but went on to complete a middle distance triathlon.

"Anyone can finish a tri," the confident coach asserts. "You just might have to train longer. But the triathlon community is a supportive, positive group. Everyone wants to see you do well."

Check back next week for the next installment of the Get Fit Babylon series, when Patch talks to a Babylon police officer who whipped himself into tip-top shape by training for his own triathlon.

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