Featured Story

‘I hate giving up and giving in’ —Shelter Islander Julia Weisenberg trains for a triathlon

When you first meet Julia Weisenberg, you might be excused if you assume she is a basketball or volleyball player. She’s tall and carries herself with the confidence of an athlete. But that wasn’t always the case.

“I was a really timid kid,” Julia said. “Although I was a skier, I was not a sports kid. I was terrified of all group sports. I have asthma, and when I was younger, I was told I needed to sit out of gym class a lot.”

A Shelter Island Class of 1992 graduate, Julia credits her Phys Ed teacher Dawn Brown with encouraging her to get off the sidelines and join the running club. “She told me that I could do anything, I would just have to manage my asthma,” Julia remembered. “I gave it a try, ran a mile and realized that I can do this. She was the one to help me recognize that having a limiting condition doesn’t have to stop you.”  Julia has taken that advice to heart.

By the time she was 17, she’d run her first Shelter Island 10K, something she would do annually for a decade before her first child was born. She also ran two mini-triathlons and two half-marathons in that time. In September 2023 she ran the Entenmann’s Great South Bay Half-Marathon, almost 25 years after she tackled it for the first time.

This year Julia’s decided to take part in the July 14 MusselMan Ironman 70.3 triathlon in upstate Geneva. It involves a 1.2-mile open-water swim in Seneca Lake, a 56-mile bike ride through the hills of the Finger Lakes region, capped by a 13.1-mile half-marathon. That’s a total of 70.3 miles strictly under her own power. Quite the challenge, but there’s no doubt that Julia loves a challenge.

Julia Weisenberg on her 1-hour and 35-minute run through the Island as she trains for her triathlon. (Credit: Francesca Frasco)

She’s also a believer in being well prepared. A meticulous planner, she excels at identifying a challenge, finding resources, practicing, and holding herself accountable until she’s confident and ready.

Although Julia is herself a certified fitness instructor, youth-exercise specialist and women’s fitness specialist, she still seeks objective advice from other experts. “I’m working with Jared Sklar,” she said. “He’s a live online cycling instructor with BODi — formerly Beachbody. Last year he went for special training to be an Ironman coach, and I really like his style.”

Julia and Jared have developed a specific, progressive workout that is tailored to her goals. They use a special watch and app to track her progress. Each week Jared loads in the recommended workouts. He can monitor all sorts of fitness data, which allows him to adapt the training to how Julia is performing.

She trains in “bricks,” practicing two elements of the triathlon together. Some days she will bike and run, others she will swim and bike, and so on. Julia and Jared are in constant communication about her progress, adjusting for specific needs. “He builds up the workouts, then tapers it off the next week to allow for recovery,” she noted. “Then we build up again to keep me motivated and challenged.”

(Credit: Francesca Frasco)

While Julia mainly trains solo for running and biking, she works out with her partner, Chris Coyne, for swimming. Chris has formal swim training, and they work out at the East Hampton YMCA two days a week. “It’s really helpful to have the in-person help,” Julia said. “He can watch me and give pointers on how to clean up my stroke.”

Eating right is also an important part of getting ready for the MusselMan, so she’s consulting with a nutritionist, working with Jenny Chung since April 2023. Her nutrition is also tracked in the app, so that data can be factored into her profile. 

Focusing on eating more protein and snacking both before and after the intense workouts, “I had to get used to a new way of eating,” she said. “When you’re training hard you need to eat enough food.”

People tend to assume that a special diet is always correlated with weight loss, but food is fuel, and you need to have energy to perform at your best.

Interim goals are always a nice way to break up training for an event, so as part of her preparation for the July triathlon, Julia will be joining Kelsey McGayhey, Mitchell Clark and others in the Strongpoint Theinert Ranch half marathon on March 23. When asked what inspires her to participate in such grueling activities, she replied, “I like a challenge. I want to meet a challenge, take it head on, try to win. I hate giving up and giving in.”

Julia’s daughter Regina, a 7th-grader at Shelter Island School, benefits from her mother’s drive for excellence. “I like to show Regina that if I can do it, she can too,” Julia said. “It’s part of resiliency, what happens in life. I may be training for a race, but it’s really training for life.”