Taking Care of your Body- Part 2. My Nutrition Story
This weekend marks the first pro race of my career at Memphis in May Olympic Distance. Despite having a background in swimming from a young age, if you had looked at me at the beginning of my sophomore year in college in 2010 you would never have guessed I was anywhere close to an athlete. After a rough freshman year playing tennis I no longer had goals of playing any sport. My weekly fuel consisted of 7-10 take out meals a week and at least a case of beer. I was in a downward spiral and was gaining a lot of weight. Upon transferring to South Dakota State to continue playing tennis I was given a loud wake up call. After the end of the first conditioning session I was so angry for letting myself get so out of shape. I stepped on the scales to the reality I was close to 200lbs. For a guy that was 5'9'' and could barely bench or squat more than the bar, it is safe to say, not much of it was muscle.
I knew I had to make a change and a few months into my sophomore year I really buckled down. I cut out all fast food. This is a no-brainer, McDonalds and KFC shouldn't be on anyone's nutrition plan. Next I cut out soda to the point that the only thing I would really drink unless I was training was water. These two steps are the most important nutrition steps I have made and I began to see results immediately.
After losing about 10lbs, I felt inspired to change. A couple of mates and I decided we really wanted to get in shape. We pushed each other to be better, and the weight starting falling off. I began eating smaller portions more often, I chose food that was better for me. By drinking skim milk instead of full cream and whole grains instead of white foods I was consuming the same foods just alternatives that were better for me. I didn't even notice some of the changes I was making to my diet, but my body continued to respond well. During this time period I also began running. Not much, but I ran 2 miles 2 or 3 times a week. I had been an OK runner in high school but had never stuck to running any substantial amount. I didn't know it at the time, but that would be the start of my triathlon career.
Throughout my junior year of college I stuck to a few nutritional rules that helped me get into great shape.
- Don't drink calories
- Cut out sauces and dressings
- Eat smaller meals more often
- Substitute foods for healthier alternatives
- Don't eat anything big before bed
- Stay away from foods that obviously aren't good for you
By following these simple rules, I stopped craving foods that weren't good for me and started craving foods that were. I decided to really prove to myself that I was in good shape I would run a marathon. By the end of my junior year I was down to 147lbs, and I toed the line to the Vancouver Marathon finishing in 2:58. It was a huge accomplishment for a guy that weighed nearly 50lbs more just 12 months prior.
As I transition into my professional triathlon career, I try to follow the same nutritional goals that got me to where I was in Vancouver. Even though I have had success, there are times where I do struggle to stick to my goals. As someone that has always struggled to keep weight off, it shows. The only thing you can do is get back on the horse. As with everything in life, fall down 7 times, get up 8.
Considering where to begin with a lifestyle change may seem daunting but as you go it becomes easier. My advice is to start with something as simple as only drinking water and gradually make changes so that your habits have a positive effect on your life. If I can do it, so can you- your body is the greatest tool you have. It deserves it and it will thank you.