As a kid, I was the one being shuffled from practice to practice. From basketball to soccer to swimming. It was my life and I knew nothing different. I loved it, and it was great, until high school. It all caught up to me. I became burned out. The first to go was basketball. After making the team freshmen year, I declined to focus more on swimming. Then it was soccer. After a less than stellar season on varsity my sophomore year, I dropped that too. Swimming continued and I saw huge success sophomore year, but plateaued the next two years. I was frustrated and just done. I was recruited to swim at a Division I college, but turned down the offer to go to my Big Ten dream school, Michigan State. The lure of late nights with friends, eating and drinking whatever I wanted was too hard to resist. Ultimately, I chose a social life over sports in college.
I started gaining weight Junior year of high school, which then led into college. It was definitely a combination of eating nutritionally low foods (think goldfish, coca-cola, mounds of chips and salsa – my staple, and flaming hot Cheetos) and a gradual decline of exercise. My lifestyle choices began to show, both in my appearance and my mind. I was eating junk and I felt like junk. There were many late night runs to fast food joints. And more greasy pizza than I would like to admit. Oh, we can’t forget the binge drinking every weekend. That sure didn’t help. At my heaviest I was 180 (I’m 5’11”). I wasn’t happy with my weight. I was extremely uncomfortable in my own skin and as a result very self-conscious. And I lacked self-confidence in social situations all throughout college.
I would attempt to shed some pounds…I admit though that I would go to the gym and get on the elliptical for 30 minutes and call it a day. I always told myself, “Okay, tomorrow I will start eating better.” But, nothing would stick. I was able to lower my weight to 170, by cleaning up my diet a tad and getting in the gym more, but nothing stuck long term. I even attempted to run…it was so hard and I was quickly discouraged.
After graduating and settling into the working world, in September of 2012 I signed up for my first 5K with my best friend and her mom. I found a couch to 5K plan and followed it religiously. No matter how hard it was to run, I did. Witnessing my progress from running 2 to 4 minutes at a time to being able to run 20 minutes without stopping pumped me up! I was loving it. I found the motivation and I became determined to take my health back.
I raced my first 5K in 33:52, which fueled my drive to get faster. I signed up for another 5K on Thanksgiving and then the following spring I challenged myself to race in my first sprint triathlon, something I always wanted to do because of my swimming background. After that race, which was completely exhausting, but incredible, I was hooked. I dove headfirst into the tri world, giving it everything I had. I completely changed my diet. No more desserts, no more fast food, and I significantly decreased the amount of processed food I consumed. I went on to race 4 more sprints that summer and managed to qualify for USAT Age Group Nationals. I lost the extra weight, 40 pounds from my heaviest, and I was feeling great, enjoying the structure training brought to my life.
Even though my training volume was high for the average person I don’t believe it was the ultimate factor in helping me shed fat and gain muscle. It wouldn’t have been possible if I did not learn what to eat. I read so many articles on what was best for fueling the lifestyle of a triathlete. It was crucial that I put in food that gave me energy and helped me recover. I learned what was actually in my food. Radical, I know. I started noticing what types of food made me feel good and what didn’t. It is astonishing how disconnected I had been with my food and body.
Over the past couple years my diet has evolved. I now eat completely plant-based…dare I say vegan. You can read why I became vegan in this post. And I am finding more of a balance between my training and other interests in my life. All the while chasing down a career that I am passionate about.
I am so grateful for this journey I have been on, there have definitely been many learning and growing moments, and I know there will be many more ahead.
(I had so much fun looking through old photos…here are a few more oldies!!)