Nutrition…the missing key to every athletes road to success
Changing my eating habits, changed my life. Sounds extreme…but here’s how.
“What you put in your body is what you will get out of it.” We’ve all heard some variation of this statement as an athlete. But have you really taken it to heart and thought about what it means for YOU as an athlete. Regardless of your level, age group, recreational, masters, professional, it affects all of us. I found this out for myself, unfortunately without much help. For this, my first blog post, I hope to express to everyone who reads my blog why my passion for nutrition developed, how it affected not just my performance as an athlete but my life as a whole, and how it continues to contribute to my health and happiness. And most importantly…now that I am licensed to practice nutrition (dietetics), how I hope to help any and all athletes out there interested in enhancing their performance and lives.
Growing up in NJ with my mom who swam at the University of Florida, my dad who was a great basketball player, and two siblings (who between us I think we at some point played every sport out there) we were an extremely active family to say the least. My mom was always a very health conscious person who made sure we were getting what we needed. And that wasnt easy…as many families do, we required the normal kitchen refrigerator and the second freezer in the garage to have enough on hand to satisfy the needs of everyone! I grew up training at Red Bank YMCA (RBY) and then Scarlet Aquatic Club (SAC) under Sue Anderson based out of Rutgers University. I was lucky enough to be recruited out of high school by numerous universities. I took recruiting trips, talked with coaches, and did research.
My life changed the day I pulled onto the University of South Carolina’s campus in Columbia, SC. As a “northerner” it was quite unexpected that I fell in love with the south. I was a decent swimmer out of high school (for the swimmers out there, I was a 1:52 200 freestyler and 52.5 100 freestyler) but I am so grateful to those USC coaches who saw potential in me that I never saw in myself. Don Gibb (former UF swimmer and current Daytona State coach), Nancy “Marley” Wheeler (former UF swimmer and an amazing friend), and Frank Bradley (former FSU swimmer and current Auburn coach) were the coaches that I can pretty much say I owe my career to. The short version of the story…I learned what hard work was…I learned that I had no idea how much my body and mind could handle. I would learn over my four years at USC that not only the physical hard work in the pool and weight room mattered, but how I handled myself outside of the pool mattered just as much.
As a freshman I worked harder than I knew was possible and ended up as an SEC finalist in the 100 and 200 frees going 1:48 and 49. Quite the drop from my high school times. But then my sophomore year I only went 1:49 and 50. I could not understand why I hadn’t dropped more time, I had worked just as hard that year! What I would come to realize my junior year, and perfect my senior year, was that there is only so hard you can work. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. So…while working hard what else could I do that was different from what others were doing. I started to really focus on what I was feeding my body (quality), how much I was feeding my body (quantity), when I was feeding my body (timing), along with my sleeping habits.
I didn’t have help. Back then I probably wouldn’t have realized the benefit of it, but either way it just wasn’t available. So I played the trial and error game. Ate too much and felt sick while working out and carried extra weight, ate too little and didn’t have enough energy to perform through our 2 hour workouts, ate too close to a race and suffered because of it, etc. After about 6 months of this…I got it. The perfect amount of food and the timing. My grades went up, my sleep patterns were consistent, and my times came flying down. I went 1:47 in the 200 free for an 8th place finish at the Div 1 NCAA Championship meet and 49 in my 100. Then as a senior, I became National Champion Runner-up in the 100 and 200 frees! (to Kara Lynn Joyce, Olympian, in the 100 free and to Margaret Hoelzer, Olympian, in the 200) You have never seen a more excited 2nd place finisher, ha! Because for me…the little NJ girl who came in going 1:52, I left college a 1:45 200 freestyler, 2 time National Champion Runner up, Olympic Trials Qualifier in 3 events, 7-time All American and someone who now knew what “hard work” actually means. And in the rest of my life…I graduated with a double major from USC and was given the privilege of being named the 2004 USC Female Student Athlete of the Year.
After college ended and I wanted to keep swimming, I went on to a meet in NY in 2005. Here’s where I start believing everything happens for a reason and all the decisions we make in our lives lead us to where we’re supposed to be. Without what I had done to that point in my sport, I would not have been at this level of a meet. I ran into an old friend, Nick Brunelli 🙂 I ended up in AZ training with him and coach Mike Chasson at Arizona State. Although my life moved on from swimming, it brought me to my amazing husband and my career. I am so anxious and excited to now share this story and the lessons I have learned about sport and nutrition through RDpro, LLC. Please know if you ever need someone to talk to about sport, nutrition, wellness, health, and life…I’m here.
Changing my eating habits did this for me. It changed my life.