My name is Heather Gollnick and I'm a former professional triathlete, current professional Spartan racer, full-time collegiate triathlete coach, and Brave Squad member. I wanted to talk a bit about my thoughts on diet fads as well as best practices for strength vs cardio training. Hope you enjoy!
Diet – Thoughts on Fads
I’ve seen a lot of diet fads come and go and I’ve basically tried them all. Paleo, keto, intermittent fasting, low carb, high carb, you name it and I’ve probably tried it. After many years as a professional athlete (triathlete and now Spartan racer), I’ve gone back to the basics with nutrition: a balanced diet of protein, fat, and carbohydrates coming from unprocessed foods.
With this being said, when my clients tell me that they want to try going keto or paleo, I don’t try to convince them otherwise. What I find the vast majority of the time is that clients will try the diet for a few months, learn bits and pieces about what works for them, and ultimately realize that restrictive diets aren’t the best long-term option.
No matter what diet a client or athlete might want to try, the number one piece of advice I can give is if you’re doing the majority of your grocery shopping in the perimeter of the store (around the fresh produce and items that need to be refrigerated) you’re 90% of the way to a good diet. It’s when folks are in the middle aisles that they’re usually buying processed foods.
I know it’s not the sexy, buttoned up “try this and get a six pack” advice, but I truly believe there’s no diet panacea. You have to find what works for you through trial and error. What I’ve found works best for me and my clients is getting back to the basics. Also, don’t be afraid to eat some ice cream from time to time!
Training tips for whatever your sport might be!
Cardio vs strength training. Don’t just train what you’re best at! Coming over as a triathlete to Spartan racing, I had zero grip strength. So, I really needed to focus on strength training my grip. Everyone has different strength training needs. When working with clients I incorporate an evaluation using a detailed questionnaire, implement strength and run tests, then we design a plan based off this evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. We design the perfect balance of training/recovery and nutrition to meet those goals.
Make your training plan fun. Some people love long runs, some people love sprints, some people HIIT classes – I personally love long runs in the mountains, obstacle training and swimming for recovery. Just find whatever makes you tick and have fun with it.
Set realistic goals. If you set realistic goals for yourself once you begin reaching them, you’ll be hooked on the feeling of accomplishment.
Find people to do it with! Working out with a friend is always more fun in my opinion. I love the camaraderie and the accountability that comes from training with friends.
Make sure to change it up! Change up your workouts. No one wants to go weight lift everyday so try running or biking or swimming or just walking! Just change it up and keep things fresh.
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It's Sarah again :) As a professional triathlete, I find a rigid diet is necessary to maximize my performance at a world class level. But it takes time, planning, and a lot of effort. Most amateur athletes don't have the time, desire or need to be so structured. So, I don't recommend it for most people. Trust me, eating six pre-planned meals a day plus snacks is exhausting!
What I've found having come into contact with amateur athletes my entire career is that following a few basic principles will help you develop long-term healthy habits.
Watch your macros
Don't obsess over this, but try to make sure each meal has a good balance of carbs, fats and protein.
Fuel within 30 minutes of your workout
Getting protein, carbs and fat within 30 minutes after finishing your workout will help replenish lost resources and promote proper recovery.
Eat plenty of unprocessed foods
Avoiding processed foods is a must and will get you most of the way to a healthy diet. Once you've done that, make sure you're eating enough food and that it's coming from nutrient-dense sources.
Don't be afraid of carbs
Rather than shy away from carbs, learn to use them to your advantage as a performance enhancer. Quinoa, rice, potatoes, oats, fruit and veggies are all excellent sources of energy.