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An Olympian in the Making? A 15-Year-Old Triathlete Shares Her Top Tips

Written on September 13, 2012 at 9:06 am , by

Fiona makes the most of her time by training with family, including her mom, right. (Photo courtesy of Fiona Chesley)

It’s a trend that we probably first noticed with the bodybuilding kid C.J. Senters, continued on with the Fierce Five (median age of 16) and now is spreading to the triathlon circuit: young athletes seem to be making their mark on more serious athletic events than ever. Clearly, it’s not just team sports either. The number of teens participating in road races and triathlons continues to grow, according to USA Triathlon.

To learn more about this trend, and how students balance their coursework with their workouts, we spoke with Fiona Chesley, a 15-year-old who aims to complete her 18th triathlon at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon on September 16 to benefit the pediatric cancer research program at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Most kids stick with team sports like basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, etc. What drew you to triathlons?

I’ve played many sports, but none seemed right. I enjoy competing in sports with a finish line. There isn’t a coach on the sidelines telling you if you’re right or wrong—it’s all you. You’re the one who has to find all of the determination deep within and put it to use.

What does your training regimen look like, and how do you fit it in with school and your social life?

It helps that racing is a family affair for me. Typically, I swim with my stepmother and run with my dad when he gets home around 6 p.m. I also go to the YMCA and do weight and ab workouts when I have time. Sometimes, I train and bike with the Cal Tri team.

Time for the lightning round…Fill in the blank:

  • My role model is: “Chrissie Wellington, the four-time world Ironman champion. She is a great triathlete and has inspired me to do an Ironman someday!”
  • My top motivation trick: “When I’m not in the mood to exercise, I play long games of Ultimate Frisbee with friends. It’s loads of fun and an easy way sneak in a workout.”
  • My go-to pre-race meal: “The night before a triathlon, my family has our favorite pasta dish: fusilli pasta with butter, ham, peas and mozzarella cheese.”
  • My dream competition: “I aim to do my best at every race, but I eventually want to compete in the triathlon at the Olympics.”

More from FITNESS:

Triathlon Training Tips from Oakley Pro Jenny Fletcher!

Written on July 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm , by

Perform Beautifully! (Photo courtesy of JennyFletcher.com)

In honor of the NYC Triathlon coming to town this weekend (look for me!) I met up with pro triathlete–and former FITNESS magazine cover model—Jenny Fletcher. An amazing athlete from a young age, Jenny had the looks for the runway and hit the modeling scene in her teens, but her passion for sports never fell to the wayside. From competing in pentathlons, to running and eventually falling for the triathlon, Jenny always kept fitness and exercise at the top of her list in life. Today she travels the world as a pro but spent some time with me to talk shop at Oakley’s Perform Beautifully retreat last weekend in Napa!

How do you treat yourself the week before the triathlon?

I always love to get a manicure and pedicure with fun colors to make me smile when I’m racing!

Do you have any superstitious rituals?

None yet. I always like to mix it up so I don’t start to panic if something doesn’t happen.

First thought to come to mind the morning of race day when you first wake up?

“Oh boy… Here we go! Let’s do this!” Kind of funny that I say we… Not quite sure who I’m talking to!

Read more

Triathlon Training Tips From Top Ironman Competitor Mirinda Carfrae

Written on October 27, 2011 at 8:56 am , by

A few days after being a top finisher at the Ironman in Kona, Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae sat down with us to talk strategy, relationships and the toughest competition on the course.

Rinny and I the day after the race! Does she even look like she just competed in an Ironman?

Congratulations on an awesome race this year! How does it feel to be among the top three fittest women  in the world? [In my opinion! But that's the top three Ironman female finishers!]

Not quite as good as last year when I won. Haha! It feels great to be back up on the podium in the best triathlon race in the world (in my opinion).

It was a close race this year at Kona between you and first place finisher, Chrissie Wellington. You both clearly have a lot of respect for each other as from what I saw at the finish line. Besides the competition, why do you like racing with her?

I think it was a great women’s race this year. There were some women out there riding ridiculous times and I think Chrissie and I were just lucky they slowed down a little when it came to the run. I love going out there and racing the best women in the world and Chrissie certainly is the best right now. When you have women pushing the boundaries like Chrissie has done you open up a whole world of possibility. All of a sudden, what once seemed impossible is now what everyone is pushing to achieve. I don’t think we would be racing as fast as we are now if we all weren’t chasing this crazy Brit.

Do you have your eyes on the prize again for Kona 2012?

And I will absolutely be chasing the big prize again in Kona 2012.

How did you get involved with the sport of triathlon?

I was doing some strength and conditioning for the upcoming basketball season and ended up training with the local triathlon group. It didn’t take them long to convince me to give triathlon a go. I was pretty much hooked right from my first race, after being involved with team sports my whole life I just really loved the individual aspect of the sport.

Why are you excited about this sport?

As I said earlier, I love the individual aspect of this sport. If you want to improve then it’s up to you to do the work to make those improvements. You do need to have a good support crew, but at the end of the day it’s you that has to go out there and get the job done. I also love that it’s three sports in one, you can never really contain the sport—there is always something that you need to work on and I think that keeps you motivated and excited for the next challenge.

If you hadn’t gone pro, what reasons do you have for competing? More and more everyday women are getting involved with this sport, so why do you think that is? Read more

The Ultimate Swim, Bike, Run: Kona Ironman World Championship 2011

Written on October 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm , by

The official Ironman logo.

If you’ve ever done a triathlon, then you can appreciate something as powerful as an Ironman—the ultimate competition of some of the world’s fittest people. What I consider fit may be different than what others consider fit, but there’s no denying that this 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26. 2-mile run (yes, a marathon) is a beast of a competition and one of the most physically and mentally demanding challenges you will experience. Training for a race like this takes much experience, determination and commitment, not to mention willpower, to get through those many miles and long hours of constantly pushing yourself.

Having competed in a couple Olympic-distance triathlons (that’s a mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run), I can tell you that training is intense: Long hours spent before work, after work and on weekends getting in the practice in the pool, on your bike and on the road. Sometimes, doing all three in one day. But if you’ve ever done one of these competitions, or have thought about it, then you also know how seriously fun they can be. Combining three sports in one breaks up the monotony of a regular marathon or a long bike ride. Plus, if you’re semi-”Type A” or uber competitive like me, then you might enjoy the challenge, and accomplishment, of completing each leg of the race and checking it off your list as you rush to the next challenge—swim, bike, run. To be able to train for an Ironman takes an understanding of how this sport works, including learning the proper nutrition and how to stay fueled throughout the entire race.

When I got the most amazing opportunity to watch the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 8th, I literally jumped for joy! Instantly upon arriving in Kona, I developed a much bigger appreciation for what these athletes accomplished just by being there.

And, they're off! Official swim start.

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t just the elite athletes, who blew my away—it was the oldest competitor, an 81-year-old man from Oregon, and the 60-something-year-old breast cancer survivor, and Scott Rigsby, the man with two prosthetic legs who crossed that finish line before the 17-hour time limit that brought tears to my eyes. To be fit and healthy is something that anybody can practice and aim for, no matter the obstacles pitted against you—and these athletes are proof of that. Just like the three amazing people mentioned above, everybody racing has a story worth telling.

Read more

Female Ironman Champ Tyler Stewart Shares Her Gluten-Free Secrets

Written on September 28, 2011 at 10:48 am , by

Written by Alyssa Belanger, editorial intern

Stewart chases down the competition. (Photo courtesy of LUNA Pro Sports Team)

For Tyler Stewart, female Ironman titleholder, LUNA Chix Pro Team member and successful business owner, a gluten-free diet is more than just a passing fad. It took years of dealing with stomach pain, bloating, headaches and fatigue for Stewart to figure out that gluten was the culprit of her stomach issues. But within a few weeks of eliminating the hard-to-digest protein from her diet, she noticed her discomfort went away and her energy skyrocketed. (This diet is not the fix for all individuals, but those with gluten sensitivities benefit from eliminating wheat products from their meal plans.)

The superstar athlete, who openly admits that she “hates swimming” despite her success with the sport, shared her diet journey, daily menu and motivation tricks during a recent webcast.

Find your priorities. Stewart of course trains for upcoming events, but also runs a full-service dog grooming business with her husband and coaches other athletes. But, she says, “the key to being gluten-free is making time for you and your health.”

Make smart choices for you. “My family is so far from gluten-free,” Stewart says. “Sometimes I take it personally when we get together for dinner and they say, ‘Hey Ty, you’re going to bring your own food, right?’” Despite the joking around, Stewart’s family has been supportive of her lifestyle and she has been trying to teach them simple substitutions so everyone can eat together (opt for rice instead of pasta; potatoes over white bread).

Don’t strive to be perfect. To be successful, you have to be reasonable with yourself and avoid beating yourself up if you make a mistake—say eating an indulgent dessert or skipping a workout. “You have to manage your highs and lows,” she says. “You just have to keep looking forward.”

Enjoy your eats. “The whole perception that gluten-free is not tasty is old news,” Stewart says. She has found delicious substitutes for almost every type of food—there’s even gluten-free beer!

A typical day in Stewart’s diet:

  • Breakfast: Gluten-free muffin, banana and almond butter; coffee
  • Snack: LUNA gluten-free protein bar
  • Lunch: Big salad with chicken and roasted potatoes
  • Snack: Yogurt with fruit
  • Dinner: Chicken with baked potato and broccoli

To learn more about Tyler Stewart, the LUNA Chix Pro Team and LUNA’s gluten free products check out lunabar.com.

More from FITNESS: Diet Myths Debunked: Five “Healthy” Eating Plans You Should (or Shouldn’t) Try

The Wassner Twins: Triathlete Sisters LIVESTRONG

Written on June 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm , by

Lauren, left, and Rebeccah (Photo by H & E Enterprises)

Laurel, left, and Rebeccah won a combined nine triathlons in 2010! (Photo by H & E Enterprises)

Rebeccah Wassner began competing in triathlons professionally in 2004 and was not only inspiring fans of the sport, but also motivating her twin sister. Laurel, an athlete herself, watched her sister school the competition in races while she fought (and beat) Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 23. “I was her number one cheerleader,” Laurel says. Rebeccah’s success on the triathlon circuit fueled Laurel’s desire to get strong and healthy again. In 2008, Laurel was selected as the 2008 USA Pro Triathlon Rookie of the Year. Talk about a comeback!

We spoke with the Wassner twins about their amazing journey together, the power of a training partner and their work with the LIVESTRONG foundation.

Do you train together?

Rebeccah: Yes. Since I’ve been doing this longer, I tend to call the shots. I’ve had the opportunity to train with so many great athletes, so when I’m training with Laurel, I try to show her what I’ve learned from them. Of course, just having Laurel out there is a huge motivation for me.

Laurel: Bec is very driven and focused. I try to provide some of the fun, and try to keep the workouts interesting. We usually motivate each other without even talking—maybe it’s a “twin thing.” Before we know it, we’ll be racing!

Read more

Chef Rocco DiSpirito Dishes On Food and Fitness

Written on March 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm , by

Rocco DiSpirito is serving up new recipes and advice in the follow up to his popular Now Eat This! Cookbook. (Photo by Markus Klinko & Indrani)

There are too many recipes to count in the April issue that left me wanting to run from the office straight to the kitchen when I got home! But one of the most tempting meals? The BLT Sandwich and sweet potato fries created by celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito, which also appears in his brand new book, Now Eat This! Diet (which hit bookstores yesterday).

We were lucky enough to interview the fit gourmet, who dropped 20 pounds while training for his first triathlon, about his own health journey and kitchen tricks. Here are his three secrets for success, whether in an apron or a pair of sneakers:

  • To drop pounds, keep tabs on the numbers. “Know how many calories and fat grams are in your meals and snacks, and only eat what you can afford, calorically speaking.”
  • Utilize low-calorie flavor enhancers. “A few of my ‘secret ingredients’ in my healthy recipes are fresh herbs, Dijon mustard and lemon juice.”
  • The hardest things can be the most rewarding. “The actual triathlon was much harder than most anything I’ve done. Its almost impossible to finish and the temptation to give up is much stronger than any temptation I’ve ever felt. That’s what makes crossing the finish line so fabulous.”

Awesome advice, and now I’m anxious to go try out even more of Rocco’s recipes (Chicken Pesto Pasta, Red Velvet Chocolate Squares and Crispy Loaded Pizza, all lightened up? Yes, please!)

Now tell us: What’s the most delicious dish you’ve whipped up lately?

How Do You Find a Healthy Balance?

Written on January 31, 2011 at 9:38 am , by

Karla's all smiles after completing her first triathlon.

Karla's all smiles after completing her first triathlon in 2007.

Back in junior high, my favorite meal was chicken fingers (which I ate for lunch or dinner nearly everyday), and I was fairly inactive (an afternoon of watching TV talk shows? Yes please!).

But after being tired of feeling tired and getting teased for my size, I made a pledge to hit the gym for 30 minutes every school day and cut back on fried foods. The plan worked, but I admittedly took it a little too far in the other direction, being too strict with my diet and running to the point of stress fractures and constantly sore muscles. After some time and practice, I learned to find balance in my daily lifestyle, incorporating reasonable amounts fitness and healthy living without going overboard. This experience made me realize how important good health is, in moderation, and from then on, I made it my goal to work in the wellness world.

I’m now proud to say that my body is strong and healthy enough to complete sprint triathlon, a five-mile road race or a spinning class (just not all in the same day!). But these days my favorite fitness activity is workout DVDs, so I can’t wait to share all of my new picks with you in the coming months.

Take a look at our past DVD reviews, then get ready for the 2011 list coming in the March issue, which hits stands in just a couple of weeks!

And then tell us: How do you find a healthy balance?

How I Got Back into Fitness (and How You Can, Too!)

Written on January 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm , by

Jenna celebrates her awesome finish at this year's Nautica Triathlon.

Jenna celebrates her awesome finish at the 2011 NYC Nautica Triathlon.

A few years ago, I had my very own “I did it!” moment. I had just moved into the city straight out of college and got wrapped up with all the amazing things there are to do and see in the Big Apple, all while completely putting my health on the backburner. As a kid, I played every sport—lacrosse, volleyball, and running cross-country—but really fell in love with martial arts. Ten years into training, I regretfully decided to call it quits and focus on my schooling. (Getting your black belt takes a lot of dedication!)

In college, I got back into exercising and learning my way around the gym, but only started taking fitness seriously when I hit that slump after moving out on my own. When I say I put my health on the backburner, I promise you I was doing everything wrong—I was getting no sleep, had little energy, and wasn’t caring about what I was eating. I missed the once fit girl that I knew I was. So I woke up one morning, went online, and signed up for my very first Olympic-distance triathlon (if I’m going to do something, I’m doing it big!). Less than a year later I completed that race—and then two more and three half-marathons. I’ve got my sights on the NYC ING Marathon at the end of the year and my soon-to-be hubby and I plan on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for our first anniversary in 2012.

Are you ready to commit to your own fitness adventure? Today marks day one of our half-marathon training program! Follow along with our two running bloggers, Marla and Susan, as they test out our FITNESS plan—join them by downloading your own schedule and hitting the road today. Good luck and stay warm out there!