From Competitive Athlete to Optimal Health
What's my story? Simple, it was food and not fitness training that changed my life!!!
As a Health and Fitness Coach for the past twenty years, nutrition has always played a major role in both my professional life and daily performance as a human. Yet over the years as an adult and athlete competing in biathlons, triathlons and long distance outrigger canoe races, I had finally come to the conclusion that my nutritional strategy which directly affected my daily work performance and also race performance had to change. Why? Blood sugar crashes, the constant carb loading, need to eat/feed and digestive issues/bloating associated with all of the so called healthy foods I was consuming aka: American Standard Diet. Can you relate? Given all of my experience as an athlete and Health Coach, I felt that something was wrong and/or missing, and that there had to be a better more convenient way to fuel the body with out the constant feeding, digestive symptoms or energy crashes.
In December of 2012 which was about the time I brought my health coaching and personal training services to NYC, I came upon a guy by the name of Mark Sisson and his Primal Health Blog Mark's Daily Apple. Mark was a former world class ironman/athlete who had some very interesting content within his site and a book called "The Primal Blueprint". Initially much of what I read went against my “belief system” along with most everything else I had ever learned about nutrition, but the more I read the more it all started to make complete sense. Nutrition had always been a passion of mine and it was during that time the “gluten free” movement started taking shape. Also gaining quite a bit of popularity was the "Paleo diet".
Time to Make Some Initial Changes!
Upon further research and right about the end of March, I decided to take some initial action which first included cutting out all wheat, bread, rice and grains. Within weeks, my digestive-related symptoms all but disappeared. Whats key here is that I never realized how intolerant my body was to wheat (gluten & lectins), always thinking that feeling bloated was just a normal part of everyday life. Although rich in carbohydrates, comparatively low in protein and deficient in calcium and Vitamin A. During my 3rd & 4th week off grains my body started changing, I leaned out and my abs started to show again, without changing anything within my workout routines. To my surprise my seasonal allergies also disappeared that spring and I’ve not had them since. Given my results I then started to eliminate all processed man-made oils, sugars and processed foods concentrating solely on ancestral foods (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, all veggies, nuts, seeds, artisan cheese, 85% cocoa chocolate and avocado & coconut oils etc). In a nut shell, food the body understands on a cellular level!
Within two (2) months my weight dropped from 240 to 220 pounds "without cutting calories". During that summer my performance also improved during each of my race events, helping me cut :50 minutes off my previous best time standup paddle-board racing 25-miles around the island of Manhattan. I felt like a fine tuned machine without having to carb load or consume endless amounts of sugar loaded sports drinks, Gu, protein bars and shakes. To the astonishment of many, I was now performing on good old H2O while my body used fat for fuel!
By the summer of 2013 I had lost 35 lbs which allowed me to move in ways I hadn’t moved in years. Yes I was a strong man before, but now I was also doing quick sprints again while outrigger canoe racing with the 20, 30 & 40 year olds. My jean size went from a 36 to 33, I felt great and was fitting into fashionable clothing again which was all the motivation my clients needed to further enquire about my health coaching services. For the majority of my life I was an old school believer that it was 80% fitness training and 20% nutrition. Today I live by a new formula of success: 80% nutrition, 10% training, and 10% sleep and stress management. Don’t get me wrong fitness training and cardio workouts are still very important, but what I realized was “you can’t out train a bad diet”, and “change only happens when we change whats not working".
Discovering the 4 Key Elements
By implementing The 4 Key Elements I too was now living, achieving and maintaining optimal health, and am excited to share with you the information and strategies that I implemented to transform my own life.
Fast forward to the 2016 outrigger canoe race season. We had just completed six (6) bucket list races, the last of which being a 32-mile change race from Newport Beach, Ca to beautiful Catalina Island. It was another amazing race without having to consume any Gu, nutrition bars, sports drinks, bananas, oranges, Gatorade or carb loading prior to or during our race. My body was performing much more efficiently than any previous season. The difference? I was now hard-wired to burn and metabolize fat for fuel, the dominant fuel our ancestors thrived and evolved on rather than todays Standard American diet. Totally BONK proof, my body ran on good old H2O and body fat from race start to finish (thats me 3rd seat from the front).
But there was a problem
From the outside looking in most would say I looked like the picture of health. But to be honest and although I could perform at a very high level, my body was in physical pain. Octobers 41-mile "Molokai Hoe" which starts on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai, crosses an open ocean called the Kaiwi Channel and finishes at Waikiki beach on the island of Oahu was both beautiful and amazing. Our team took home a 3rd-place trophy in the Koa wood canoe division but the day after our race I can remember laying in the sand at Sunset Beach feeling like I needed a new body. There was something wrong! For most of the 2016 race season I also had issues sleeping and while experiencing hand, elbow, knee, hip and neck pain. My resting heart rate was up, and I was more irritable and walking/moving a bit slower than usual. The long distance races had taken a toll on me. Mark Sisson had a similar experience as a former long distance athlete, as have many others as well.
With further research and help from Mark Sisson along with others in the Primal Health and Ancestral community, I realized I was suffering from “adrenal fatigue” and was essentially overtraining and over-performing. Because my body was in constant stress mode, my sympathetic nervous system was in overdrive producing high levels of cortisol (our stress hormone), which is a huge culprit in the storage of body fat. With all of these long distance events, I was doing more harm than good. Unfortunately and as much as I love paddling
I’ve since quit endurance racing and have been Primal/Paleo since March of 2013. What began as an elimination strategy with food to solve my digestive issues and need to constantly feed evolved to a Paleo/Primal lifestyle once I discovered Mark's Daily Apple and The Primal Blue Print. It all made so much sense. I realize many of today's afflictions could be prevented or reversed with diet and lifestyle changes. Diseases that doctors rarely saw have now become commonplace (i.e., type 2 diabetes in children, metabolic syndrome, Crohn's disease and IBS in adults). It bothered me to think of how many people suffer, thinking they have drawn the short straw with their health, that their problems are genetic or that they are just getting old and this is all inevitable. In some cases that may be true, but often it's not, it's often within your control to improve your health. When Mark launched the Primal Health Coaching Certification I jumped on it so that I can share this information with the world and improve lives. Fifteen chapters, 150,000 words, 50 videos and nine months later I passed the Primal Health Coaching course earning my degree. I even attended the masterclass at Mark Sisson’s house in Malibu. Today I use this training along with my own diverse background to help clients achieve healthier lifestyles so they to can become the best version of themselves which you can review within the testimonial section of my site.
The Primal Tribe at Mark's
How Has Health Coaching Changed My Life?
Marks program has completely changed my training, recovery efforts, and my LIFE! My body has now fully recovered and I am in the best shape of my LIFE! My life focus has gone from FITNESS FIRST and health second to HEALTH FIRST and fitness second.
I still totally enjoy fitness and strength training today but have found better results cutting my training sessions in half (without losing the intensity within the workouts) so I can concentrate most of my efforts on RECOVERY and NUTRITION. In fact it has made all the difference in the world. Today I am proud to share that I:
- maintain a 33" inch pant and a body weight of 205 pounds
- am lighter on my feet with improved energy, focus, and mood
- can sleep better which aids in both memory and training recovery
- can do quick sprints on the assault bike, concept rower and while running for quality cardio
- am feeling like I’m 39 all over again and age is JUST A NUMBER!
Putting Health First allows you to be fit and healthy without the obsession of training, which then leads to more overall balance in life, and no over training. I believe in a Primal and ancestral approach to health and fitness, which are basically the habits and principles our ancestors practiced to stay healthy. By incorporating these practices into our own modern day life, optimal health becomes attainable and sustainable. Let me show you how you too can enjoy optimal health once again!
Certified Primal Health Coach