Three athletes who live, breathe and eat fitness reveal their secrets on how they achieve a top level of performance. Finding the motivation is half the battle.
Becoming a top athlete doesn’t happen overnight. It takes commitment, years of it. These athletes dedicate their lives (or at least substantial parts of them) to training their muscles, fueling their bodies and honing their minds for competition. Even if becoming an Ironman isn’t in your life plan (Tony Stark said it himself, if we can’t accept our limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys), we can all take lessons from their approaches to fitness, nutrition and mental stamina. These three competitors let us in on what keeps them going when they reach a plateau, hit the snooze, or just want to grab a beer instead of pumping some iron (hey, we’ve all been there). Find out how they push themselves to perform and prepare to be the best in their respective fields.
Erek Nelson, Competitive Swimmer
“It’s cliché, but you have to look at your body like a sports car. You’re not going to put 86 octane in a Ferrari,” Erek Nelson says. Nelson’s Ferrari goes from zero to 60 in the pool six days a week, but he wasn’t always a finely tuned swimming machine. “It took me a long time and a lot of discipline over time,” he says, and he’s still tinkering with the engine.
Luckily for the rest of us, Nelson says getting started is the easy part. “Starting off, results will come quickly. Small things will make a big impact. You’ll want to go back because you like the results you’re getting,” he explains. Once you reach an elite level, things become more restrictive, and that can be challenging even for Nelson. “There are constant temptations. It’s about keeping your goals in mind at the end of the day,” he says.
Nelson teaches swimming lessons to people young and old and those with special needs – a source of inspiration to him and something he says everyone should do for safety reasons alone. “It’s very gratifying to give people the experience of water. Whether you’re an elite swimmer or not, you have to respect the dangers of it.”
John Duberley, Runner, Triathlete
Being part of a community of like-minded people keeps John Duberley motivated to perform. He works with swimmer Erek Nelson and met Kayla Edwards at a triathlon. “Seeing Erek’s work ethic makes me want to be a better swimmer. Kayla has given me tips on biking. It’s addicting to be around people who push themselves. Being around them makes me want to challenge myself more,” he says. After meeting them, Duberley went from being a full-time runner to training for bigger challenges like his first half Ironman competition.
Community keeps Duberley motivated, but it’s not the force that drives him to give his all and help others do the same. Duberley’s father passed away at a young age, his mother was diagnosed with ALS, and a close friend lost his life to suicide. “It’s not easy to say, but it’s important. They are the biggest reason I help others,” Duberley explained.
As a personal trainer, Duberley gets to help his clients develop strength through self-care. “For some people making money and having stuff motivates them. Self-care is my priority. As a personal trainer, I get to help other people find happiness and reduce stress. Being around people and helping them motivates me to help myself more."
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Kayla Edwards, Triathlete
As a single parent of a young son who’s about to turn two, Kayla Edwards balances the lifestyle of a competitive athlete with being a mom and working as the fitness director at the Country Club of Charleston. She makes health and movement part of her lifestyle. “Everyday I preach fitness, and I like to practice what I preach,” she says.
To do that, Edwards tries to find balance and play at the edge of her comfort zone in life and her sports practice. “Being a triathlete is a balance between all three sports. It’s fun to play with that balance,” she says. She finds that balance by asking herself, “How much is too much? Where do I need to spend more attention?”
She also works training in where it fits. “I make modifications so I can work out at home during nap time or run with the stroller,” she says. Edwards recommends making fitness work for your lifestyle, being realistic about what you’re going to take on, and just enjoying it. “You feel so good when you’re in motion. I’m a strong believer that you need to be doing something for your body to feel good.”