Working in sports, you work long, strenuous hours, and you may not be home for long periods at a time. Rolling through a drive-thru on your way home from a road trip is the easiest solution for a quick meal, and your idea of working out is the walk from your car to your bed.
But because you work in sports, because you travel so much, work so hard and have a stressful profession, you need to be at your peak physical health. As someone who worked in sports for a number of years, traveling with all sorts of teams (men’s lacrosse, women’s basketball, football, softball, women’s gymnastics, the list goes on), taking advantage of team meals simply isn’t good enough. I definitely took advantage of pregame meals, imbibing in pasta and Chipotle to my heart’s content. Unfortunately, my health definitely suffered and I gained the Freshman Five typical of most people in athletics. What did I do to counteract that? I tried my best to focus on my health.
To start, the first rule of being healthy is to treat yourself kindly. Know that embarking on a healthy lifestyle isn’t easy, and do what you can at this moment in time. My fiance Andy has an insanely stressful job as a Marine Corps pilot. He loves to work out and eat healthy, but his stress reliever is drinking a Coke. To him, sipping on soda is his way of taking a breath, enjoying a few minutes to himself and relaxing. If your stress reliever is a piece of chocolate, don’t cut that out of your life. Start slowly. If that means simply drinking more water but not cutting out junk food, that’s better than nothing.
When I first started working with women’s basketball, I bought myself one of those jumbo water bottles - we’re talking 32 ounces - and I told myself I had to fill it twice a day. That was my first step. From there, taking the steps to be healthier got easier, and my next step to being healthier came in the kitchen.
I love to cook and I love good food but I am no chef. As a result, I bought myself a $20 slow cooker and it is, by far, my most used appliance.
My favorite recipe? Combine four pounds of frozen chicken (you read that right. I’m not kidding when I say this is EASY), one jar of salsa, one can of corn, one can of beans and one packet of taco seasoning. Cook for eight hours on low, shred the chicken with two forks once it’s cooked, and you’re done. You can add tortilla chips for a crunchy and delicious burrito bowl, get some tortillas for tacos and burritos, or top the mixture on a premade salad for a yummy taco salad.
When I remember to defrost chicken, I’ll preheat the oven to 400, rub a pound of chicken breasts in olive oil and ‘Jane’s Mixed Up Salt’ (found in Walmart). Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes, you’re done. Also good? Rub olive oil and Mixed Up Salt on drumsticks and bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.
I’ll pair that with brown rice in a rice cooker (a cup of rice and two cups of water, press a button and BOOM), or I’ll get frozen premade brown rice at Trader Joe’s and microwave that. Pair with a bag of frozen steamable vegetables and you’ve got it made.
Feeling like turkey? I got you! Put defrosted ground turkey in a skillet and, with the stovetop lit and set to medium heat, slowly break up the turkey with either a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks. Be sure to mix it so there’s no pink. Once it’s cooked, you’ve got a few options. Mexican or Italian? If you’re going Mexican, once the turkey is cooked, add a cup of water and a packet of taco seasoning. Craving Italian? Add that cooked turkey into a pot of a jar of heated tomato sauce and top that on some vegetable pasta to cut down on starch and get in your veggies. Yum!
Finally, make leftovers, Tupperware and meal prepping your best friend. Taking a few hours one day a week to map out and then cook your meals for the week is the best thing you can do for yourself. Make that four pounds of chicken and then come up with different variations. Don’t be afraid to be “that person” who brings a fork and reusable containers with her. Lunch boxes are back in style, and you can find some resourceful (and adorable) ones all over.
Being healthy is not easy, but taking the time to really focus on a healthy mindset is the key.
So, you travel all over the place and your hours are crazy and you have no time to work out. I hear you. I’ve been where you are. But believe me: You have time.
When I was traveling with women’s basketball, I found a workout buddy. The team’s director of player personnel and my roommate on the road - and a former professional basketball player - Paris Johnson was working to keep her professional shape, so I told her to tell me when she went to the gym, and keep me honest. And she did. Accountability is key. Find a partner who will give you crap when you cancel, who you won’t want to cancel on, and who will push you.
I vividly remember one day in San Jose when I was wiped. But Paris was going to the gym, so I followed. She was a beast on the rowing machine and seeing how hard she worked, her passion for the game and desire to be the best, I followed suit. Sure, I just did my thing on the weight machines and the elliptical, but hey, it was something. Only have an hour between pregame meal and leaving for the arena? Squeeze in a quick 20-minute run around the block.
A lot of your day may be spent sitting. Numerous studies have shown that sitting for too long is hazardous to your health (check out this recent study). What can you do to counteract that? Every hour, for five minutes, walk. Instead of emailing that person down the hall, walk to their office and talk to them. Set a timer on your phone and when it alerts you, for five minutes, walk in place, do some light stretching - I’m a big fan of yoga so I’ll do downdog or ragdoll to lengthen my spine - or move in whatever way makes you feel best.
Still don’t feel like you can do that? That’s okay! Park your car a little further than you usually do so you have to walk more. If someone needs to run an errand on campus, ask if you can do it for them. Whatever you can to move more than you move right now is a step in the right direction.
If you want something badly enough, like a healthy lifestyle, you’ll make it work. Do what fits best into your life, know that it’s not easy and cut yourself some slack if you slip up. Know that the road to healthy living is a journey, not a destination, and know that we’re all here to help you along the way!