When did you realize your regular approach to health was no longer working?
I’ve always been driven, but I never was the best at any sport. And it wasn’t because of lack of trying. I was always the one running extra sprints after basketball practice or going for a ride with the guys to get stronger. It wasn’t until a friend died of aggressive lung cancer in her early 50s that I went ‘all in’ on my dream
I was 47 at the time, and I had been racing in masters cycling races in the US for two years when my friend got sick. I had quickly risen through the ranks, winning multiple national championships and placing 3rd at the World Masters Time Trial Cycling Championships.
After her passing, I decided to completely dedicate myself to winning the world championship. I felt that life was short, and I had to seize the moment. When I had a bad ride, I’d say to myself: ‘I chose this dream and I can end this pain at any time. Some people don’t have that privilege. It’s all in my head.’.
What made you feel like you were in control of your health?
I think it came down to finally understanding that my life, whether it’s health or happiness, is in my hands. There are a million voices out there telling us what to do and what not to do to be healthy, but I’m different from all of them. Health is not ‘one size fits all’ - what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else.
What made the biggest difference?
I fired my coach after realizing their approach wasn’t working for me. Being successful in sport is not all about how many hours you train - it’s about how your body reacts to the stress placed on it, and no one is better at gauging it than you. So, I decided to go back to coaching myself, trusting that I had the experience to succeed. Soon enough I was back on track and in early September I won gold at the World Masters Time Trial Cycling Championships.
What does ‘good health’ mean to you today?
It’s all about balance. Health is not just about exercise or nutrition or sleep. All of those things work together. I don’t need to be perfect all the time but I can strive to give my best in the moment. A little better each day is a path to progress.
What is your favorite unexpected health hack?
Sleep! I love sleeping and when the importance of sleep finally started to gain traction, I felt vindicated. When I feel stressed, overtrained, or under the weather, I sleep. I’ve hacked my bedroom to be a dark, quiet, chilly cave where gadgets are forbidden. Sleep is the perfect performance enhancement drug. It’s legal and it doesn’t cost anything.
What do you use to track your health?
Oura Ring, Polar Vantage V watch, and Strava.
What eating approach works for you?
I’ve pretty much always followed the Mediterranean diet. I haven’t eaten red meat in over 30 years. I prefer home-cooked meals over restaurant food because I know exactly what I’m putting into my body. I aim for simple, natural meals and believe that eating shouldn’t be a source of stress.
What moment in your life best captures ‘sisu’?
During the 2016 season, I lost confidence. I contemplated not competing at Worlds and hanging my bike in the garage. I did a lot of soul-searching and ultimately decided that I wasn’t ready to give up. After that, I won the Worlds and I got myself a small tattoo that says ‘Perseverance’. It’s there to remind me that I’m a fighter and I will persevere no matter what comes on my way.
What’s your biggest claim to fame?
I won a 1-liter beer mug holding contest against grown, fit men at a friend’s Oktoberfest party. I think I pulled a rotator cuff muscle but what girl wouldn’t for that satisfaction? :)