What It’s Like To Be A Professional Triathlete

  • By Jené Shaw
  • Published Jul 29, 2013
  • Updated Jul 21, 2015 at 3:36 PM UTC
Illustrations by Leigh Guldig.

On eating:

“I get asked all the time about what my eating habits are, and if I can eat anything I want, and if there are eating disorders in the sport, etc. My general feeling is that anorexia doesn’t exist in Ironman and 70.3, but it does in Olympic. I just think you couldn’t survive in Ironman or 70.3 by starving yourself, whereas nutrition isn’t as important or as essential of a part of Olympic-style racing. That being said, I think as professional athletes, whether triathletes or other, we all suffer from disordered eating. I try to eat balanced and healthy, but in race season I do restrict myself from indulging too much or too frequently. And when I look at my body weight fluctuations, in my post-season I completely indulge in pizza, burgers, beer, ice cream—whatever I want, whenever I want. I gain weight, I bloat, but it is all part of the mental and emotional and physical release for me. Then when I start training again, I go back onto a much healthier, cleaner and regimented diet and I lose that. I eat a lot, but it is just very clean, not processed—I take out all the fluff. I feel like this cycle isn’t necessarily as healthy as a constant, steady, balanced system, but it is also part of being a pro. Being as lean as possible without compromising power and speed is key. And focusing on eating foods that benefit us and help our training and racing is part of our job. But as sports go, when you look at the body types of most triathletes, we look healthy, and I feel that promotes a positive message to kids and adults alike. I like the fact that to be successful in this sport you have to eat to be able to manage the training load we do. I guess that is kind of a mixed message. Do we eat and eat a lot to train for 70.3 or Ironman? Yes, we do. But does that mean it is not without sacrifice? No it doesn’t, and for that reason I do think our eating patterns can be viewed as disordered.”

“Oh my God, eating is a nightmare. There are so many issues. Being lean and the vision of what that means. Also, it does improve performance, so you’re always conscious about what you’re eating. And as a girl, and as someone with an eating disorder when I was younger, it’s always there. But just the same as someone wouldn’t put the wrong program on their computer, I can’t put the wrong stuff in my body, and most people don’t get that.”

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FILED UNDER: Features / InsideTri

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw is a contributor for Triathlete magazine, a six-time Ironman finisher and a USAT Level 1 certified coach

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