Thursday, May 18, 2006

Big Weights and Ultra Marathons: My Heroes

As athletes, Melanie Roach and Brendan Brazier don't have much in common. Melanie is an elite 53 kg (116 lb) US weightlifter and Brendan is a 76 kg (165 lb) Canadian triathlete and ultra-marathoner. Melanie is a petite (former gymnast) powerhouse, with several children, making a fabulous return to international competition after 6 years off. Brendan is a lanky, endurance machine, making waves in the health and fitness industry with his whole food philosophy (and products) for athletes.

In my world, these individuals are terrific role models for life and health.

Melanie is a fabulous example for all women and girls that strong, powerful woman can be smart, feminine and even a mom! She just captured the bronze medal for the US at the 2006 Pan American Championships--after 6 years away from her sport! Melanie is one of the few women in this country who has clean and jerked over twice her bodyweight; she can squat almost three times her bodyweight. Her bone density is off the scales. She keeps her back pain at bay with consistent, appropriate training and great mechanics.

No one has to train as hard as Melanie does; but few women are encouraged to truly learn and do ANY mildly intense weightbearing activities. Our culture has all sorts of negative stereotypes that discourage women and girls from participating in these activities. I'm out to change that.

Brendan is a great example of a high-caliber athlete who eats a whole-food, plant-based diet. May 12 he captured the Canadian 50 km Ultra-Marathon championship in 3:10, breaking his old record. He is living proof that a plant-based diet is compatible with very intense athletic endeavors. He is also working to help educate others through his books, talks and VEGA products. Check out his website here (you can find his blog under the NEWS heading). Brendan is thoughtful and not just out to make money. Earlier this month, he testified before a US Congressional panel on the importance of educating young people on making good food choices.

Again, no one has to eat just like Brendan to gain health or improve performance. But our culture has very negative stereotypes of vegans and vegetarians as pathetic, unathletic weaklings. We are discouraged from eating better by aggressive marketing and biased science (studies supported by various food industries) that feeds us false information. I'm out to help change that too.

There are no big secrets to outstanding physical health and athletic performance. It takes knowledge, discipline and hard work. Short cuts via pharmacology and technology (machines) are poor substitutes. Optimal physical health requires an understanding that we must work WITH nature to bring out our physical best--we stress the body and allow it to recover. Keep it simple and remember the body must always work within the context of the world it evolved.

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