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From Couch Potato to Elite Athlete Using Sports Performance Training

November 16, 2023

Gabe D., who became an elite athlete using sports performance training.

If your body could talk, what would it say to you? That’s a question Gabe D. asks himself often these days. He started asking it seriously when he was 39 years old, overweight, out of shape, and spending too much time on the couch.

“My body was telling me it was time to make a change, and it would have to be something drastic with baked-in accountability,” says Gabe. “I was smoking cigars, drinking heavily, and looked and felt lousy.”

Determined to transform his life, health and fitness level, Gabe did something extreme. He signed up for an Ironman Triathlon, a long-distance race with a 2.5-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26-mile marathon run — all in one day. The race would take place on his 40th birthday in Portugal, his family’s native country, and he had just 10 months to train for it.

A Lofty Personal Goal

“I hadn’t been in a pool or on a bike in 25 years, and I rarely went for a run,” says Gabe, acknowledging the hard work ahead. “But I was determined to create a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life for myself, and it would start with consistent and dedicated training.”

Gabe began with walks, that turned to jogs, and eventually became runs. With poorly fitted sneakers and online programming that offered little direction and no real-time feedback, his body parts started to scream as the stressors compounded and training grew more strenuous.

“My hip, knee, ankle, and lower back all hurt, and I barely survived the race. I nearly finished dead last, in 15 hours and 57 minutes — just three minutes before they closed the course,” says Gabe. But this only fueled him. “I honestly loved the training so much because I found it cathartic and energizing. Even as I was hobbling through Portugal after the race, I knew I would do another one.”

Finding Professional Sports Medicine Help

To get through his next extreme race, Gabe would need proper coaching. He joined Paramount Multisport, a local triathlon club, which led him to Atlantic Sports Health exercise physiologist Cyndee Wong. She would begin by evaluating his cardiorespiratory fitness level, body composition and resting metabolic rate.

“Gabe wasn’t sure if he was training properly and he was looking for guidance to optimize his training with metabolic data,” says Cyndee. “We had six months to get Gabe ready for the Cayuga Trails — a 50-mile hilly trail run. “It would take thoughtful preparation for this level of intensity and duration.”

Sports Performance Testing

First, Cyndee tested Gabe’s VO2 max, the maximum rate of oxygen consumed during physical exertion. This cardiorespiratory fitness evaluation identified Gabe’s anaerobic threshold and determined his individualized heart rate training zones.

Next came a DEXA body composition analysis, an imaging test that shows the body’s lean mass and fat mass. With this information, athletes can make specific lifestyle changes to increase their lean mass and decrease their fat mass, all of which improves performance.

Lastly, Cyndee examined Gabe’s resting metabolic rate to determine his baseline caloric needs, as well as how his body uses fats and carbohydrates for energy. This helped him make informed decisions about his diet and training.

“I analyzed the results of Gabe’s tests and developed a training program to improve the efficiency of his training,” says Cyndee, noting that Gabe’s screenings were elective and not covered by insurance. “Gabe comes in annually for retests to measure his progress and implement changes based on the updated performance data.”

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

With the help of an enhanced data-driven training plan, Gabe improved his Ironman time by an hour and a half. He credits Cyndee and Atlantic Sports Health for getting him to a peak level of strength, endurance and health. Now, he is looking toward his 2024 race choice — the 340-mile Florida Xtreme Coast to Coast Triathlon.

“My body feels great,” says Gabe. “Now when pain or limitations creep up, I have practitioners and resources to turn to. I want to live to a functional 100 years old, so I’m always looking for ways to learn and improve. At 42, I can honestly say that I’m in the best shape of my life.”


Be Proactive About Your Health

Consider working with a sports physiologist to optimize performance via personalized training programs that enhance endurance, strength, and overall athletic capabilities.

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