Feature by Chelsea Howard
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania, February 13.AS a competitive athlete at the Olympic level, it's common to be aware of a healthy diet and knowing basic nutrition. Garrett Weber-Gale however, took nutrition to a whole new level after he was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2005.
Weber-Gale took the diagnosis as an opportunity to make a life-style change concerning his diet. He became the co-founder of the blog AthleticFoodie, a business intended to be a consulting and "go to" resource for healthy living, hoping to spread the word about proper nutrition.
"Changing my diet helped me realize the difference nutrition had on me and the difference in how it made me feel during the day and in the pool. I wanted to make it a mission to help others and inform them that they can experience some of the same differences I was experiencing." Weber-Gale said.
In addition, Weber-Gale gives talks, teaches healthy cooking classes at grocery stores like Whole Foods, has developed "AthleticFoodie Minutes" airing in Wisconsin, and also developed "Nutrition for Performance" for SwimOutlet.
Weber-Gale has used the education he is sharing with others to make changes to his diet and is applying it to how he eats around his swimming schedule.
"Focusing on what foods I'm eating and when I eat them has made a huge difference with how I feel when I swim. It's the little things that add up. I know foods high in sugar shouldn't be eaten right before practice. Foods from natural sources, like mangos, should be eaten right after practice in order to replace the glycogen lost," Weber-Gale said.
Knowing that he has inspired and changed many lives through advocating a healthier lifestyle is one of the most rewarding experiences of what he does, Weber-Gale said.
"In 2009, a man thanked me and said I helped him live a healthier life. He said he lost 65 pounds. It's a huge deal knowing you've inspired someone that much and knowing I've helped people begin to live longer lives. It's an amazing way to be able to give back," Weber-Gale said.
There's always ways Weber-Gale could have given back, but the level he is at with swimming has enhanced his voice.
Weber-Gales swimming accomplishments has allowed him to give back in ways he never thought he could.
"I could have found ways to give back, but swimming gave me a platform and credibility that people would listen to me," Weber-Gale said.
Weber-Gale competed for the University of Texas between 2003 and 2007 and was the NCAA Division I Champion in the 100y freestyle in 2006.
His success didn't stop there as he continued his career past the collegiate level. He was a member of arguably the best relay in the history of swimming. He was a member of the gold medal winning 4x100m freestyle relay in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, which feature an epic anchor leg from Jason Lezak. This relay team received numerous awards, including honors from ESPY's and Golden Goggles.
Weber-Gale took his experiences from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to grow and learn as he prepares for the 2012 London Olympics.
"The 2008 Beijing Olympics was amazing yet disappointing at the same time. I swam fast on the relays, but would have liked to have done better individually. I used that disappointment as fuel and motivation in my training and moving forward," Weber-Gale said.
Moving beyond disappointments, Weber-gale says is a crucial part of the sport.
"One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that disappointments along the way are important. It gives you perspective and keeps you going to overcome it. Once you've gotten past disappointment, it makes success and triumph that much sweeter," Weber-Gale said.
In the months leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, Weber-Gale has not changed much in his training compared to any previous year.
"After every season I evaluate what has worked and what hasn't worked and make adjustments from there. I know I've done a lot of things right along the way so I'm just adding on to that," Weber-Gale said.
Weber-Gale advises that a balance in goals is essential to keep the swimmer on track yet not discourage them from their ultimate goals.
"It's important to set big goals that are exciting and a stretch, but also have smaller goals along the way that help boost confidence and help the swimmer stay on track. The swimmer has to be able to manage their expectations, not letting them get too high or too low," Weber-Gale said.