Lauren Goss was a casual runner and former swimmer when an encounter with a sober triathlete at a bar struck her interest in a new sport. She competed in her first sprint triathlon in college and has been hooked ever since. Now, she’s a professional triathlete living and training in Boulder.
She just won the 2017 Escape from Alcatraz triathlon on June 11 and then raced two more weekends in a row (placing highly in both). Lauren finds success by prioritizing overall health and balance, which is great. She shared her story about becoming an elite triathlete, how she’s managed to avoid any serious injuries in her career, and how she deals with pressure.
How and when did you get into triathlon?
I discovered triathlon in 2009 during college. I was out at a bar one evening for a friend’s birthday and I met a guy who was not consuming any alcohol. I went up to him and asked him why he was not drinking and he told me it was because he was training for an Ironman. At that time I had no idea what triathlon or Ironman were. I was immediately intrigued because I grew up swimming and I casually ran 3 miles a day in college. I signed up for a sprint race and bought a bike and have been hooked ever since.
Have you faced injuries? How did you get through them mentally?
I have been fortunate enough to never have a severe injury. I had plantar fasciitis in 2014 but I was still able to race and train with some pain. I credit my health to not paying attention to calories, staying on top of strength training and weekly body work.
How did you decide to pursue triathlon professionally?
I qualified to race professionally three times in 2009/10. Once I graduated from Clemson in December of 2010 I decided to give triathlon 1 year and see what happens. I took the GRE and had been accepted into Physician Assistant programs but I wanted to defer that and see what the triathlon thing was all about. My parents were originally not on board but they gave me their blessing anyways. Well, it is now 2017 and I am still running around in a bathing suit for a living. I will say I am realistic about sport though and when the day comes that I am not making a decent living doing it then I will walk away and pursue a new career.
What measures do you take to stay healthy? How do you recover?
I don’t think there is a secret about staying healthy. Women often think being skinny translates to being fast. Fortunately, I went through an eating disorder when I was 15-18 and I saw what it did to my body, my mental state, and to my family. I was able to overcome my illness with a new relationship towards food and eating in general. I know I need to properly fuel my body to train and race at the level I want to be at. I credit my health to having a balanced diet and also knowing when to back off in training if I feel a niggle coming on. I wouldn’t say I am very crazy about training, I don’t mind being lazy sometimes and taking time for myself. I think that balance is important to find in any elite sport.
What is your weekly training like?
January-April are pretty consistent for me with minimal travel so I can get a good base in for the upcoming season. During a typical week I do 5 swims, 5 bikes, 5 swims, and 2 strength and conditioning sessions. Two of the swims are pretty hard and the other 3 are aerobic. We do 1 long bike ride that is 3h30, 2 rides with intervals and 2 easy recovery spins. On the run I have a speed workout, tempo workout, long run and 2 recovery runs. Now that it is summer I am traveling a lot for races so I usually do a racing block followed by a 3 week training block of the above and then I cycle through that until late November.
Tell us about your plant-based diet! How do you fuel for hours of training per day being totally plant-based?
In July of 2016 I decided to stop consuming dairy, red meat, pork and chicken. So basically I was eating fish, eggs, grains, fruits, and vegetables. And honestly, I did this because I read a book that discussed E-coli and went into depth about what goes on in the meat industry.
I was disgusted and really never wanted to touch the stuff again. In January I decided that I wanted to go full on vegan. I did some research and honestly I do not believe my body needs animal products to perform. I have always struggled with sleep and since adapting a plant based diet my sleep has improved immensely.
I never feel bloated, I have a ton of energy, and my training and racing have been great. I will say I have to really pay attention to what I am putting in my body and make sure I am getting the nutrients I need.
I enjoy this though because it has forced me to branch out when it comes to food choices. The thing that bothers me the most is the question “where do you get your protein?”. I get protein from plants, legumes, and grains.
The same place cows and gorillas get their protein. I really hate the stigma attached with my diet choice. People are quick to judge and that is the most disappointing thing. Animals are not the only source of protein. People are not educated enough though to know that there are so many options without consuming animals.
What is your biggest piece of advice to athletes for staying healthy and achieving long term goals?
Everyone has to find what works for them individually. I don’t think there is a cookie cutter plan that will work for every athlete. Since the first day I started triathlon I was getting massage every week. I think body work is important no matter how much it costs.
Overtraining can also be something that kills a career. Like I mentioned before, I find time to treat myself and step away from sport. It is important to have a good balance but also have your goals in sight. When my mind OR body feel overwhelmed I get out of town and leave sport behind so I can reset. Recognizing when to take breaks is important instead of just banging your head against the wall doing the same things over and over when tired.
Do you feel a lot of pressure about performing well and does it ever affect your races or training?
As I get better in triathlon and accumulate more results I feel less pressure to perform. At the end of the day I am healthy, happy, and I have a great life. When I feel pressure coming or get frustrated I step back and remember that really no one cares about my individual results except myself.
I try not to be too hard on myself and just take the highs and lows as they come. This rollercoaster of feelings, emotions, and results is what gets me out of bed everyday to pursue this crazy sport. The most rewarding part of it all is simply being an inspiration to at least 1 other person to have a healthy lifestyle.
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