February 28, 2023

Finding Balance between sport and my diet, or more specifically what I was ingesting, became a huge part of my life at a very impressionable time. It was throughout my grade 11 year of high school that I began to realize my dreams as an athlete, the person I wanted to be, and what I wanted from my future. At the time, they were to be the best I could be for whatever sports season was coming up next, and work towards getting to play football for a post-secondary team somewhere in Canada.

Early on in my grade 12 year, I fell into “the right crowd”. There was a student a year older than myself who really sparked my dedication to sport. I understood the concept of training hard in the offseason, but it was in watching him that I learned the body, life, and mindset dedication to being my best athletically. During the winter and spring of that school year, I trained with him and 3 others for a 4x400m relay team, coached by the most incredible person I have ever met in my life. By “the right crowd” I mentioned, this is them. Four others who were ready to fully commit to an all out dedication to training for that upcoming track and field season, coupled with the support of an indescribably incredible person (coach).

From this older student, I learned a concept that stuck with me to this day and set the mindset for years of success. At some point he said to me, “If whatever you’re doing the night before is affecting your training the next day, then you shouldn’t be doing it”. Pretty black and white, and the context was geared towards drinking, but I took that  logic and applied it to my diet, sleep, and hydration as well. I turned that saying into a more general question that I could check in with myself on; “Is this helping me (achieve my goals)?”. This lead me on a path of a relatively dry journey through college, university, and beyond. As I said, this atmosphere was around me at a time in my life when I was discovering me. It was easy to incorporate this mentality into a relatively blank slate, especially when my closest friends were doing the same.

I continued my journey through college and university without a lot of drinking. It was impossible to justify in season, and out of season a Saturday night spent drinking would have a negative effect on my recovery and ability to train in the upcoming week. Lack of sleep, anti-hydration, and occasionally a loss of appetite the day after. However, my choosing to not drink throughout those years resulted in the accidental decision to not socialize. I skipped team outings and countless more casual evenings because I didn’t want to drink. When I did go, I was having to turn down the onslaught of offers to join someone for a drink, or to defend myself against the all too common question; “where’s your drink?”. In my mind at the time, the alternative to not going out was to follow the herd. So the choice was clear and obvious. Don’t go. (Yes, there are feelings of regret).

I have since found more of a balanced path. It’s easier now though, because those who have been around me for years have come to expect my not drinking, and those that are new to my life or I am meeting for the first time are far more accepting of my decision. The ease of the latter didn’t come until people were able to justify my decision in their own minds. Usually with something to do about me playing in the CFL or being an Olympic athlete. Occasionally they even assume my response before I can tell them. But this ease of response didn’t occur until I had achieved this “status” of two sport pro athlete.

Ideally the understanding would have occurred long before achieving my goal, and hopefully the type of goal (or reasoning) becomes irrelevant to the public for those wishing to make a similar decision, finding their balance.