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How a Paralympic Triathlete Stays Fit

Army veteran and bronze medalist Melissa Stockwell on her training routine, meal plan, and controlling a sweet tooth

Melissa Stockwell
Photo: Lisa Predko

This elite paratriathlete won bronze in 2016’s Paralympic Games in Rio and now aims to make the Tokyo 2020 team — never mind that the mother of two will be 40. And she takes others along for the ride, swim, and run: Dozens of members of the triathlon club for athletes with disabilities she cofounded and coaches, Dare2Tri, competed in the Chicago Triathlon this past weekend. Here’s how the Western Springs resident primes for the trio of sports.

Critical equipment

I’m a triathlete missing a leg; I have a ton of gear. My biking leg has an embedded cleat. My running leg has a J-shaped carbon-fiber foot. I love my bike — it’s a Trek Speed Concept, custom fit and painted red, white, and blue.

Self-control tip

I have a horrible sweet tooth. I love anything chocolate, especially Kit Kat and Twix. We have one place in a high cabinet with dessert-type stuff. I have to work to get to it.

Injury-prevention strategy

I frequent Edge Athlete Lounge in West Town as much as I can. They have recovery boots that inflate and pump out lactic acid, hot and cold tubs you can jump in, and a sports chiropractor.

Travel essentials

I travel for racing and training probably five, six times a year. Water is key—I stay hydrated. And I pack an orange, banana, or RXBar so I don’t grab the nearest candy bar at the airport. When I arrive, I find a grocery store and stock up on yogurt, fruit, peanut butter, and bagels.

Training routine

I train 10 or 11 hours a week. I drop the kids off at daycare, and three times a week I hit the pool to swim for 3,000 meters. I come home and maybe get a little bit of strength work—arms, core, stretching, that type of thing. After sending some emails, updating my blog, or running errands, I have a second workout, which could be an hour-and-a-half-long bike ride outside that leads into a half-hour or hour run.

Eating plan

I start the morning off with some sort of cereal or bagel. Then, after I work out, typically I eat avocado and eggs and a piece of toast. Lunch is some kind of turkey or ham sandwich, almost always with avocado and pickles, and some Greek yogurt—I like Chobani. And then for dinner, we make big salads with cut-up veggies and steak or chicken, or maybe we grill and have corn on the cob or asparagus. Nutrition is something I am constantly working on, but it’s getting better.

Race-day talisman

My son is really into dinosaurs. A few races ago, I found a mini dinosaur of his in my tri bag. Now it’s my good-luck charm.

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