Trailering Magazine Archives - Featured Articles
Fueling a Champion
Preparation, Determination and a Healthy Attitude You'd think finishing in first place is all about raw horsepower. But according to the six-time world champion jet skier, Christy Swaid (nee Carlson), it's more than that. Making the most out of your natural talent means, of course, tuning the body, but it also requires tuning the mind and soul.
And Christy would know. She started racing stand-up jet skis at age 15 and the very next year went pro, spending hours in racing competitions against pros from around the world at speeds exceeding 60 miles an hour. Indeed, that kind of activity requires skill. Lots of skill, but as already noted, there's more to it.
Christy's grandparents had owned a cafeteria in Chicago and food-good food-was always part of her family's breakfast-lunch and dinner table gatherings. Eating healthy was a part of their daily routine. It has carried into her success with personal watercraft racing and remains part of a new chapter in her biography.
It goes like this: After she retired from racing professionally, Christy moved to Alabama, got married in 2002 and settled down. No longer jumping wakes and rounding race courses at high speed, Christy's slower life provided a new point of view that she had been missing. It wasn't about her; it was about how poorly children eat at the dinner table, if they even sit at a dinner table and the complete lack of nutritional direction from parents.
Ever the racer on the water, she saw it this way: Your body is like a fine racing machine and should be given quality fuel to function well. The children, and the food the children ate, weren't doing that at all.
A recent statistic about her new hometown hit Christy hard. Alabama was among the worst in the country for the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and hypertension, ranking third in the nation. She and her husband, a neurosurgeon, discussed a potential plan for getting children (she now had two sons) off the path of disease and on to a journey of eating nutritional meals.
Christy launched the non-profit school-based curriculum HEAL(c) Alabama, which stands for Healthy Eating Active Living. And it's off to a great start. In its first year, the University of Alabama, Birmingham showed that 100% of the 5th grade students in the pilot program ate better and 75% improved fitness scores while over half lowered their body mass index, or BMI, verified by heart-rate monitoring and daily fitness logs.
The emphasis of her program is to change unhealthy behaviors by replacing them with good ones that are important to curb childhood obesity that can lead to psychological and social adversity. Safe, effective and fun activity is the best medicine, and early intervention is key.
with Christy Swaid:
TS: What brand of personal watercraft were you riding mostly? CS: Most of my career was with Kawasaki and I finished my career with Polaris.
TS: Did you do any special physical and mental exercises before competing? CS: On race day, I warmed my muscles up by stretching. That can be done by a five- minute jog, or even doing jumping jacks. Then do stretches of your hamstring muscle which is located on the back of your upper thigh. Even moving your shoulders will help a PWC rider feel more agile. Yoga is a great recovery exercise. Mentally, I visualized how I wanted to attack the track and handle the water conditions.
TS: How do you prepare yourself for going into turns at high speed? CS: The G-force you experience in corners is like doing a deep knee bend with 50 lbs of force pushing you down. The riders are bent over in a partial squat while supporting a wet helmet as they push into the turn and then pulling out of the turn. Every muscle in the body is engaged and the heart rates average at 80% of max and above for the entire time.
TS: If you could take one energy food with you on the water, what would it be? CS: It's easy to get dehydrated on the water, so a sports drink is a must. But for a quick power food item, it would be an energy bar. My stomach could not handle much food on race day so mashed sweet potatoes in a container did the trick.
TS: Do you see your children competing on the water like you did? CS: I can't wait to strap helmets on my boys and teach them to turn buoys on stand-up jet skis. I hope they take an interest. They are three and five, so it will be a few years.
TS: What three things would you teach your kids about winning and losing? CS: If my boys desire to compete, I hope to instill in them a sense of humility. Secondly, my coach always said if you do the homework, the test is easy. And thirdly, show respect and kindness to others even in the heat of the battle.
TS: What's the biggest challenge in getting youngsters to eat right? CS: My children are my greatest teachers. Getting them to avoid sugar and consume fresh fruits and vegetables is a daily chore. My best advice is to be persistent. Continually present healthy food items and insist on them taking a taste. Our boys are given a "special treat" only if they eat their healthy things first. It can be miserable at the dinner table because they rebel.
TS: How important is physical activity for children to fully develop? CS: Lack of exercise is not just an adult epidemic. Sixty minutes a day should be the minimum for a child. Accumulated physical activity, sustained quality aerobic activity and keeping the heart rate up are important. Intensity provides optimal disease prevention and increases oxygen flow to the brain, which enhances memory and learning.
Christy's Lunch Box for any Boat Sports drink with electrolytes and sodium--- Electrolytes and sodium are vital for nerve and muscle function. The body's supply of electrolytes and sodium gets depleted quickly while sweating in the heat and sun. While having fun outside, it is easy to forget to replenish our need for hydration, sodium and electrolytes. Everyone should be aware and consume a sports drink as well as water.
- - Peanut butter spread on apples or celery
- - Lean protein, lean dairy and baked sweet potatoes
- - Favorite Racing Fuel for a Champion
- - Turkey sandwich on whole grain
- - Raisins and carrots and celery sticks
- - Light ranch dressing for dipping
- - Trail mix without the added sugar
- - Water - more than usual!