Becoming a competitive athlete with a passion for multi-sport endurance racing has been a welcome journey for me. Until 18 months ago, my participation in triathlon was little more than a coping device as I struggled to gain the confidence to leave a destructive, 12-year marriage. I needed a goal to become better than what I had been teaching my kids, so I registered for Ironman Calgary 70.3 in 2014. As I trained, my confidence grew. I finished my college degree, and within one week of starting full-time work I was out on my own.

Crossing the finish line at Calgary 2014 was a life-changing moment. I knew that if I could finish that race, I could go for my dream: to compete in Ironman Kona one day. By spring 2015, I had lost 60 pounds from a starting weight of 212. In the season's first race, I took 5 minutes off my time from the previous year, finishing just seconds behind 3rd place in my age group. In July, I took my first 1st place AG finish and 3rd overall, qualifying for the National Championships. At Ironman Lake Tahoe, the last of the season's eight races, I placed 13th out of 90 and became a silver level All World Athlete, weighing 70 pounds less than I did a little more than a year earlier.

Triathlon has opened a new world of opportunity for me. Through triathlon, I've learned to expose my mind and body only to what will strengthen me. I chose to change my belief that "I am not good enough to be an athlete" to "I am an athlete, and I can win." The steps I took are ones that you too can take to improve your performance this year.

  • Step 1: Visualize, then verbalize your goals to yourself and those around you. Create attitude goals as well as nutritional goals. Be courageous enough to say that you are going to win. Sounds crazy, but this is how dreams come true! Express these goals only to those who will support you and help you reach them. Excellence cannot be achieved by one who doubts its possibility.

  • Step 2: Train your mind as well as your body. If you want to place in a race, claim it! Obtain a training plan, train consistently, but also listen to your body when it needs to rest and recover. Taking your training one day at a time leads to one week at a time, and this leads to race day. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it was completed above expectations!

  • Step 3: Eat right, hydrate right. You push your body to the max in training, so it's critical to eat nutritious, whole foods and replenish vitamins and minerals. A lean diet rich in vegetables and healthy proteins, with little to no sugar, gluten, or dairy, will provide the foundation necessary for improving your performance and staying healthy.

Complement your diet with high-quality supplements. Hammer Nutrition's Daily Essentials (Premium Insurance Caps, Race Caps Supreme, Mito Caps, and EndurOmega) are designed to help your body function at its best even after months of hard training. Also, remember that hydration is a substantial part of the optimal performance: Multiply your bodyweight times 0.5 for the number of ounces of water you need to drink daily.

  • Step 4: Fine-tune your fueling. Hammer offers an incredible selection of fuels and supplements for use before, during, and after training, including Hammer Gel, Perpetuem, Sustained Energy, HEED, and Hammer Energy Bar .After every workout, recover properly with a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein, within 1 hour after exercise. Recoverite contains the ideal 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein to replenish muscle glycogen while reducing muscle soreness.

Take time to learn about all of these products and how to use them. Utilizing Hammer's "Less is Best" philosophy results in phenomenal performances! It works! (Read How to Hammer and The 5 Secrets of Success for Endurance Fueling). Use trial and error until you find your perfect fueling plan. Hammer Nutrition client advisors are happy to help you dial in your product selection, calories, and overall plan.

  • Step 5: Stay on course on race day. Train using the same fuels and supplements you plan to use on race day. DO NOT CHANGE anything on race day. Just race and have fun!

Making these key changes this year will benefit your mind and body... and help you achieve success in your race season.