There are few people on the planet as fit as ultra-distance endurance athlete Rich Roll. Even among the elite, disciplined cadre of Ironman athletes, Rich sets new precedents for endurance challenges. Men's Fitness magazine named him one of the "25 Fittest Guys in the World" -- and he made PETA's list of "Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrities." Earlier this year, Rich and Jason Lester completed the EPIC 5 Challenge: 5 Ironman-distance triathlons on 5 Hawaiian islands in less than a week. Rich has been a top finisher at the Ultraman World Championships, a 3-day, 320 mile double-Ironman distance triathlon on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Although Rich's athletic achievements are remarkable, the story of his journey to healthier living is even more inspiring. On his 40th birthday, at fifty pounds overweight and out-of-shape, Rich took a self-inventory and wasn't satisfied. His milestone birthday triggered Rich to overhaul his diet and transform his mind and body. Whether you are looking to make small changes in your life (maybe you need motivation to skip Happy Hour and make it to the gym) or your self-assessment requires a more radical life transformation, you will be inspired by Rich's journey of change, transformation, and fulfillment.
MindBodyGreen: At age 40, you made a drastic life style change and decided to train for the Ultraman Hawaii. What lead to this decision?
Rich Roll: Turning 40 is just of those benchmarks that compels you to take inventory of your life. Are you happy? Do you have regrets? What is missing? For me, I had become terribly unfit and 50 pounds overweight. I had one of those rare moments in life where I knew I needed to change and was blessed with the willingness to take action. I had no master plan and everything unfolded very gradually and organically (pardon the pun). With my wife’s help, I did a 7 day fruit and vegetable cleanse, which was amazing and began my journey. I followed this up with a vegetarian diet. However, I was quite uneducated about what I was doing and experienced no increase in my energy levels and remained unable to lose any weight. I realize in retrospect this was likely to all the pizza, cheese, dairy and refined / processed foods I continued to eat. I was ready to throw in the towel and return to my old ways, but decided I would take a chance on an entirely plant based vegan diet. In other words, I cut the dairy and processed foods from my diet. I never imagined myself going vegan, but I was half-way there, so I took the ball across the goal-line so to speak.
At the time, I had no grand designs on overhauling my life – it was almost to prove that it wouldn’t work. But much to my amazement, within the next 7-10 days I experienced a tremendous surge in my energy levels. It was as if I never realized I could feel this good. I started working out again, mostly because I needed an outlet for all this new found energy. Then came the search for a goal. I have always been very goal oriented and was looking for a challenge. Like many, I thought about attempting an Ironman. But I was quite ignorant about triathlon and didn’t realize that these races sell out a year in advance. I didn’t want to wait a full year. It was then that I came across an article about Ultraman Hawaii. Ultraman is a 3 day double Ironman distance triathlon that circumnavigates the entire Big Island of Hawaii. On Day 1 you swim 6.2 miles followed by a 90 mile bike. On Day 2, you bike 170 miles. Day 3 is a 52.4 mile run. Of course it sounded impossible. But there was just something about it that fascinated me and captured my imagination. Not just the distance, but the fact that it struck me more as a spiritual odyssey more than a race. Something clicked inside me and I just knew I had to do it.