How Olympian Gretchen Bleiler Found What Foods Work For Her + Why She Meditates Daily

Photo: Matt Power Photography for mindbodygreen

I’ve been an athlete my whole life—not just the 15 years I’ve spent as a professional snowboarder. I’ve been a swimmer, a soccer player, cross-country runner, ice hockey player—you name it, I’ve pretty much done it. Sports are how I’ve always felt most myself. It’s where all of my insecurities fall away and I’m just left with me and my goal of doing whatever I’m doing to the fullest because that’s also just who I am.

There are many elements in my life that #GOTOGETHER to allow for my ultimate performance—food being one of them.

How I Discovered My Ideal Diet

As an athlete training and competing at a high level I would hear, “You need to eat more meat” or, “carb load before a competition.” For years, I didn’t think twice. It was only as I neared the end of my career that I began to question what I had consistently been told.

I realized I had never tested what actually worked best for me. It didn’t make sense that the same diet would work for everyone given various body types, daily routines, and environmental factors.

I began to put myself—and my diet—through the paces. I tried the Paleo diet. I tried being a vegetarian. I tried only raw foods for a while. I realized it wasn’t about finding an extreme diet but rather consuming everything in moderation.

We’re all different, and I believe that who you are and where you live make up how you should form your optimal daily eating habits. Listen to your body. What makes you feel good? How much do you exercise? What sort of climate do you live in? What is your daily routine like?

Photo: Matt Power Photography for mindbodygreen

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What I Eat To Fuel My Active Lifestyle

I create my diet with a focus on vegetables in combination with strategically chosen proteins, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. I even splash in dairy here and there too. My diet is something that’s simple and I can stick to in everyday life, whether I’m at home or on the road.

I live in Aspen, Colorado. We have a short growing season, and it doesn’t make sense to attempt to eat only fruits and vegetables year-round. Meat protein has been a large part of the diet of people native to this part of the country for ages because we don’t have a year-round abundance of fruits and veggies.

Additionally, when I’m out on my snowboard, I’m always at a high altitude and often outside for many hours at a time physically exerting myself. I find I feel better and more equipped for these days if I incorporate plant-based protein or locally sourced meat into my diet, depending on what I crave.

Photo: Matt Power Photography for mindbodygreen

My Typical Day, From Fitness To Food

Almost every day, I’m outside and moving—whether that’s split boarding in the backcountry, cruising laps on the resort, practicing yoga, hiking with my dog, or surfing in the summer. My activity often lasts for a lot longer than I expected when I first set out.

For this reason, I always keep homemade trail mix in my coat pockets. I love to chop up a bar—the GOLEAN peanut hemp crunch is great. The crunch from the hemp seeds adds a nice texture and is packed with protein, and I like that hemp is a common crop here in Colorado—and then I throw in some coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, and goji berries. This is a trail mix combo with ingredients that #GOTOGETHER perfectly for optimal taste and fuel that powers me when I’m outside and on the go.

Another quick and easy midafternoon snack that I like to have on hand after getting back from the mountains is plain Greek yogurt topped with GOLEAN Clusters Vanilla Pepita cereal, blueberries, and local honey. The combination of plant proteins from the pea crisps and red bean flakes in the cereal nicely complements the dairy protein in the yogurt.

Photo: Matt Power Photography for mindbodygreen

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How I Find Balance Daily

I believe that what we put into our bodies is a huge part of living a happy and balanced life. The biggest tool that I use for this is meditation! Through meditation, I’ve been able to shift from a reactionary, fight-or-flight mode, to a place of relaxation, clarity, and wholeness. Only from this place of wholeness can we really understand what our bodies truly need. What I’ve learned is that diet and meditation are two key elements of my life that #GOTOGETHER to fuel my active lifestyle.

I practice a mantra-based meditation technique because you don’t need anything other than your commitment and a comfortable place to sit. Here are my simple tips for meditating with a mantra, a practice that can help lead you to more clarity, balanced days, and the ability to find your own perfect eating habits.

Photo: Matt Power Photography for mindbodygreen

5 Steps To Practice Mantra-Based Meditation

Mantra-based meditation is not about not having thoughts; it’s about the attention that you give to your thoughts. During this meditation, commit to placing your attention and awareness on the sound of your mantra. A universal mantra I like to use is “So Hum.”

Let’s begin.

  1. Determine the length of your meditation. For beginning meditators, I recommend trying to meditate for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day. When you get comfortable with this, try 20 minutes and then 30 minutes twice a day.
  2. Find a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and begin to witness your breath without altering it in any way.
  3. Once you’ve gotten to a place where you can effortlessly witness, listen for the sound of your breath. After a minute or two of listening, link up the sound “So” with your inhale and “Hum” with your exhale.
  4. Now you are meditating on your mantra!
  5. Whenever you become aware that your attention has drifted away from “So Hum,” choose to return to the mantra. Thoughts, sounds, or discomfort are all things that may distract you from the mantra. If your body is uncomfortable, move into a position in which you are comfortable again, and then go back to listening for the sound of your mantra. Similarly, if you become aware that you are focusing on your thoughts or a sound in the room, let it go and simply return to the sound of your mantra.

At first, this process may feel uncomfortable simply because it’s new, but do the best you can! It’s important not to judge yourself or your practice. When you commit to consistent practice, you will notice a difference in how your comfort with stillness changes.

In no time, you’ll find that a healthy meditation practice, balanced diet, and active lifestyle #GOTOGETHER to create the best life for you!

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