Episode 17 - Athlete Spotlight: From beginner to 2 x Ironman finisher with Bec Baird

Athlete Spotlight: From beginner to 2 x Ironman finisher with Bec Baird

Bec is my longest-standing client, ever! We’ve been working together since 2015 and I felt like she needed her very own spot on the podcast to live on forevermore.

I also thought it would be interesting to hear from another athlete like you about her experience and what’s evolved over time with her nutrition as her triathlon journey has evolved.

When she first decided to get a Sports Dietitian in her corner, she was brand new to the wonderful world of triathlon. Over the years she’s built her way up through the distances from Sprint and Olympic, building to 70.3 and then competing in not 1 but 2 Ironmans! She now competes in an endurance sport of a different kind, motherhood! With some more big goals on the horizon for the years ahead. 

Bec gives some great insight into what life was like before seeing a Sports Dietitian and some of her mistakes. Along with some of her key learnings to optimise her nutrition over the year. 

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Episode Transcription

Episode 17 - Athlete Spotlight: From beginner to 2 x Ironman finisher with Bec Baird

Taryn Richardson  00:00
Today's episode is with one of my longest standing clients, Rebecca. I had to go back and check, but we've worked together since 2015 and from a nutrition perspective, we've been through a lot. I feel like she deserves an official spot on the podcast to live on forevermore. I also thought it'd be really interesting to hear from another athlete, just like you, about her experience and what's evolved over time with her nutrition as her triathlon journey has evolved too.

Bec lives in Mackay. It's a hot and humid city on the coast in the middle of Queensland. She's a single Mum to Roy who's two and a half and is absolutely hooked on this wonderful sport of triathlon. You can show her some love and support over on her Instagram account @bec_baird. She's a great case study and has beautiful insight into all the facets of life that can be maximised with the power of proper nutrition.

Taryn Richardson  00:56
Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast, the show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian, and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy to digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Taryn Richardson  01:38
Alrighty, welcome to the podcast Bec.

Bec Baird  01:40
Hey, thanks for having me.

Taryn Richardson  01:42
I'm so excited that you're here. I'd really love athletes to hear from you, as one of them and get some insight into what your journey has been like over the last five, six, how many years?

Bec Baird  01:53
2015, so what's that? Six years or so?

Taryn Richardson 

Yeah. Wow, time flies when you're having fun. I think you're a really good case study and I'd like to highlight some of the things that we've worked on over the last six years and also the cool things that you're doing in your life. So how do you actually pay for your triathlon habit?

Bec Baird  02:13
I'm a podiatrist. So for those playing along at home, that's feet, not kids. Graduated in 2010 and began working in 2011 at a private practice in Mackay and I've been there ever since.

Taryn Richardson  02:25
Wow, that's one way to pay the bills. So you are my longest standing client. So I feel like you need some air space on the podcast. I've seen you since 2015. I had to go back and have a look at my notes and see when we actually started our journey together. But we've gone from you wanting a meal plan and needing to understand how you balance netball training and starting to build into the lovely world of triathlon. Your original meal plan has my original logo on it, it’s proper old school. It's been so long that you actually had a different last name back then. I think we started working together before you got married and that was at the very start of your triathlon journey when you're just trying to balance that with working and netball and not really sure if triathlons your sport yet or if netball is still the sport for you.

Bec Baird  03:17
Yeah, I was playing local netball. I was actually coaching local netball, too, and then trying to fit in triathlon training around that and working full time. So I had a lot going on. I like to do all the things. So yeah.

Taryn Richardson  03:30
Most triathletes do. They like to do all the things all at once.

Bec Baird 
That’s definitely me

Taryn Richardson 
So when you started you were starting with the shorter distance stuff sprint and Olympic distance and over the years, you've built yourself into 70.3 and not one but two Ironman events.

Bec Baird  03:45
Yeah, so I kicked off with Mooloolaba triathlon in 2015 and then Noosa that same year. And then yeah, I sat down and said, what's next? And I guess, typical triathlete always wanting to go a bit bigger and better. And yeah, did a 70.3 crossed that finish line. Thought what's next? I'll come back and do the Ironman. Yeah, and then did another Ironman. So yeah.

Taryn Richardson  04:07
And now you're doing an endurance sport of a different kind. We went from not having any babies not having any family not being married to going through pregnancy, having little Roy and then the breastfeeding journey off the back of that as well.

Bec Baird  04:21
Yeah, that was a whole new experience. I wasn't the best pregnant person. I didn't enjoy not being in control of my body I suppose. The little people kind of dictate that from the minute they hang around. Yeah, and then breastfeeding, that was a whole new ballgame. I'm quite flat chested as person, so I had to get used to having boobs too so that was fun. Yeah, but Roy, he was great. It all happened. So I was able to tick all the boxes and still be a triathlete, still be a Mum and yeah.

Taryn Richardson  04:47
Forever the high achiever. But now we're working on getting you know life back, getting the body back, getting your health back on track, post-baby and into some more crazy stuff again.

Bec Baird  04:55
Yeah. So it's been a bit of an interesting couple of years. I had Roy and then six months later, my marriage ceased to exist, I suppose. So I had to get my head around that. Going back to work full time. Triathlon very much was a coping mechanism for me. So just picking events and things to do. And then we had the pandemic hit. Yeah, it was a big couple of years. But I'm on the other side of it now. And yeah, seem to be planning more crazy things.

Taryn Richardson  05:19
So what events have you got planned over the next maybe one to two years?

Bec Baird  05:24
Moo Tri next year in March, maybe stepping into the ultra-running scene. So that 50km distance, maybe 100k. I like goals that kind of scare me and I'm more of a cyclist than what I am a runner. So the idea of running a really long way terrifies me. But I think that's the kind of goal I need to chew on next. So yeah, that, doing a bit of local bike racing and triathlons next year, and then hopefully back into the full Ironman distance in 2023. So we'll see how that goes.

Taryn Richardson  05:55
Sounds fun. Sounds like you've got a lot on the cards for the next couple of years. And I love that you use triathlon as your release too like particularly being a single Mum now working full time, you know, sometimes you need to do things for yourself.

Bec Baird  06:09
Oh, totally. Sports have always been my coping mechanism. It's just part of me. I just love it and I spoke to a few people in the process of my separation with my husband and they told me to pick some goals. So sports have always been a big goal. So yeah, picked a triathlon, trained for that. And I just make it work. I just get on the trainer while Roy's asleep. I get on my bike once a fortnight when he's with his Dad. I run, I push him in the pram. He's nearly 16kg now, so running is very much a strength thing for me at the moment. But he loves it, he sits there, and he waves and says hello to everyone, he's been doing it for the last nearly two years. So he's a real pro.

Taryn Richardson  06:49
That's great Bec. It's good that you can do something for yourself. It makes you be a better mother.

Bec Baird  06:55
Oh, I think so. I think if I can fit a session in, I come back, you know, it releases all those happy endorphins. And yeah, Roy, he's really fun. And he's really sporty, too. He loves football, actually. So I think when he's a bit older, I'll probably lose my weekends to carting him around to sport, but you tend to lose yourself a bit when you become a Mum, you have to find yourself all over again. And I'm not the athlete I was before I had him, but I'd like to think I'm new and improved.

Taryn Richardson  07:21
And you're a great role model for him too, seeing mum be active and doing things for yourself. That's going to make him be a better person as well.

Bec Baird  07:28
I hope so.

Taryn Richardson  07:29
So let's take a step back down memory lane back into 2015. What made you decide to invest in a sports dietitian all those years ago?

Bec Baird  07:37
I had trained for Moo Tri. And I had no coach, I had no idea what I was doing. I just had this rough training plan. I wouldn't call it a total disaster. But I was so tired. I was falling asleep on the way to work. It's about a 20-minute drive to work, give or take the traffic. And I was going over this one hill and I was falling asleep and like, oh, it's only 7:30am. I shouldn't be falling asleep after this. I managed to do okay in the race. I didn't eat anything during the race either. I'm like, Oh, I'm only going to be out there for three hours max, hopefully, and it was about three hours and two minutes. I still remember that. I finished and it was great. And I kind of got back I was like, ah, probably should get a coach now because that was three hours, I wonder what I could do if I actually had a clue of what I was doing.

Bec Baird  07:37
So yeah, I got a coach. And then I was reading a blog post about another triathlete and how she'd been training for ages, and she put on weight while she was training all this volume, thought she was eating okay, and she'd written that she'd been to see her friend Taryn at Dietitian Approved. She managed to lose weight, she fuelled properly she had, yeah, ticked all these boxes and was feeling a lot better. So I thought, Oh, well, if it's good enough her, it's good enough for me. And also working at Allied Health. I'm a big believer myself of having a team of people surround you. So I decided to build my team and I got my coach, and I booked an appointment with you. And the rest is probably history really.

Taryn Richardson  09:00
Wow, that seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? But we've achieved so much together in that time.

Bec Baird 
Oh totally

Taryn Richardson 
So what are some of the biggest mistakes that you were making with your nutrition before you got some sports dietitian advice? So you look back maybe 10 years ago and think ‘God why the hell was I doing that’?

Bec Baird  09:19
Under fuelling, big time. Previously, I've used Weight Watchers and was counting points to lose weight and that was manageable with netball. But once I stepped up into triathlon, it just did not cut the mustard at all. So yeah, I'd say not eating enough and not eating the right things at the right time for what I was doing during my week.

Taryn Richardson  09:38
You're not alone with that. Most athletes do the same things. It's one of the first things I do with people is actually get them to eat better or fuel better to perform at the ability that their body is able to do.

Bec Baird  09:51
Yeah, I still remember I would do netball training and then I would coach directly afterwards and in my meal plan, you've got you need to eat something here. And then you go home and have your dinner because you're doing this tomorrow. And you need to be fuelled for that. And yeah, it was eating a lot more food than what I thought I needed to eat. But it definitely worked.

Taryn Richardson  10:10

You're not alone in thinking like that. A lot of people come in and are under fuelling, and particularly from the dieting mentality. We always have this scale back, scale back, scale back mentality. It comes from dieting culture like we always try and scale back our nutrition because we're always trying to drop body fat, but often eating a little bit more, can actually help you to train harder, burn more calories, and then have less snackcidents later on as well.

Bec Baird  10:38
Yeah, I was really tall for my age when I was younger, and I was always a bit bigger and taller than all the other girls and I didn't look like any of them. So I always felt that little bit bigger. And I guess genetically, I've got a really strong set of legs. And it's that saying you can either have quads or jeans and I definitely had quads and not jeans. So yeah, I suppose it's been something that I had battled with for a long time, the idea that I was overweight and looking back like I look at my photos, I'm like, Bec you are not fat. You've just got these strong legs that are probably designed for cycling. I'm a bit of a diesel engine. Once you get me started. I can go all day, I’m not built for speed, genetically ruled out from that. But yeah, I think it's embracing the body that I have and knowing what it can do now and essentially making it work for me.

Taryn Richardson  11:27
Maybe we should put you in track cycling.

Bec Baird  11:29
Maybe, I'm a bit terrified I'll try to pedal backwards and fall off or something though.

Taryn Richardson  11:35
It's a bit scary too if you're a Mum and you've got to go home and look after a little person, you can't do that with a broken leg or anything.

Bec Baird  11:40
No, not high on my list of things to do with a broken leg. I live in a two-storey house too. So that's probably not ideal either

Let me know if this sounds like you. Do you feel exhausted by the end of the training week? Do you crave sweets in the afternoon and feel like you need a nap? Training for three disciplines can be absolutely exhausting if you haven't dialled in your nutrition. It can be frustrating when you can't quite piece together the solid race performance you know you're capable of and confusing when there's so much information out there. But you're not sure what's the right method for you.

My goal for you is to unlock your true potential and feel like a supercharged triathlete, firing on all cylinders full of energy and not only smashing quality training sessions, performing in every race too. If you're finally ready to start nailing your nutrition, join a powerful community of like-minded athletes in the Triathlon Nutrition Academy Program. Head to dietitianapproved.com/academy to check it out now. For less than the cost of a coffee a day, you will finally have a plan for your nutrition instead of winging it and hoping for the best.

Taryn Richardson  12:51
So your biggest mistake was under fuelling and not eating the right things at the right time for the type of activity you're doing. What are some of the key things that you've learnt about optimising nutrition over the years?

Bec Baird  13:03
So something you bang on about a lot; periodisation and not eating the same thing every day. So if I know I've got a rest day, I definitely don't need to eat as much as a double session day. That changes again, if it was say Ironman training, having that really long ride, run off the bike, maybe fitting in a swim in the afternoon. That would be different again. Practising what I eat on the bike like eating while I was training, getting my head around all of that. They're probably the two biggest things that I've learned. Yeah, about optimising my nutrition.

Taryn Richardson  13:35
You've been known to take snacks and food for all your other bunchy mates on long rides on the weekends, haven't you?

Bec Baird  13:42
I have. I've still got a good friend. We did our first Ironman together and barbecue shapes was one of my snacks that I would take in my rolling buffet, and she still eats barbecue shapes on her long rides. Everyone was always marvelling how much food I ate, and I was like ‘No, it's 20 minutes in I have to start my banana now’. And right it's an hour in and this is how much I need to eat. I'm very good at sticking to plans. So yeah, always eating.

Taryn Richardson  14:05
Like most triathletes, you're good with a plan. A lot of triathletes have that type of personality where they like to follow things. That's why Training Peaks I think is so effective in this market because it goes green if you do everything. So it's good to try and set up meal plans and nutrition with that in mind knowing that if I give you something you're more likely just stick to it because you're a good client.

Bec Baird  14:27
Yeah, no I do like turning my training peaks green and with a little person that's at day-care constantly bringing homesickness, it was a bit of a struggle to get my head around some of those red weeks when day-care germs got a hold of me but learning to rest has been another skill I've had to learn. I can't keep pushing through.

Taryn Richardson  14:42
Especially when you're sleep-deprived. There's no point pushing yourself harder and harder in that type of mindset. And you body's not capable of that much when you are tired.

Bec Baird  14:52
No, and that was very early on. I was pretty lucky Roy was a really good sleeper. I knew when he was going to wake up. I'd feed him back to sleep. Pop him in the pram, we'd go for a walk. So I started squeezing in that exercise then but yeah sleeps still a precious commodity that I'll never take for granted again.

Taryn Richardson  15:09
No, neither. So what are some of your favourite things you like to take on long rides now?

Bec Baird  15:14
Oh, it's been a hot minute between long rides actually. I enjoy bananas, Megabake bars. If I'm having any kind of carbohydrate-based drink in my water bottle, I'll generally pick grape Gatorade. That's a favourite. I used to eat Vegemite sandwiches but at Ironman Cairns, they were part of my race nutrition plan and your Vegemite stacks, I was very over Vegemite by the end of my ride. It took me about two years to eat Vegemite again after that. So switched up my sandwiches and now I have a honey sandwich if I need to make it. Allen snakes, gingernut biscuits. Yeah, bars are easy sometimes.

Taryn Richardson  15:53
It's nice for other people to hear what you have during training because it doesn't always have to be sports drinks, gels, sports bars. You can have a variety of foods and fluids without sticking to commercial sports nutrition products all the time.

Bec Baird  16:07
I do prefer to make my own, I guess nutrition for that side of things. I know what's in it. And I'd prefer to know what's going into my body during all of that. So try and keep it as real as possible.

Taryn Richardson  16:18

So over the last six years, building your triathlon distances up from Sprint to Olympic distance, 70.3 and then not one, but two Ironman’s. What do you think has evolved most with your nutrition, as you've built your distances up for your events over time?

Bec Baird  16:35
I'd say I'm really good at planning now and prepping my meals and being organised with what I eat and when. So I sit down once a week and I write out what's for dinner. Every night I write out my shopping list. I do my online shopping order. I work out my snacks, the less I have to think about my day-to-day food consumption like I just do it once it's done. It's set. I modify if I need to, if I know I'm not going to get a certain training session in, I know I can alter that if I need to. But yeah, just planning and routine is probably the biggest thing that's evolved. I've always had a pretty good diet. So it's the preparation side of things for me that's evolved the most.

Taryn Richardson  17:15
Particularly being a single mom and working full time you have to be organised. You have to have those frameworks set up for you to eat well. Otherwise, shits going to hit the fan real quick.

Bec Baird  17:24
Yeah, so this weekend, my son Roy is with his dad. And this is my weekend to ride my bike outside and clean my bike and do all the cooking. So I think I might cook once a fortnight and the rest of it's just pulled out of the freezer reheated. And yeah, Roy has his own meal plan. He doesn't quite eat everything that I eat. So I kind of prep his food as well. It's always a bit of a rush when we get home in the afternoon. I don't finish work till a bit later. So his meals are ready to go as well.

Taryn Richardson  17:55
How old's Roy-boy these days?

Bec Baird  17:57
He's nearly two and a half.

Taryn Richardson  17:59
Time flies hey. I remember talking to about how to support breastfeeding with nutrition and being starving and tired and you know, time-poor and being unsure about what to put in your body because you were so hungry, but then also still feeding a little human that feels like yesterday that we did that.

Bec Baird  18:17
Yeah, that really wasn't that long ago, and I was just so hungry like that breastfeeding hunger is real and when it hits you at like 2am in the morning. What am I going to eat and you were like set up your snack station, have your water, it's all going to be there and that worked for me but yeah, knowing I had those choices and easy to grab choices too like nothing that, I was a bit time poor and as I said, I make a lot of things now but when you've got a three-month-old and you're sleep-deprived and you really don't feel like constructing a heap of food so yeah, I had my little snack station of pre-bought and packaged snacks and that worked well.

Taryn Richardson  18:53
You're like the model client Bec.

Bec Baird  18:54
I'm known as a bit of a golden-haired child in my training group actually. I can do no wrong. So I do like to do all the right things, I am paying for, and I do appreciate all the I guess the knowledge has been passed on, so I try to make I guess the most of it.

Taryn Richardson  19:09
Awesome. So what's evolved most for you is your organisational skills and knowledge when it comes to what to prep what to plan what to eat, because you are setting yourself up for success. You're looking after future Bec.

Bec Baird  19:23
Exactly. I set myself up for the week and the fortnight by cooking all those meals. I try to cook meals that I guess are from the Dietitian Approved recipe database and if it's a meal that serves six, happy days, I'll get that cooked. I package it up in my little containers and pop it in the freezer and yeah.

Taryn Richardson  19:41
So the recipe database for anyone that doesn't know is a whole database of over 120 recipes plus that I've personally developed and put together in a way that's formulated perfectly for active people, so they've got enough protein for recovery, the carbohydrates are scalable and of course, I'm a dietitian, so they're jam-packed with salads and vegetables and all those micronutrients that we tend to miss out on when we're busy triathletes. So if that's something that you're interested in, I'll pop the link in the show notes so you can go and check that out too.

So Bec do you have any advice for other athletes that haven't got a sports dietitian in their corner yet?

Bec Baird  20:20

It's well worth the investment. And this is where my inner health professional is going to come out as a podiatrist like most people see like dentists for their teeth and optometrists for their eyes and hairdressers for their hair etc. So why wouldn't you go see a sports dietitian for effectively your sports diet? I guess we spend all this other money, we get a coach, we do all these other things. You get a fast bike. You can really become unravelled if you don't have your nutrition right. So, to me, it's probably one of the bigger investments you can make in your triathlon journey, is getting your nutrition sorted because it makes such a big difference. And I've lived it over the last six years of doing this triathlon journey. You've pretty much been there from the start. So yeah, I've learnt a lot and I don't think I'd be the triathlete I am today and have had the success that I've had within my races if I hadn't ticked that box of getting my nutrition sorted.

Taryn Richardson  21:13
I couldn't have said that any better myself Bec. Well, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. I look forward to working with you over the next few years for all the crazy things that you want to do post baby and seeing what this body's capable of doing.

Bec Baird  21:27
It's been my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. You've got to see if you can get me to 50km Ultra running race, get me through that!

Taryn Richardson  21:36
Easy no pressure.


Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned. Email me at [email protected]. You could also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media at @dietitian.approved so I can give you a shout out too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smash it in the fourth leg - nutrition!

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