I’ll Have A No. 3 Please, With A Side Of Broccoli

Jan 10, 2012 - 5:26 AM
Riders (from left) Hannah Sue Burnett, Sinead Halpin and Tiana Coudray participated in fitness tests at the 2011 Rolex Kentucky CCI****. Photo by Tik Maynard.

About three months ago, I was walking down the grocery aisle with my über-healthy, vegetarian pentathlete boyfriend when he asked me, “If you knew that eating healthy and working out more would get you closer to an Olympic medal, would you start at least eating your greens?”

I am my father’s daughter. We like good meat, plenty of potatoes and could eat red velvet cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I remember my mom sending Dad and me to the grocery store when I was still quite young. Let’s just say, that was the last time she ever dispatched us to the Food Lion, as we returned with enough Little Debbie cakes to satisfy the sweet tooth of every elementary school student in South Carolina.

When I went to the USEA Convention in December, I got to meet up with the U.S. Olympic Committee’s strength and conditioning coach, nutritionist and sports psychologist. Andrea Braakhuis, the nutritionist, is a tall, slim woman with a streak of color in her blonde hair that shows a bit of flair to which I can relate. She also has a glow to her complexion that makes me envious­—I’m sure it’s a result of good eating habits, not Maybelline’s newest illuminating foundation.

Andrea asked me how I thought the last year went and how she could help me more. My honest response was that she was too nice to me.

My weight has never reflected my bad eating habits, but as I get a bit older I do notice subtle ramifications of my lack of concern for being “healthy.” When I think about me versus my healthy, active boyfriend, we can work the same length of day, and at the end of it all, he’s happy to go for a run or at least a walk in the evening; meanwhile I’m exhausted, I have had a lot of injuries, and the aches and pains are catching up. And damn it, I’m a girl, and I want a glowing complexion! (Not that that will help in my Olympic pursuits, but it will look better in the pictures!)

Andrea didn’t miss a beat. She said, “Well unfortunately for you, the more obvious cases get worked with first, and you seem fit and thin. And honestly, you haven’t seemed ready to make a change in your habits. They’ve been low on your priority list.”

This chat brought back the conversation I had with Tik at the grocery store. On aisle 5, I had promptly responded to him, “That is a ridiculous question. Eating my greens is not relevant to my team goals. And anyway, Bruce Davidson never ate greens, and he is awesome.” (A very grown-up response.)

So sitting there at the meeting in Nashville, I thought, “OK, there are some things I can control and some things I cannot.” Then I asked myself, “Could eating healthier and taking a bit more care of myself help me with all my competitive goals?” Yes… What’s my competitive mantra again? “Be overprepared, then go with the flow.” And personally, for me, “Being intense doesn’t bring success,” so everything in moderation.

I decided I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if, for some reason, my lack of health limited my competitive goals, but I also knew turning into Jillian Michaels from “The Biggest Loser” would not work with my lifestyle or personality.

I talked to Andrea about some things in my diet that I could easily change to help improve my health in general. I’ve transitioned from my go-to salty bagel heaped with cream cheese to an organic oatmeal (which is actually tasty), I always have a bottle of water with me wherever I go, and I keep healthy snacks close at hand to beat the hunger that used to send me off to McDonald’s for the epic two cheeseburger meal!

When I got home from the convention, I told Tik about this conversation, and I said I had also decided to add some type of “fitness activity” to my schedule, six days a week. Thank God he knows me well and brought me back to reality, in sticking with the “everything in moderation” theme.

He placed a small bet on the table. For every week I work out or go for a run four times, he will make me dinner. And every time I do less than that I have to cook… and I’m not great in the kitchen. (Tik really is one lucky guy—I’m quite the catch, aren’t I? No cooking, unhealthy, intense horse girl… Dreamy, eh?) But with this new, competitive side to the fitness game, I feel like I have a very attainable goal and several yummy dinners (even though they are sure to be healthy) on the way.

We’re all down in Florida now, and I must say the environment is helping. Drinking water and going for a jog is much less of a mental challenge when it’s 70 degrees out!

At the top levels of every sport, medals are won and lost by inches, so I’m working on every place I can find spare inches to improve or shed, literally and figuratively. And now, I’m off to pilates with Megan and Frances, our Florida landlord, so ciao!


Sinead Halpin Equestrian


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