Essential Sports Nutrition


Athlete Spotlight: Kristin Gustafson: Inspiring 2x IM Kona qualifying athlete, recently diagnosed with MS

Name: Kristin Gustafson

Age: 39

City/State: Mankato, MN.

Primary sport: Triathlon

How many years in the sport: 6 years

What Trimarni services have you used: Nutrition consult, coaching


Describe your athletic background and how you discovered your current sport?

I was always competitive growing up playing tennis and basketball in high school. I tried playing tennis in college until my third knee surgery changed those plans. Any type of lateral movement makes me scared so I decided to find other activities where I only had to go straight. After college, I missed being competitive so I decided to start running. I started with a 10k and quickly moved onto doing marathons. After doing 20+ marathons, I felt like it was time to try something new. My very first triathlon was a half Ironman in July 2011 and the rest is history!

What keeps you training and racing in your current sport?

There is nothing more satisfying than signing up for a race, putting a 100% into training, being dedicated every day to becoming a better athlete, and then finishing it all off with completing the race distance. I was recently diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) this past year so now, more than ever before, everyday I appreciate what my body allows me to do, especially when I can get a good workout in. You never know how good you have it until you can no longer do what you love to do with your body anymore.

What do you do for work?
I am a manager for a program called Real Appeal. I manage coaches who work with both healthy and overweight individuals. Obesity is definitely an epidemic in our society. I work for a great company who is trying to change lives for the better.

How does your work life affect training and how do you balance work and training?This can be tough at times with working long hours, but it is all about planning out the week. I am constantly looking at my training schedule to know what days I need to get to the pool or when to get those long workouts in. I love my sleep and love sleeping in, but I get up early every morning to get all my workouts in. Kid activities and family time take up all our nighttime hours so I try my best to get everything done when the kids are still sleeping in the mornings.

Any tips/tricks as to how to balance work and training?

Plan out your week as best as you can. Start your day early so you can get the workout in so work or family obligations don’t get in your way. Get everything organized the night before so you are ready for tomorrow; have your clothes out, know the purpose of the workout, have meals prepped for the day, and all your work things ready so that everything runs smoothly and you can still get everything in.

Do you have kids?I have two boys and a dog. Logan – 13, Lucas – 9, and our dog Cyrus!

How does having kids affect your training? How do you balance it all?

My kids are definitely busy between all their sports and social activities. I definitely feel like a taxi driver most of the time these days. This is definitely another reason why I do all my workouts in the morning. Once my work is done, I am off driving the kids around. It is great for me because they love being active so I am definitely not complaining.

What tips and tricks do you have for other athletes who struggle to balance training with family? 

Since my kids are doing their own team sports now, I need to get in my training when they are sleeping. I am pretty lucky that they like to sleep in on the weekends. This works well in the summer when my training volume increases. I can get in a 4 to 5 hour workout before they even get up in the morning! I also encourage parents to encourage them to get involved in the sport of triathlon. My kids are now doing 5ks and triathlons. We make a weekend out of it so they get excited to stay in a hotel and participate in the race.

How do you balance your training with your partner? Any tips or tricks for keeping your partner happy while you train to reach your personal goals?My husband is amazing. He is just as active as I am so we have our schedules down pretty good. He might do a small workout in the morning and then he takes the kids to school so I can finish up my workouts. He then does his bigger workouts right after work when I am picking up the kids from their activities. It works out perfectly with my workouts in the morning and his in the afternoon. I am definitely lucky to have the support of my kids and husband so that I can live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Do you have a recent race result, notable performance or lesson
learned that you'd like to share?There are actually three races that come to mind.
1. 2015 Ironman Boulder was amazing because I qualified for my first Kona. It was a long shot with the heat and altitude, but I was ecstatic to get that Kona spot. 2. Obviously, the 2015 Ironman World Championships has to go on this list. Just the whole experience of being part of the race and being on the race venue is something that I will never forget.

3. 2016 Ironman Wisconsin probably tops the list. I was recently diagnosed with MS and I had no idea if I would even be able to race that weekend. I had just gone through a round of infusions that put me in the cardiology unit just two weeks before the race. The doctors did every test possible to make sure I was safe to race that day. I can’t thank my body enough to let me have an amazing race and to earn another Kona spot (even though I didn’t take it).
What are your top tips for athletes, as it relates to staying happy, healthy and performing well?
  1. Don’t take your health for granted. You never know what your future looks like and one day, you may not be able to race or be as active as you would like to be. Appreciate what you can do, when you can do it.  There are so many other people in this world who can’t be active because of health issues or injuries, so enjoy your workouts and pushing your own limits.
  2. Take good care of your body with exercise, eating right, decreasing stress, and getting enough rest. These are all things that I am still working on, especially with the stress and rest.
  3. Find other members in your community to connect with, who love the same activities as you. I am so lucky to have such amazing friends who love to run. There is nothing better than a long run with my running group!
  4. Find a coach who you can trust. I can’t express how much Marni and Karel have helped me as an athlete, especially with my recent MS diagnosis. They have found a way to keep me safely training and racing so that MS doesn't get the best of me. Marni has literally changed my life since I started working with her on my diet. My gut is much happier and my body is so much healthier. Both Marni and Karel have so much knowledge that I am lucky to have such great mentors and coaches. 
How would you define athletic success as it relates to your personal journey?

My idea of athletic success has changed over the past year. When you have no health issues or injuries, it is all about how fast you can go, how hard you can push and how much you can improve with each race. Now, after being diagnosed with MS, it is all about how I can get to each race, in good health, so I can actually race. I am a pretty competitive person so this has been a hard adjustment for me and something that I am still working on. I am still striving and working towards doing both…getting to race day healthy and being competitive!

What's your favorite post-race meal, drink or food?

I usually have to wait a few hours until I can eat after a race. In the past, it was a cold Diet Mountain Dew right after the race though. I have recently given up drinking pop, so it will now be a cold beer and something salty - that will hit the spot!

What key races do you have planned in 2017?

I have a few triathlons on the schedule this year, including Ironman Chattanooga, but honestly, I am taking it week-by-week with my training. I am still trying to figure everything out with my body as I have to take shots 3x/week to stop the progression of MS, I receive infusions once a month to help with the MS symptoms, I take daily supplements, and I am constantly working on my healthy diet. Thank goodness for my coaches, Marni and Karel, to help me with my journey this year so that I can hopefully get to all my races this summer!

What are your athletic goals for the next 5 years?I truthfully can’t answer that right now. This past year definitely threw many challenges at me, that I did not expect or plan for. My biggest goal this year is to be healthy and happy. I want to show others that when life throws you a curve ball, you have to keep fighting. No excuses!! Anything else? 

Two things come to mind:
1. Remember to enjoy the process of training. It should never be a chore to do what you love to do with your body.
2. Thank your body for how hard you can push it each day and each week. Take your rest days, get a massage, sleep in, relax with the kids or your significant other, and eat some really good food and drink some cocktails!!

You can follow Kristin on social media:
Facebook @ Kristin Gustafson
Instagram @ Kristin_gustafson