Essential Sports Nutrition


Athlete Spotlight: Bryan & Rebecca Milling - A couple's inspiring story of overcoming the odds with an active lifestyle

Name: Bryan and Rebecca Milling

Age: 42

City/State: Greenville, SC

Primary sport: Triathlon (Bryan),  Running (Rebecca)

How many years in the sport: 6 years

What Trimarni services have you used: Nutrition consult. RETUL. Group training camp. Coaching.

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

Bryan: I played baseball in elementary school and football in middle school but fell out of organized athletics around the 8th grade. I skateboarded pretty hard after that, but never thought of that as being athletic. In high school, I starting smoking and became an alcoholic in college. It runs in my family so it wasn’t hard to pick up those habits. It became the thing I was “good at”. Party? No problem - I was always the last one standing. Funny how I was still competitive during that time in my life. I drank pretty hard through college and my first few years as a professional. About 20 years ago, a family member had an accident involving alcohol and two people were killed. That was the last day I drank any alcohol. I started working out and running to fill the void. I eventually worked up to a marathon (which sucked), but it was an accomplishment.. A friend sold me a Cannondale CAAD8 so I started riding. Naturally, that led to triathlon. I finished my first sprint and felt like a rockstar. I knew nothing about the sport other than it was big enough to keep me interested in it for a very long time. That’s still true today!

Rebecca: I was diagnosed at birth with congenital heart disease, and had my first heart surgery in 1984, at the age of eight. Because of my heart condition I was restricted in my activities - walking was about the only exercise that I was “allowed” to do. In 2009, my cardiologist told me it was time for my aortic valve to be replaced and with advances in medical technology, it was also revealed that I had an atrial septal defect (or a hole in my heart). I had my aortic valve replaced and the hole repaired in October 14, 2009. I had always felt like I could be more active than I was told so after recovering from open heart surgery I began running. The same weekend I was in the hospital recovering from surgery, the hospital held its annual 5k running race. I was determined to run in the race one day rather than hearing about the race from my hospital bed. My goal was achieved exactly one year later when I proudly ran the 5k (the Hopebuilders 5k) as my first race ever!

What keeps you training and racing in your current sport?

I have an addictive personality so I have to do something or I’ll go crazy. Triathlon is a great way to stay healthy and active. It’s so diverse that it keeps me engaged, which is important because if I lose interest, I’m usually gone. I have yet to find anyone who’s mastered all three disciplines so triathlon is the sport that keeps me going, knowing that I can keep getting better.   

I have been unhealthy and healthy.......healthy is much better! I don’t want to take for granted how great I have felt the past seven years since my surgery and I certainly don't want to take for granted all of the doctors and caregivers that helped me get to where I am today.

What do you do for work?
I have one of the greatest jobs! I work for OOBE (oo-be), we’re an apparel design firm here in Greenville, SC. We custom make uniforms for companies like Chick-fil-a, Hendrick Automotive Group, and BMW Manufacturing. I oversee half of the company’s business as well as oversee the management of all but one of our accounts. It’s stressful but fun and exciting and allows me the flexibility to get my workouts in. 

Rebecca: I have recently “retired” as a preschool teacher and I am now a stay-at-home mom.

How does your work life affect training and how do you balance work and training?
Bryan: I get up between 4:00-4:30 AM every work day to get my first workout in. If I have a second, I try to do it at lunch. I’m blessed to have the flexibility to do this because it allows me to workout and be productive at work and still have family time when I get home. Travel is tough but I try to stick to the same schedule. There are days when I just can’t get it in and that’s OK. I just try to keep everything in balance and perspective. 

When I was working I was fortunate to work part-time. This allowed me the flexibility I needed to get my workouts in.

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

1) Do the tough work in the dark. Getting up early lets you accomplish something before you even leave the house!

 2) Work pays for triathlon so make sure the priorities are in order. Having priorities doesn’t justify skipping workouts, it just means we have to make time to get them done.

Do you have kids?
Yes! Martha (12) and Sam (7). We are very proud of them both - they’re great kids. Martha plays soccer and Sam is in a running club. Sam actually ran 26.2 miles over the course of the school year! This year will also be Martha’s third year of triathlon camp at the YMCA and Sam’s first. They chose to do it on their own and it’s awesome to see them pursue an active lifestyle.

How does having kids affect your training? How do you balance a family and training? 

Bryan: Again, balance and priorities. As I mentioned above, I workout in the dark before anyone gets up. This way, I’m making time on the back-end of the day for the family. I couldn’t do it without Rebecca. While I’m finishing the workout, she’s getting the kids up and ready. Then I take one to school and she takes the other. Divide and conquer! If work smashes my morning and the kids have an activity in the evening, that’s the priority. But I’ll work hard to find time to get something in - something is better than nothing! I do try to involve the kids so if I have a short brick, I’ll ask them to ride a bike beside me. I also try to take them to the pool and we swim together after my workout. We’ll also try to do family bike rides on the trail. It’s never perfect but making the effort is what counts.

Rebecca: As a wife and mom, I not only have to consider my schedule on any given day but the schedules of my family. If getting my workout in on certain days is only going to add stress to our already crazy day, I try to not be too hard on myself if I have to skip a workout here or there. I always tell myself "tomorrow is a new day."

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

Bryan: COMMUNICATE! As moms and dads, there are just certain family obligations that we have to commit too and those are not excuses. But for everything else in life, talk with your spouse, talk about your workouts and together, talk about your goals. If Rebecca wants to train for a road race, she comes first so together we make a plan that works for both of us. Do your best to manage life and don’t let life manage you!

Rebecca: If at all possible, get it done first thing in the morning - or as early as you can.
Seems simple, but this helps a lot!

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?

Bryan: Rebecca is a special woman. She motivates me just by living. So many people with her condition live life as little as possible out of fear. Rebecca’s not like that. She is active and works extremely hard to live a healthy lifestyle and also to provide for her family. I want to support that and honor her so she always comes first. My advice is try to give more than you take. We try to talk about the year and what we want to do and then try to set expectations so we don’t disappoint one another. We also try to make time for us - alone so that we can stay connected. It’s REALLY hard to do this at this stage in life but we try. I also try to help with things like clean up after supper, help clean the house and other daily things so that she doesn’t have to worry about them. Again, I try to give more than I take. I fail a lot but I try. 

Bryan and I both lead active lives....communication is key. Often, we discuss the day before what our goals are for the next day. We talk about things like what time he needs to leave for work or what time will he be on the bike trainer or what time I'll be leaving for my workout. Although we try to plan the best that we can, its the spur of the moment things in life that we forget to talk about or want to add in that can throw us for a loop.

Do you have a recent race result, notable performance or lesson
learned that you'd like to share?Bryan: Finishing Ironman Wisconsin last year tops the list. Most people don't want to invest into something that takes time and effort - like training for and completing an Ironman triathlon. It requires a lot of time out of life but when you cross that finish line and realize what you’ve accomplished, there’s nothing like that feeling. I remember finding Rebecca and leaning over the railing onto her shoulder and just crying. There were no tears because, well, I’d just finished sweating for 12 hours, but I was so emotional. She invested in me and allowed me to invest into this adventure. It was euphoric and one of the best days of my life.

I had hoped to run the GHS half marathon in February of this year but was not feeling well for several weeks and my training suffered. I am just now gaining my momentum back with my running and thanks to the reminder from my husband, I am focusing on my small daily achievements as I build back rather than focusing on the set back.

What are your top tips for athletes, as it relates to staying happy, healthy and performing well?

  1. Remember why you started triathlon. Let’s face it, triathletes are a cool bunch of people and are very driven. Enjoy being cool and being driven - two great qualities to have in life!
  2. Involve those around you and share the experience with others. Your kids and spouses don’t have to be triathletes but they might enjoy running, biking or swimming. Do active things with them!
  3. Be involved and grow the community because it’s a great community! Don’t operate on the fringes but instead, introduce yourself and make friends. Then, introduce your family to their family. The really cool thing about Greenville is the run-bike-swim (not exclusively triathlon) community is very interwoven and it’s awesome!
  4. Eat your veggies. Enjoy all food but have some discipline to eat health because it’s very important. Take care of your body/mind, outside of the sport of triathlon.
  5. Understand the difference between drive and addiction. One is healthy, the other is not. Make the right sacrifices because you’re driven and moving toward something. Don’t make the wrong sacrifices because you have an addiction. Triathlon is fun but it is not life.
  1. I have learned the importance of paying attention to the seemingly smaller things the last year or so.....stretching, warm-ups, and cool downs have helped me stay injury free. Unfortunately its easy for me to ignore these things when I am feeling good.
  2. When I am paying attention to what I am putting in my body (food), my body responds better. This is even helpful for an “exerciser” like me.
  3. I am not just an athlete....I am a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, etc. Take time for other things in your life and sleep in once in a while.

How would you define athletic success as it relates to your personal journey?
Going from being an overweight-cigarette smoking-alcoholic to an Ironman triathlete pretty much defines my success. I’ve been very blessed by God’s grace, not mine but His. I’ve been blessed by with a wonderful wife, great kids, the means and physical ability to play triathlon and enjoy it. It doesn’t get better than what I got it and I just want it to stay this good. 

Athletic success is being able to stay fit and doing something that I enjoy. I am not cut from the same cloth as Bryan and will never have Ironman-sized goals and that's ok. But being able to run 5-6 miles for exercise while enjoy the outdoors, and setting a good example for my children is well worth it!

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

Bryan: I’m a pizza guy. Black olives, mushrooms, arugula and I’m good. 

Oatmeal with fruit, walnuts, cinnamon and a little maple syrup.

What key races do you have planned in 2017?Bryan: Lake Logan half and Ironman Chattanooga - I can’t wait to race with my Trimarni teammates! 

Ironman Chattanooga - just kidding! But my job for the next few months is to help Bryan achieve that goal. I will likely do some smaller local races and possibly the Spinx half marathon in the fall.

What are your athletic goals for the next 5 years?
Bryan: I'll be real
honest - I can’t really think that far. I’m enjoying my new road bike and I'll be doing Hincapie’s Grand Fondo in October. Who knows where that may lead but maybe some bike racing. I also want to take the family on a race-cation, maybe Texas (Martha was born in Austin) or Hawaii.

Anything else?

Rebecca: I support a wonderful organization called The Ironheart Foundation. It has been so beneficial for me to have the support and to learn from other cardiac athletes. You can also watch their documentary “Flatline to Finishline” on Amazon prime and follow cardiac athletes as they set goals to compete in Ironman Arizona. Very inspiring!

 From Ironheart Foundation “We use physical movement and sport to transform, empower and positively impact lives that have been affected by heart disease.”