If you were to check out Sergio Gaytan’s recent Instagram posts, you might conclude that he has always been a dedicated triathlete capable of mind-blowing performances on the road and in the water.
But you’d be wrong – this is Sergio 2.0. Sergio version 1.0 weighed 100 pounds more, was stuck in a sedentary lifestyle and had zero sporting ambitions. Sergio has worked for many years to transform his body and mindset in order to take on some of the toughest triathlons while simultaneously fulfilling family and career commitments.
“Getting to the point where I could complete a triathlon wasn’t just about dropping weight — it required dedication to a total life change that I’ve had to stick with daily for the past few years,” Sergio says. “The vitality I have now is something I never experienced when I was physically inactive, and movement has become a basic daily need that my body craves. The sense of accomplishment I get from triathlon competition has unleashed toughness, leadership and potential that I didn’t know I had in me.”
Sergio grew up in a small town in northern Mexico, and while he wasn’t athletic, he also wasn’t overweight. He started his career as a computer scientist in Mexico, but after moving to the US in 2006, he faced a new set of health challenges.
“There was suddenly a fast food place on every corner, which we never had back home,” he says. “It was too easy to stop at the drive-through at lunchtime and on the way back from work.” Long hours at his desk and poor eating habits left him overweight. His weight cycled in his 20s and early 30s. Sergio twice lost more than 70 pounds, only to gain it right back.
Then in his mid-30s, he realized something had to change. “I went in for a physical and my weight, cholesterol and blood pressure numbers were all bad. It was a wake-up call that made me realize that I had no energy, was tired all the time, had back pain and wasn’t happy with who I was.” So he decided to do something about it, and exercise was the answer.
A friend invited Sergio to go mountain biking in the San Diego foothills, and though he huffed and puffed up and down the rocky slopes, the adrenaline and fresh air hooked him. Sergio bought a bike for $50 and began riding and running several days a week. As he became fitter, he looked for a challenge to keep his lifestyle revolution going, and he found triathlon.
Like any high-level amateur athlete, perhaps Sergio’s toughest challenge is maintaining a quasi-professional training lifestyle while juggling full-time work and a family. For Sergio, that means waking around 4:30 a.m., which gives him two hours to stretch and set goals. Then he typically eats a bowl of oatmeal topped with cashews, almonds and bananas, washed down with espresso, and heads out to bike or run for two and a half hours.
He’s at the office around 10 a.m. and puts in a full day interspersed with another training session (whatever he didn’t do early that morning), before spending evenings with his wife and three kids. Saturdays and Sundays involve a three-to-four hour bike ride, followed by family trips into the mountains and SUP sessions at Imperial Beach.
“It’s easy to get so hooked on training and racing that it becomes the only thing, but when you have a job and a family that can’t happen, or your career and relationships will fall apart,” Sergio says. “To ensure that I protect and prioritize those other two areas of my life, I share my calendar with my coach and block off family time so he knows not to schedule sessions then. All these elements have to co-exist, and that requires consistently checking how well I’m managing my schedule.”
The success of Sergio’s training-family-work balancing act is evident in his improved performances. He finished second in his age group in the 2017 Chula Vista Challenge, cut his 70.3 mile time down to 5 hours 20 minutes, and posted a fourth place finish in the 2018 SUPERSEAL Olympic triathlon.
A continued education in nutrition has been a vital part of Sergio’s lifestyle change and continued performance gains as well. “There’s a difference between good and bad calories,” he says. “If I burn a lot of energy and go and slam a burger and fries, it might not make me gain weight, but I’m going to feel sluggish and recover poorly.”
“Getting to the point where I could complete a triathlon wasn’t just about dropping weight — it required dedication to a total life change that I’ve had to stick with daily for the past few years.”
Over the past couple of years, Sergio has dedicated himself to eating clean. For races, this means swapping gels and goos for a homemade mix of mashed sweet potatoes, local honey and dates. His preferred hydration strategy? Water.
Sergio is also more deliberate about his approach to refueling. “Momentous RedShift is the most delicious, portable, and practical form of high quality protein out there,” he says. “I usually mix two scoops with blueberries and almond milk and drink it right after I swim, run or ride to kick-start my recovery. Then at night I take Momentous AbsoluteZero, which fits with my no-carbs approach to nutrition in the evening.”
So now Sergio isn’t just motivated to live out his mantra — “Be the best version of you today” — but he is also fueled to make it happen.
By: Phil White