Sponsored Athlete Interview: Lea Stretch, OCR Ninja Pt. 2
In Part 2 of our interview with Sponsored Athlete Lea Stretch, we get in-depth at the challenges she faces molding a path for women in the male-dominated sport of obstacle course racing (OCR), as well as her diet regimen and introduction to 6 Pack Fitness.
Can you talk about being a pioneer in this fitness field and paving the way for professional female obstacle course racers?
That's really one of my main motivating factors as an OCR (obstacle course race) athlete. This is definitely a sport where you do see predominantly male runners, so I'm just trying to motivate more females to even attempt the race. It's a great way to build your own self-esteem because you need to set training goals and commit to them. You don't train for a weight or certain body type. You train to perform. So I think that's a great thing for women because so much of the media says that women have to lose weight, look a certain way, etc. Even female health magazines focus on how to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time. This completely eliminates that meaningless variable.
To sign up for a race and train for it, to accomplish that goal, is a completely different mindset from the diet mindset. It's a great way for women to stop focusing so much on just the way their body looks but to focus on actually performing a certain way. You have to perform each race on your own. Even if you compete alongside friends, no one carries you over the finish line. You feel really confident and independent just doing this by yourself, and that feeling spreads into other aspects of your life like personal relationships and career goals. You just become more motivated as an individual to set bigger goals for yourself and do something big with your life. And I know it kind of sounds like â€¦ all of that from a race? But it's true. It happens to a lot of people, it's why a lot of people are doing this. These races are incredibly motivating and rewarding.
The community is super supportive, especially the females. Women in the crowd see us competing and are like, Whoa! That's a girl out there! We're surrounded by all these super fit men, so when women and young girls on the sidelines see strong, focused females among them, even beating them, a number of them think, Maybe I can do that. It's inspiring for a lot of people, but especially for young girls who see female athletes alongside males as normal. It's a great contrast to the women on the billboards, magazines, and TV, where it's more about the way they look instead of what they can do.
Are the race results separated by gender?
They do separate standings by gender and age group like any other race, but they also have overall placement so you can see where you fall. Some of the top female athletes are finishing near the top of the men. A lot of it is endurance, and females are really great at endurance events. It's getting to become more of an equal playing field, which is pretty amazing.
How many times a day do you eat? What's your regimen?
I stick with my 3 big meals and in-between I'm snacking on something small, probably a 250-calorie snack or something like that. I am probably eating every few hours. I do not want to feel that low blood sugar feeling, so I'm pretty much constantly snacking. I always have snacks when I leave the house, in my purse, in my gym bag, in the car. I'm a crazy person if I have low blood sugar.
How do you eat?
I'm a little bit of a food snob. I've honestly always eaten super clean, just basically sticking with a whole foods diet. Not because I'm just being a food snob for the sake of it, but unhealthy food just really upsets my stomach. Once your body is clean and you start putting bad things in it, you feel it immediately. That kind of forces me to stick with a really clean diet. I really can't keep up with any form of training if I'm eating crappy food.
I'm not a heavy meat eater, but I do eat grilled chicken. I eat a lot of dark leafy vegetables. I eat a lot of beans for the protein. I eat quinoa for my grains because it has a lot of the essential amino acids that you need. Rice and beans, that's a great dish you can put together to have your complete protein. Basically I try to make my plate as colorful as possible, with the carbs and protein I need as well. I try to make sure the carbs are clean carbs and my protein are clean proteins as well, so not a lot of red meat. Red meat is awesome and has protein, but it has a lot of fat in it too. I do eat avocados and peanut butter to get my fats and oils that way as well.
Do you have a mentor?
I'm sort of doing this on my own. Over the years I've picked up pointers from many great athletes and competitors. Recently, I spent a lot of time with Mike Evans at Ultimate Proving Ground in Petaluma. Mike was a boxer and UFC trainer. He showed me a lot of great things, kicked my butt, and really pumped me up for these races. I've been doing a lot of this on my own and it is easier if I do have a trainer and they're telling me what to do. I push myself, but you can only push yourself so much. As for mentors, I get a lot of inspiration from the badass women within my sport.
How did you find 6 Pack Fitness and how has your gym backpack helped you take it to the next level?
I was introduced through a friend who was working with an entrepreneur who was in communication with 6 Pack, so I was able to meet with them. I saw their bag and thought it would be totally awesome to bring to an event, because the post-event food offerings aren't that great and these are the perfect way for me to bring my own. At last year's World's Toughest Mudder (a 24-hour race), I really, really could have used a 6 Pack Bag. So we met, I chatted with the 6 Pack team, and I loved them. There is a really close family feeling to the company, which I loved. So I got involved with them, and I've been bringing my 6 Pack backpack to races ever since. It's been working out awesome and everyone asks me about it.
I have the big backpack, the Pursuit. It's great because I can put all my small meals in there, and the food stays cold all day. I used to bring a lunch pail and it only kept things cold for maybe 30 minutes, so my food would just get warm and gross. 6 Pack Bags also keep things safe, because nothing is getting crushed in there. I can put all my gear inside too. So now I just have to carry one bag, I don't have to carry 5000 things. It's fun, it's bright, and it's colorful so people are able to see it. I actually bring it on other trips as well, not just for races. I went on a trip with my boyfriend for his birthday weekend and I put the cupcakes in there and they didn't get crushed. You can use 6 Pack Bags for a ton of things!
Lea's hunger to succeed, full-blown focus, and total determination make her a great role model for young girls all around the world. Her passion and drive are evident in the way she approaches fitness, and her goal to open more doors for women to participate in male-dominated fields is not only admirable, but something we should all strive towards. 6 Pack Fitness is proud to sponsor Lea as she kicks the asses of as many obstacle course races as possible, all with her 6 Pack gym backpack at her side.
Like her on Facebook to follow her story as she continues to pursue OCR mastery!