2019-02-20 10:00:00 CET
As the beach stars up their fitness ahead of the new season, Casey Patterson reveals his secrets to staying fit
Casey Patterson has seen it all. The American Olympian has battled on the best beach volleyball courts of the world long enough to know sometimes there’s just no substitute for good old fashioned hard work in a sport which he believes offers the complete fitness package.
“You can be the most physically gifted person on the planet and never win because there’s so much tactics and feeling in our sport,” says the father of four. “The hard work aspect and researching how you can improve and do things is like a cheat sheet to winning tournaments and being successful.
“In beach volleyball we have the perfect storm of for fitness. How we play, where we play, the environment. We’re probably one of the most versatile athletes there are, using a variety of muscles, playing in varying conditions.
“I played basketball, and I thought I’d go down that road and play professionally but then choose to play indoor, then beach. Have I gotten fitter playing beach volleyball? Absolutely. There’s different stress levels that affect the body when it’s exposed to the elements, you’re running and jumping on sand.
“It’s the lifestyle, your body is exposed, and, after all, you’re half naked, so you want to at least look fit…”
Casey, who represented the United States at the 2016 Olympics, is a big believer in how a healthy body and a healthy mind can improve performance.
One particular subject that is close to Casey’s heart is nutrition – and with a reason that goes beyond the norm of just eating healthily.
Shortly before the last Olympics, which took place on one beach volleyball’s spiritual homes, the Copacabana Beach in Rio, 38-year-old Patterson was diagnosed with a condition called Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid. That meant gluten, diary, whey protein and eggs had to be taken off the Californian’s daily menu.
Before the diagnosis, Casey would feel tired and find it tough to juggle the rigors of family life and a career on the sand – and he was determined to get to the bottom of it.
To cut a long story short, it means he’s now eating baby food. Yes, you read that right.
It’s a new addition to his diet that Casey claims to have helped him deal with his condition – and not only have a positive effect on his life and performance on the sand, but also an understanding of the science behind nutrition.
“The packs are already pre-blended baby food pouches and I have them all the time, always in my bag,” explains Casey.
“Before my condition was identified, I was having pains in my stomach for three days and I didn’t know why. Once experts at USA Volleyball knew what was wrong everything changed. I became a happier person. I just needed to explore this. In this day and age, there are gluten-free options and plant proteins. I’m lucky I found it early without it affecting me too much.
“As for the baby food, I have four to five packs on me at all times. It’s fun, it’s a little secret but the baby foods, I love them, they’re amazing. Bananas and sweet potato, spinach. You see, if food is broken down like it is with the blended baby foods – it breaks down in your body faster, which enables you to use that energy quicker. I used to eat apples a lot in between games. My nutritionist would say, ‘yes that’s great, but it’s taking until the end of the match for it to be used properly.’”
So the next time you see Casey courtside with a pot of baby food beside his chair, you’ll know why.