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Interview with ultra-marathoner, Rich Roll

Rich Roll, ultra-marathon runner and author

Hey Candidates, I’m bringing you an interview today that’s quite interesting. It’s not 100% related to Marine Corps Officer Candidates School, but it has lots of interesting and motivating information. The person I interviewed was Rich Roll, an ultra-marathon runner, one of Men’s Fitness “25 Fittest Men on the Planet”, owner of an entertainment law practice, husband and father. Rich is also the author of a brand new book entitled “Finding Ultra”, which is now available online and in bookstores everywhere. But why is this story interesting and somewhat relative to Marine OCS, you’ll find out right now.

Background info: Having competed as a competitive swimmer at Stanford University in the late 80’s, Richard has an accomplished athletic background.But he literally hung up the suit in 1989 and never looked back.But by age 40, Richard was close to 50 pounds overweight and completely out of shape.It was time for a major life change.To celebrate his 40th natal birthday as well as his 10th anniversary in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, in 2006 he overhauled his diet, became a dedicated vegan, put on his running shoes and jumped back into the pool.It wasn’t long before ambition took hold and his quest to participate in Ultraman slowly began.Two years later and close to 50 pounds lighter, he surprised the triathlon & ultra communities by not only becoming the first vegan to complete the event, but by finishing in the top 10 males, despite never having even previously competed in a single ironman distance event.

Rob: How has overhauling your diet and exercise regimen changed the way you feel physically and mentally?

Rich: It changed everything. I swam at Stanford during college and that pretty much determined my diet and my approach to food. Because I was training 4 hours a day, swimming 2 hours before school and 2 hours after, my diet was simply how much food I could shove in my face. When you’re 19-20 years old, you can get away with that, I would just eat until I was full. I carried those habits with me into my 20′s and 30′s and got away with it for a little while. However, I started to get fat, having really low levels of energy and with that, a sort of low-level grade depression.

Rob: What moment sparked you to make such a major lifestyle change?

Rich: Just before my 40th birthday, I got winded simply going up the stairs to go to bed at night. And even at that time, I still considered myself an athlete. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw that 21 year old college swimmer, but that moment snapped the denial out of my head. Heart disease also runs in my family. My grandfather was a champion swimmer at the University of Michigan, almost qualified for the Olympics and swam his whole life after college yet passed away in his early 50′s because of a heart attack. I didn’t want to have a heart attack and leave my kids, I knew I had to make a change.

I started off with a 7 day fruit and juice cleanse. My wife practiced yoga, did mediation, eat healthy, that was fine for her, but it was never my scene. I always just thought, that’s what hippies do. I liked my ribs and steak, just like any other dude. But I was just willing to set aside my preconceived notions and try anything different to feel better. So I did the cleanse. At first I was buckled over, not even sure I was going to make it a week. But by day 4, I was feeling great, got an incredible surge of energy. By day 7, I just wanted to keep going and juicing and forget about food.

After the 7 day cleanse, I should have talked to someone or read a book, but  I just jumped into a vegetarian diet. But it wasn’t long before I began feeling like crap on the vegetarian diet, because you can basically eat french fries and Domino’s Pizza if you want. At that point I was around 210 pounds, even though my swimming weight in college was around 160. I decided to cut the dairy and processed foods out of my diet, almost to show that it wouldn’t work. However, after a week of eating the vegan diet, I felt great, with another huge boost of energy, so I decided to stick with it. All the athletic things I’ve done recently, can all be attributed to changing to a plant based diet. Had I not done that, I wouldn’t have had the energy levels to even entertain the idea of an ultra-marathon.

Rob: What does your daily physical training schedule look like, now that your competing in ultra-marathons?

Rich: First off, I’m not a professional athlete. I’m a lawyer, I’ve been married for 12 years, have 4 kids. So I have a pretty busy life. It’s all about cutting the fat off the bones and finding ways to get things done in my busy life. One of the key books I’ve used is Tim Ferriss’ “Four Hour Work Week” and the principles he teaches.

Rob: That’s awesome, I actually just finished the “Four Hour Work Week” and have been using Tim’s principles to help improve my websites and productivity as well.

Rich: I’ve actually just written a blog post on Tim’s blog and he interviewed me for his book the “Four Hour Body”. Through some of his principles I’ve been able to escape the corporate law firms, setting up my own solo entertainment law firm. Setting up my own firm, I’m my own boss which allows me the flexibility to plan my day and orient it around my training. Sometimes, I’ll wake up insanely early, get back, take my kids to school, do some work and then get another training session in. Typically, I try to make my days scheduled so that I can train in the morning, sometimes all the way up until noon or 1 o’clock.

Rob: How do you recommend someone achieve a balance between work, physical fitness and health.

Rich: I think the most important thing is consistency. In my opinion, consistency trumps duration and intensity. Especially after college and moving into the work force, it’s easy to put physical fitness on the back burner and just say I’ll do it when I get a chance. Unless you make a consistent effort, it will never get done.

Rob: What was the reason behind writing “Finding Ultra”? Did you have any specific purpose behind doing it?

Rich: Not everyone has the talent to be the absolute best in their field or a rock star, but I think we all have innate things that we’re  good at. The book is a call to action for people to go back and find that. You can certainly read the book and say, this guy is so extreme, I can never do that. But the methods and the tools I lay out in the book are scalable, whether you just want to lose a little weight and look good in a bathing suit or do something as crazy as I did. You can use the principles in this book as a motivator and something to help improve your life.

There you have it, my interview with Rich Roll, ultra-marathoner, author and much more. I hope you enjoyed it and can apply a few principles to your training regimen!

Open Your Suck!