Meet Danny and Jessie Stevens. Jessie, 27, and Danny 28, are competitive athletes. They have been married for two years, and have a dog, Winston — named for the town where they got him, not the British politician. Both Danny and Jessie grew up playing a wide variety of sports and both work as physical therapists at Mercy Institute of Rehabilitation in Roseburg. While they may be über athletes, they also understand that overall fitness for anyone plays a key role in living a healthy life.
You both clearly like sports; how did you get started?
Jessie: I played a variety of sports during high school, including volleyball, basketball and track. I started more distance running when I got to college and ran my first marathon when I was 21. After I met Danny, I got my first bike and eventually picked up triathlon.
Danny: I played lacrosse throughout high school and also in college for Colorado State University.
Jessie: He’s a national champion with most valuable player honors. I also liked to run and later on started cycling.
Do you race together?
Danny: We do most of our races together. We did our first triathlon in 2009 and have gotten more competitive with racing. We started racing the long-distance races, including half and full Ironmans, over the last two years.
Jessie: It’s something fun we can do together and we love it! We started racing for the Rolf Prima (a company out of Eugene that produces handmade bicycle wheels) Triathlon Team last year, too.
What’s involved in an Ironman?
Jessie: An Ironman includes a 2.4 mile swim, biking for 112 miles and running a marathon (26.2 miles), totaling 140.6 miles.
Who does most of the cooking?
Jessie: Danny does. If he wants to eat.
What kinds of healthy eating tips do you have?
Danny: We do eat for health and try to make sure that we take the right calories in, including enough protein, especially when we are training for a race. I like the cookbook “The Feed Zone.” It has great recipes for competitive athletes but it would be beneficial for other people who are just getting started. Our meals typically include chicken, rice, ground turkey, quinoa, pasta and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Jessie: We also enjoy a cheeseburger, fries and beer from time to time, too.
How do you stay motivated?
Jessie: We’re pretty competitive, so we’re always striving to get better. We train with friends and are members of the Umpqua Velo Club (a local bike-riding group), but just having a race we need to train for is helpful.
Danny: We typically sign up for an Ironman a year in advance and we know we will be training year-round. It’s not unusual during the summer months for us to put in seven hours training on a Saturday or put in two to three hours before or after work. One of the best parts of living here is all of the beautiful country roads we get to ride/run on. It’s great to have each other to suffer through some of those sessions with.
Is Winston as active as you two?
Jessie: Not really. He’s more of a couch potato. He’s a mix of Saint Bernard and German shorthaired pointer, so he’s big. We do get him out to exercise but he tires easy.
As physical therapists, how do you motivate your patients?
Danny: We try to encourage our patients to be more active and keep moving. There is a saying: “If you don’t use it you lose it.” Muscles and joints were designed to move and everyone should try to be active at least 30 minutes a day. Patient education is one of the most valuable tools we have as physical therapists and it can sometimes be the best motivator.
If there were one person you could choose, whom would you invite to dinner or to go on a run/walk with you?
Jessie: Chrissie Welllington. She’s this incredibly strong and amazing athlete. She’s a four-time world Ironman champion and a wonderful role model for young girls. She does a lot of humanitarian work and is a big voice pushing for more support of female athletics. Her book, “A Life Without Limits,” is a great read.
Danny: My dad. He recently did a half Ironman and now wants to try the full. I’m hoping some day we can race the full Ironman together.
When you’re overwhelmed, how do you find a better work/life balance?
Danny: Sleep! I can usually tell when I need to take a nap.
Jessie: A good workout is sometimes the answer, but it could be taking Winston for a walk instead!
What advice do you have for people just starting to exercise?
Danny: Follow the 10 percent rule. Increase your intensity and/or distance by 10 percent every week. Learn from other people, too. There are some great sites online that will help you get started, teach you the language and provide support. Make sure your equipment fits you, too. It can help with injury prevention and that can help you stay active.
Jessie: Start small. Get involved with a group or training partners because it makes everything easier. Training for an Ironman includes swimming in open water, which can be scary, but you can start by swimming in a pool as a first step. You also need to set your mind to it. We both really believe that anyone can compete and finish a triathlon if they are motivated and willing to put in the training and the time.
What’s your favorite health-related website/blog/app?
Kathleen Nickel is the director of communications for Mercy Medical Center. An avid walker, Nickel has completed a number of half marathons over the years (that’s 13.1 miles) and can typically be seen on a Saturday morning with a group of friends doing a quick six miles along one of the many bike paths in Roseburg. She can be reached at KathleenNickel@chiwest.com.