I’m Training for an Ironman on a Vegan Diet. Here’s How I Get Through 11 Workouts in 5 Days.

Lia Belardo is training for the Ironman Lake Placid on July 22, and she's fueling up with vegan eats from P.S. & Co. and more.


Welcome to Sweat Diaries, Be Well Philly’s look at the time, energy, and money people invest in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle in Philly. For each Sweat Diary, we ask one Philadelphian to spend five days tracking everything they eat, all the exercise they get, and the money they spend on both. Want to submit a Sweat Diary? Email [email protected] with details. 

Who I am: Lia Belardo (@minimalisttriathlete), 37

What I do: I’m an investment consultant by day, and in my spare time I’m the leader of Team Humane League, an international campaign bringing people together to take on athletic challenges and raise funds for the animals.

What role health and fitness plays in my life: I know what it feels like to wake up every day and struggle with health issues. I also know how much better my life has become once I committed to making the best choices possible. Realizing that I had the power to be compassionate to myself and to others was the key starting point to a journey that is still a work in progress. I am also training for Ironman Lake Placid, which will be my second time finishing an Ironman. I have been vegan for 19 years!

Health memberships: I am coached by Ritanne Duszak at Breakaway for $149 a month and I’m a member at The Sporting Club at the Bellevue for $94 a month. For nutrition and meal planning I use Lighter at $15 a month.

Monday

Photograph courtesy @phillyvegans

6 a.m. — I wake up in Huntington Beach, California where I spent the night catching up with one of my oldest friends. I have been traveling a lot lately and sometimes my Mondays can be hectic. I start every morning with a giant coffee, and this morning I made one at her home. I’ve been adding adaptogenic mushrooms in lately. I got my most recent ones from Anima Mundi.

6:30 a.m. — I don’t really find that much time to truly read books, but I love Audible. I throw on an audio book The Brave Athlete by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson because I had just spent the weekend with them at a triathlon camp put together by Coeur Sports.

7 a.m. — I jump in my rental car and get a coffee at Starbucks ($4). I drive up to LAX to return my car, the traffic on the 405 was typical for a Monday, and it takes me an hour and a half to go the 40-ish miles.

9 a.m. — I drop the car off and grab an Uber to meet up with my friends Jamie, Kendra, and Erin, from the blog Philly Vegans, at a diner called Swingers. I am so late that they have already ordered and are basically done with their breakfast. I eat the rogue vegan banana pancake (which was ordered and then rejected by Jamie). I then stop at Blue Bottle Coffee and get a coffee with oat milk ($5).

Photograph courtesy Lia Belardo.

10 a.m. — We head to Runyon Canyon. We do a three-mile hike, with some of the cutest dog spotting and some steep downhills. We get a look at the Hollywood sign and stay hydrated with GU Energy tabs I had left over from triathlon camp.

1 p.m. — We head off to lunch at Doomie’s and Cocobella Creamery. The group of four shared everything from a Big Mac-style sandwich, to a mac and cheese patty, a crispy chicken sandwich, a western burger, taquitos, and cones at Cocobella Creamery ($32 for my part of the bill). This is the kind of meal I talk about with people when they say they could never be vegan. We have burgers and ice cream too — and these options are just as bad for you and just as delicious!

6 p.m. — After a long day of sightseeing we hit up Intelligentsia in Venice Beach. I get a turmeric tea ($3.50).

8 p.m. — We arrive at the airport to head home. I had planned on going to Real Food Daily in LAX, but my flight was in a completely opposite terminal and it was impossible to get to. I eat a Larabar for dinner ($2).

Daily total: $46.50

Tuesday

Photograph courtesy Lia Belardo.

5:30 a.m. — My red-eye lands in Detroit for a layover. The airport is AMAZING. I counted four types of Kite Hill yogurt for sale at the shop in my terminal but decide to have a giant cup of coffee ($3), some fresh-cut pineapple ($6), and another Larabar that I had in my bag ($2).

9 a.m. — I arrive home to see my husband, Matt, and my companion animals, Baci the dog and Herman the cat. I immediately get to work with some meal prepping because it’s already Tuesday! My first go-to is homemade soy yogurt. I make one batch a week in my instant pot. Since it takes 11 hours to make, I set it up quickly, so I can have it ready for Wednesday morning. The recipe includes one 64-oz. container of WestSoy milk ($4), and one packet of vegan yogurt starter ($2 per packet).

1 p.m. — After catching up on to-do’s, I take some time out to practice gratitude. I write in my five-minute journal. I try to do this every day. I then make a quick meal from Lighter, the meal planning and nutrition service I subscribe to. It’s the Green Minestrone with Hemp Hearts, a favorite of mine from the kitchen of Laura Kline.

6 p.m. — I had a tough weekend at triathlon camp and yesterday was a rest day, so today I go on an easy three-mile run. I lace up from my house in Graduate Hospital, hit the SRT and loop back in about a half hour. I then go into my basement and commit to foam rolling (ouch).

8 p.m. — My husband Matt and I make another Lighter meal at home. This time it’s a very simple pho, for which I didn’t have the bok choy, so I add frozen spinach instead. Totally not the same, but it worked out.

10 p.m. — This is my first night at home, so I’m back on my vitamin routine. I take calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc at night before I go to bed, along with a spearmint hot tea.

Daily total: $17

Wednesday

Photograph courtesy Lia Belardo.

6 a.m. — Wake up! On my first “normal” morning, I am fighting jet lag, so I drink some of Mom’s Organic Market “Boyfriend Blend” coffee that I have in my cupboard and add more of the adaptogenic mushrooms. I continue listening to The Brave Athlete while I get up and get going.

6:45 a.m. — In my basement, I have a Wahoo Kickr. It’s a computerized bike trainer that I attach my own bike to. My coach Rita has written a bike workout for me that lasts about an hour. I go downstairs, listen to loud music and get the workout done before I even realize I am awake.

8 a.m. — I drink some Vega Recovery and eat one big bowl of homemade yogurt with some sliced peaches Matt bought at Whole Foods.

1 p.m. — For lunch, I have a homemade arugula salad with a baked sweet potato and half a can of black beans with a zesty dressing of lime juice, olive oil, balsamic, and tamari.

4 p.m. — Knowing I will have to swim soon, I have one scoop of Vega Sport Protein powder mixed in a blender bottle with water and some saigon cinnamon.

5:30 p.m. — I head to the Sporting Club for my swim and do 1500 meters in the pool followed by some serious foam rolling with their rumble rollers.

7:30 p.m. — I take a Hatha yoga class at the Sporting Club.

9 p.m. — Back home, I have a quick dinner of whole-wheat pasta with white beans and spinach. I had made the beans and sauce in advance and had frozen it, so it took about 15 minutes to reheat this dish in a pan, while simultaneously cooking the pasta.

10 p.m. — Vitamins again, along with some turmeric tea.

Daily total: $0

Thursday

Photograph courtesy Lia Belardo.

6 a.m. — Wake up and drink coffee. So much coffee.

6:45 a.m. — I have a 45-minute run scheduled, and I woke up stiff and tired. I debate flaking, but I just do it.

8 a.m. — Yogurt for breakfast with some cinnamon and bee-free honey.

12 p.m. – I meet with my friend Krishna, who has been designing the Team Humane League triathlon and cycling kits, and our new Asbury Park-themed running tops. We go to P.S. & Co., where I order a delicious caprese sandwich with a side salad and a cranberry kombucha. Since Krishna is always so great about volunteering her art, I treat her to lunch ($39).

1:30 p.m. — I do another 1500-meter swim at the Bellevue. This is the absolute best time of the day to go swimming. The pool was empty, and for some of the swim I was even the only one in there.

2:45 p.m.Eeeek! I am running so late for my hair appointment. I go to Olivia at Barber on 24th. I love having her take care of my chorine-treated, highly abused triathlon hair, as it is a challenge best left for a true professional ($45).

4:30 p.m. — I hit pause on my busy day and realize it is AMAZING out. I take the time out to be thankful for the weather and celebrate by going for a quick, one-hour, easy, and unscheduled bike ride with my friend Ello. We end up at Rival Brothers in Bala Cynwyd where I turned around to head back to my home.

6 p.m. — I had my friends Eric and Karen over for dinner. Eric has a blog called Philly Vegan Guy. He makes my husband Matt and I the most delicious lentil soup. I end up freezing the leftovers for a busy day when we will need a quick meal.

Daily total: $84

Friday

Photograph courtesy Lia Belardo.

6 a.m. — First thought: Coffee! Sometimes I go to sleep at night just excited to wake up in the morning to have more coffee.

6:30 a.m. — I check my Training Peaks to see what Rita has planned for me. I do another workout on my Wahoo Kickr. I switched my bike and my swim by accident! I am trying to stay on top of all the workouts, and it really is such a tremendous help to have a coach. I know when I cross the finish line of Ironman Lake Placid this summer all this hard work will be worth it!

8 a.m. — Another serving of homemade yogurt, this time with some blueberries I found in the freezer.

12 p.m. — I call it quits on working for the day and have a homemade baby greens salad with some air-fried tofu, sunflower seed dressing, sliced beets, and artichokes. I head to the hospital to visit my six-year-old niece, Riley, who has leukemia. We spend the whole afternoon together! Riley is my daily inspiration and her strength, her strong will, and her positive attitude is what motivates me so much right now.

Photograph courtesy Lia Belardo.

7 p.m. — My husband Matt and I head to Miss Rachel’s Pantry for a private dinner organized by a friend. Miss Rachel’s is my absolute most favorite. We have five courses that incorporate cheeses and the best pizza I have ever had. For dessert she makes marshmallow-y milkshakes with cookies ($63). Miss Rachel’s is BYOB, so I also bring a bottle of Grenache to share ($14). Matt and I both had a long week, so I thought the wine was necessary!

10 p.m. — I drink a spearmint tea and take my vitamins. I have a 30-mile bike ride on deck for Saturday morning, so I checked that my alarm is set, spend some time on my Five-Minute Journal, and turn in for the night.

Daily total: $77

Weekly Totals

Money spent: $224.50

Cups of tea: 4

Running sessions: 2

Miles hiked: 3

Biking sessions: 3

Swimming sessions: 2

Yoga classes: 1

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