Five local athletes share how they take their health and fitness to a whole new level. – By Dana Nichols | Photos by Scott Sporleder
Meet five locals who live their day-to-day routines like an adventure sports movie. For this athletically superior group, motivation for personal fitness is as natural as Laguna’s carved playground of inviting coastline. They sat down—an incredibly rare feat in and of itself—to share their fitness secrets with us, lend some hard-earned insight into maintaining a healthy lifestyle and dish about how they fuel an active lifestyle (what they eat, what’s off-limits), each proving in their own way that it’s cool to be a freak about fitness.
Beth Weber, 31, competitive triathlete and swim coach
“I could go on and on about this sort of thing,” says coach Beth Weber, who has been swimming since age 6, competing in triathlons since 21 and is now into 15K trail run races. She stays on track with a training log. “For the most part, I know the night before what the next day’s workout is going to be,” she says. “I know that everyone has days where it’s just plain hard to get out the door. I think having a plan is key to limiting the number of times you feel like that.”
On her weekly calendar: 30 miles of running, one or two bike rides, one or two swims and 20-minute stints of yoga and core strength training throughout. The calendar accounts for recovery days too: “I take a look back and if I discover that I have actually put in several good training days or several weeks with a heavy training load, then I know it’s time to take some rest. I have peace of mind because I know my body needs to recover. If I listen to my body on these days, the next training day is usually one of my best days.”
Two of her workout secrets: training with her husband, pro mountain biker Dana Weber (“He is a much better athlete than me!”) and getting her workout done in the morning before other distractions. “Morning is the most peaceful time for me, and nothing compares to enjoying a nice breakfast after a good workout.” For this, she carefully selects a meal with 15 – 20 grams of protein, plus some carbs for recovery, and consumes it within 30 minutes. On race days, her ritual is precise: “Two hours before a race I have oatmeal with only honey or maple syrup, a gluten-free waffle with some peanut butter or almond butter on top, and half a cup of coffee. During a race I drink Cytomax and use Clif Shot gels for fuel.”
Laguna Beach has produced a wealth of talent when it comes to professional athletes.
Southern California native and Laguna Beach resident Lindsay Davenport, 35, was the top-ranked female tennis player in the worldfour separate years between 1998 and 2005.
When Rachel Wacholder Scott, 36, was named California High School Volleyball Player of the Year at Laguna Beach High School in 1993, it was the start of one of the most illustrious female beach volleyball careers on the AVP circuit. Colt Brennan, 28, has been a quarterback for the Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders and the UFL’s Hartford Colonials after a record-setting college career at the University of Hawaii.
Since coming up from stellar beginnings as a Corona del Mar High School star in 2000, Kevin Hansen, 29, joined the USA Volleyball Team in 2005 and took home gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Beach volleyball two-time Olympian Dain Blanton, 40, got his start at Laguna Beach High School, where he was also an all-state basketball player. The long list of surfers out of Brooks Street range from legend Mike Armstrong to Jeff Booth, who was a kid playing in the waves at Wood’s Cove before becoming one of the top surfers in the world.
MLB catcher Damon Berryhill, 48, began at Laguna Beach High School and went on to play for the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. German-born Hans Rey, 45, has lived in Laguna Beach for 25 years while pioneering trail riding and earning himself a spot in the MTB hall of fame. Meanwhile, mountain biker Brian Lopes, 40, has dominated his sport since becoming a pro as a teenager out of Mission Viejo. For 46-year-old hall of fame surfer Mike Parsons, Three Arch Bay was the ideal place to grow up and hone the athletic talent he’s unleashed on the world’s biggest waves.
Hans Hagen, 40, professional surfer
Oh, the dreamy life of a surfer—it must be easy to stay in shape when you get paid to paddle out … right? It’s not so simple, says professional free surfer Hans Hagen, who likes to mix things up. “What you do in between the good swells is important,” he says. “A combination of mountain biking, yoga, swimming, distance paddling, stairs and some gym helps me not fall apart.” That’s when he’s home in Laguna Beach, of course. “With surf travel, you have to always expect the unexpected: endless flights, car, train and boat rides, bad sleeping situations, ‘No Reservations’-style foods,” he explains. “The key is to stay hydrated, pack dietary supplements and protein powders, keep stretching and dial in a small space mini-workout.” Because an intense travel schedule would be taxing on even the fittest among us, Hans has found ways to keep his energy up with a strong diet and natural motivation. “The great thing about the ocean is it’s cold, stimulating and wakes me up,” plus, there’s his daily morning smoothie of Matcha green tea and a Sambazon acai smoothie with banana, pea protein powder, almond milk or coconut water, flaxseed oil and branch chain amino acids giving him a boost. Hans was born and raised in Laguna Beach and is now raising son Lyric, 4, and daughter Hana, 6, in his hometown. Perhaps because his surf travels have taken him far and wide, he’s developed a fitness motto that is short and easy to remember. Just one simple word: “Now!”
For the Fun of It
Josh Plotkin, 28, StandUp Paddleboarder
Since he’s called Laguna Beach home, Josh is in better shape now than he was as a kid or high school athlete. “This is some of the best coastline anywhere. It just forces you to be outside,” says the East Coast native, who works five or six days a week teaching three to six standup paddle lessons per day. Rainy days? “I love it. It’s fun to be out there when it looks a little different,” he continues. “But that’s why Laguna is so great. There are 340 something sunny days a year, and even on rainy days the sun usually comes out in the afternoon anyway.”
Paddling as a profession is hardly monotonous thanks to weather and marine life (he says he sees dolphins at least half the time he’s out), but he switches up his routine as naturally as the changing tides—the embodiment of how God-given athleticism is amplified when combined with a propensity for adventure. Josh surfs and runs three to six miles on the beach or Top of the World trails three times a week and is getting into rock climbing—simply because he enjoys it.
“I guess I just do it for my sanity. I mean, the chemical benefits are all pretty well documented,” he reasons, as if it’s the first time he’s needed a reason. And his fuel-up secret is even simpler: “Peanut butter on everything.” Josh has been guiding SUP lessons since the Stand Up Paddle Co. shop opened. “I was out paddling in front of the shop one day, and the owner was out with some ladies and asked me if I wanted to help out,” he says. He hasn’t looked back since, only forward. “Lately I’ve been having a lot more energy because I’ve been doing yoga,” he says. “It’s a good complement to paddleboarding.”
A Beach Kid at Heart
BRIAN WISELY, 47, owner of The Well fitness studio,
former tournament volleyball player
Although his fitness motto is “It’s a workout, not a play-out,” even Brian has some fun with the rules once in a while. Sometimes he supplements his organic veggie and lean protein diet with red wine and dark chocolate; he definitely doesn’t work out every day; and “I do my flexibility work at home before bed, which often ends up being a wrestling match with my kids,” says the dad of Stone, 5, and Rio, 2.
One of the most important lessons he’ll hand down to his growing kids is a sense of eating right. “For me, nothing tastes as good as fit feels,” he says. “Sadly, we’re not taught how to eat in school, plus, there is a lot of misinformation on TV and in magazines and newspapers.” The key, he says, is cooking almost entirely at home. “I like the simplicity and wisdom of the caveman diet. I don’t eat packaged or processed foods. I eat a lot of colorful, organic veggies and lean proteins like fish and chicken, and I eat four or five times a day.”
Brian takes his strength-cardio-flexibility workouts very seriously. He mountain bikes Crystal Cove or Aliso and Woods Canyons three or four times a week with a heart rate monitor to measure a 1000-plus calorie burn. Strength training is based on multi-joint and full-body movements to stimulate metabolism and encourage inter-muscular coordination. “Even though I’m a trainer, I often use a trainer myself,” says the International Sports Sciences Association-certified pro. “I train in the gym so I can play outside without getting hurt.” Indeed, surfing and playing beach volleyball (he won the Laguna Open in 1996) are sports fit for any Laguna kid, no matter their age. “When you finally realize how much consistent exercise positively impacts your quality of life, you’ll be hooked,” he says. Living proof that age is a state of mind.
“I’m a huge fan of Zinc Café. They have delicious and healthy natural food,” says Beth Weber. (350 Ocean Ave.; 949-494-2791; zinccafe.com)
Erin Jackson recommends Active Culture to her patients: “The Whole Bowl is my go-to lunch when I haven’t had time to pack my own,” she says. (1006 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-5188)
Brian Wisely orders the blackened wild salmon salad at La Sirena. (30862 Coast Hwy.; 949-499-2301; lasirenagrill.com)
“There are a lot of mom and pop shops that help you try new things and healthier things,” says Josh Plotkin, who frequents Banzai Bowls about four times a week for a Maui Sunrise bowl. (1100 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-8989)
Hans Hagen might be seen at La Sirena, Nirvana Grille (303 Broadway St.) or The Stand (238 Thalia St.) after surf sessions: “We’re fortunate to live in a place with all this great food, but too much of any good thing can slow you down,” he says.
Want something lighter? Stop for a O.I. Smoothie at Orange Inn (703 Coast Hwy.; 949-494-6085), “My favorite post-workout smoothie,” Beth says.
Kick Your Own Butt
“Start at the Top of the World, and go explore the trails in the canyon. You can get incredible vistas,” Josh Plotkin says.
“Bodysurfing keeps you in tune with the ocean and is way more fun than just swimming,” Hans Hagen says. “Go up and down the 9th Street stairs a few times and go bodysurf a few waves.”
“Main Beach is the best spot to pick up a beach volleyball game and is the place most open to outsiders. Beach volleyball has its cliques, and it can take some time to get in with the regulars,” says Brian Wisely
“Laguna has got some good surf; Thalia and Brooks Street have their days. Beginners should try San Onofre and Doheny—the waves roll in nice and mushy, great for learning,” Hans explains.
“Laguna Beach has a gem right in its backyard: Crystal Cove State Park,” Beth Weber comments. “My favorite workout is a trail run at El Moro Canyon followed by running strides barefoot on the sand at Crystal Cove State Beach, then soaking my feet in the ocean.”
“Laguna is the premiere place to paddleboard, and the ocean is the best playground,” Josh adds. “I like a distance paddle four miles round trip to Seal Rock.”
Always On the Go
ERIN JACKSON, 44, owner of Jackson Physical Therapy Studio and Pilates instructor
This busy mom of two, physical therapist, Pilates instructor and business owner is an expert at squeezing in workout time, anytime. “As a working mom, I have to get creative to find the time to get enough exercise,” says the former collegiate volleyball player. “There’s a lot you can do in 10 – 15 minutes. Taking 10 minutes at a time to jump rope, or 10 minutes to do push ups, core work, a quick Reformer session or mat work makes a big difference at the end of the day,” she says. “Even just a quick walk on the sand at my lunch break is a great way to boost my energy.”
Three keys to her go-go-go lifestyle: plenty of sleep, lots of water and always grabbing a simple and quick breakfast to jumpstart her metabolism. In fact, most of the foods she eats are time-savers, such as low-fat plain Greek yogurt with berries and granola, hard-boiled eggs and hummus as snacks, and easy, high-protein dinners. “My husband and I grill chicken and lean steaks ahead of time to use throughout our busy weeks,” she says.
Erin encourages her clients to move in whichever way they can throughout the day: “Take the stairs, park farther away from the store, do a wall sit while on the phone, calf raises while brushing your teeth, stretch while reading the mail … just don’t sit around.”
Having a 5 and a 6 year old helps too.
Still looking for the right answer to living your own super fit life? There isn’t one—these five fitness gurus prove that just as no two lifestyles are alike, and no two workout regimens are exactly the same. With boundless outdoor recreation and resources for healthy living, Laguna Beach is the perfect place to put your own lifestyle to the test. The good news: You’ll never look out of place trying something new here. LBM