: Lisa Koehn
: Hawaii (Big Island)
: Weight Lifting, short-distance running (3K, 10K) (body conditioning and aerobics instructor, personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist)
Why did you become vegan?
Primarily for health reasons and also as an experiment to see if I could maintain my muscle mass without animal protein. I’ve always loved animals too and haven’t really eaten much meat for several years. I was still eating fish and poultry, however, but started to feel like a hypocrite. (Why did I feel sorry for cows and pigs but not fish and birds?) My brother and sister-in-law, who have been vegan for years, kept sending me information on being vegan, and I guess I finally got it. I don’t need to kill or exploit any animals to live happily and healthfully.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
My interest in weight training was sparked when I took a body conditioning course during my freshman year in college. I took a variety of other PE courses to keep in shape including softball, modern dance, ballet, judo, archery, and track, but it was the weight training that produced the most noticeable results in the shortest amount of time. I’d never been an athlete or even attempted being involved in organized sports because of low self-esteem. I never even considered obtaining any sort of physical education degree. That was for jocks. I graduated with a BA in English and political science and a minor in geology. I then went to law school, obtained my juris doctorate degree, and practiced law in South Dakota.
In 2001 my interest in weight training was rekindled. I had been under an incredible amount of stress and needed to do something to feel better about myself. I had lifted weights over the years off and on, but I was never very serious about it. I started to get serious, but this time I also incorporated proper nutrition, cardiovascular training and flexibility training. I became stronger, faster, more flexible, and more relaxed. The day-to-day stressors were still there, but the regular exercise and better eating habits were helping me to cope and feel empowered. I wanted to share this feeling. That’s why I became a certified personal trainer.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
Pretty simple. I eat small “meals” throughout the day, every 3 hours. I never skip breakfast which usually consists of oatmeal with fruit or peanut butter toast (whole wheat) and sliced banana or a whole grain cereal with vanilla soy milk. I try to eat a big salad once a day with at least 3 different vegetable servings and some nuts and/or seeds. After I train I usually have a fruit smoothie with soy milk and soy protein powder or a black bean burrito. I try to avoid white flour, white sugar, corn syrup and hydrogenated fats. Most of my fruits and vegetables are eaten raw mainly because I don’t like to cook. I drink copious amounts of water.
How would you describe your training program?
I guess I have a reputation for being a little intense. I teach 3 body conditioning/aerobics classes at the gym which are known affectionally as “torture classes.” I talk/instruct/educate during the entire hour while I’m leading the class, so when I train myself I make sure I get in at least a full hour of pretty intense stuff (“train for what you do”). I lift weights 4 days a week and try to run 5K every other day (not including my 1-mile warm up runs on my weight days). When I lift I lift as much as I can and go to fatigue almost always. I do a lot of resistance training with my own body weight (push-ups, dips, etc.). I force myself to do a little yoga a couple times a week (I should do more). I always stretch following my workouts.
My routines vary from week to week. I want my body to keep guessing.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I take a multivitamin and a calcium/zinc supplement. I put a scoop of soy protein powder in my smoothies. I try to get as much nutrition as I can from my food rather than relying on a bunch of supplements.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
People are usually surprised that I’m vegan because I’m pretty muscular. A lot of people think you can’t get enough protein from plant sources. They’re wrong.
Another misconception is that being vegan is expensive. I think living a vegan lifestyle is actually cheaper. Meat is expensive here in Hawaii! I can get 2 bags of fruits and veggies from the Farmer’s Market for under $20.
What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
Diet, hands down. That’s at least 80% of the work, followed by consistency and training hard.
What do you like best about being vegan?
I really feel good. I have lots of energy. I’m eating a more varied diet. I’m not hurting any animals, and I feel I’m being more earth-friendly. It’s good for my soul.
What do you like best about being fit?
I have more confidence in myself, so I’m more apt to try things I’ve never done before. I just starting racing this year. I don’t compete against anyone but myself, and I always strive to do better.
What are your strengths as an athlete?
I guess my strengths are my intensity and my tenacity. I don’t give up. I may come in last, but I’ll bust my hump to finish!
What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?
Like I said earlier, diet is at least 80% of the work. If you eat clean and train hard, you will succeed.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
If you have questions, educate yourself. Don’t be afraid of being vegan. Embrace it!
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
I’m 44 years old. My oldest son is 20 years old. Most people who don’t know us think I’m his girlfriend or sister rather than his mom. How’s that for motivation!
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?