Tawnee Prazak Gibson, MS, CSCS, CISSN, fell in love with triathlon in 2007 upon finishing the summertime Solana Beach Sprint triathlon. That race and that day literally changed her life forever. At the time, she was freshly graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in journalism and working as an editor/writer at a newspaper. Meanwhile, her passion for endurance sports and triathlon—along with studying exercise science, nutrition, strength training, etc—was growing exponentially. Immersing herself in the endurance sports world, along with a desire to further her education, led her to pursue a new career path and hone in on her talent as a triathlete.
She took a leap of faith, quit her job, enrolled in graduate school, and made the commitment to build her own coaching business and career in endurance sports. She studied at Cal State Fullerton, earning her Master’s Degree in Kinesiology (emphasis exercise physiology and strength and conditioning).
Meanwhile, she continued to race triathlon as a top amateur, with some great successes along the way and nearly 100 race finishes in less than 8 years. She’d usually podium or go top-10 in her division, and a couple times qualified and raced the 70.3 World Championships—her favorite race distance. In 2011 she did her first full Ironman in Canada, and while an amazing experience, training for and executing 140.6 miles of swim/bike/run was taxing and took away from her business goals so she focused more on half-iron distance in order to have the time and energy to develop her coaching practice, along with other side jobs she had including freelance writing, fitness modeling, personal training and hosting the Endurance Planet podcast.
Eventually red flags were starting to surface. Subtle at first, but then undeniable. Her health was suffering greatly as a result of the huge training stress and the relatively intense lifestyle of an entrepreneur. She still had some of her best performances to date into 2013, including her first overall triathlon win (in the female field) and a PR/podium at her “home race” Oceanside 70.3. Then it all came crashing down. Performances started tanking, mood and irritability getting worse, and gut health and hormones completely wrecked—including amenorrhea. However, she was still committed to race her second Ironman (Tahoe) and the 70.3 World Championships that year.
Those races didn’t end magically and the writing was on the wall. Things had to change. Even though she was incredibly fit, she was also incredibly unhealthy—the fit but unhealthy syndrome is a common issue in endurance athletes and at the time she didn’t know what that really meant but she was about to find out, big time. She made health her new No. 1 priority, and through a great network of experts she had built she along the way, she began the road to recovery and healing in late 2013. Within weeks her period returned.
She didn’t quit sport cold turkey, and still was racing a little, but fixing her health was the top priority. She had no doubt that the functional health model would be the ticket to success because this approach uncovers and heals underlying issues rather than just treat symptoms. She built a team of practitioners and did testing for her hormones, adrenals, GI/gut, blood chemistry, and more. She started researching everything possible to learn how to rebuild health the smart and safe way—this became the next chapter of her ongoing education. She regained regular menstruation and her gut issues began healing. Her energy and mood were so much better. She was sleeping like a baby for at least 8 hours every night for the first time in ages. All the while, she didn’t give up exercise nor training, but in this new norm things like tempo runs were replaced with bikram yoga, and stand-up paddling replaced performance-focused ocean swims.
By 2015 she was in a great place, felt a ton better, and understood her needs. Her hormones went from being at a post-menopausal status (i.e. not producing any progesterone and very little estrogen) to being all within normal ranges, and her basal body temp rose. With proper diet and nutrition tweaks along with temporary supplement protocols she was having success with killing and correct gut issues including H. Pylori, fungal (candida), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and other markers of dysbiosis and the differences were miraculous! With this new level of health she was motivated to train and race something again and decided to mix it up and try an open marathon, something she hadn’t done before!
In May 2015, using the MAF Method, she ran a 3:30 marathon (her first open marathon) and qualified for Boston—while maintaining great health and no setbacks!
But in 2016 she had weird symptoms that practically popped up overnight, eventually confirming it to be early onset of an autoimmune condition. Once again, back to the drawing board to heal using the functional model. By implementing the AIP diet, supplement protocols and making huge lifestyle adjustments she was able to get rid of all of her symptoms within 2.5 months, putting the autoimmune condition into remission and it never resurfaced; no easy feat.
During that phase she still was able to toe the line and run Boston in 2016, but did so with a different attitude—one of making wellness a priority not the finishing time. The marathon was a success!
These days, Tawnee is enjoying a new world of outdoor activity beyond organized competition. She’s an avid backpacker, certified scuba diver, stand-up paddleboarder, wanna-be yogi (bikram), and she even got back to her roots of surfing and snowboarding.
In 2017, she became pregnant and her first child is due in early 2018.
Throughout her journey, Tawnee has candidly shared her health issues, progress and setbacks on her blog at tritawn.com and on the EP podcast. She also saw a need for people to learn how to better embrace holistic healthy living, so in 2016 she launched a inner-circle membership group called Life Post Collective, which teaches you how to live the healthy, fit life you deserve.