Health

How This Athlete Balances At-Home Pandemic Workouts, Training for Ironmans, and Earning a Fifth Graduate Degree

"The pandemic has made me prioritize health and fitness even more."

Nareg Sagherian works out at Vida. Photograph courtesy of Sagherian.

Welcome to Busy Bodies, where we ask busy Washingtonians how they balance health and fitness while working crazy hours, raising a family, and meeting the demands of the daily hustle. Know someone who’s killing the fitness game while getting it done (maybe it’s you)? Email [email protected]washingtonian.com

During a typical week, you’ll find Nareg Sagherian balancing his job at a global management consulting firm, getting in six-to-seven workouts, and studying for his fifth graduate degree (yes, fifth).

The 38-year-old lives by U Street, and often spends his time at the nearby Vida Fitness, going for runs along 14th Street, or heading to a local spot like Anju for an outdoor dinner or takeout. While Sagherian was always interested in exercise, playing childhood sports and weightlifting in college, it wasn’t until he ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2014 that he caught the racing bug. Since then, he’s run eight marathons, an ultramarathon, a half-Ironman triathlon, and a full Ironman triathlon.

While it can be difficult to prioritize fitness when you have a busy work and school schedule, Sagherian makes sure to fit it in where he can: “It really is all about making health and fitness your anchor, and not sacrificing the benefits you receive from it,” he says.

It also helps that he has family and friends backing him. “It is necessary to have an extremely supportive and understanding network and team around you,” he says. “[That’s] why I have a tradition that before I compete in any race, I make sure to write down the name of every person that I am thankful for on my bib. It’s my own little way of thinking about and thanking each of them.”

Sagherian after completing an Ironman. Photograph coutesy of Sagherian.

Here’s how he gets it done:

“A typical day for me involves waking up at 7 AM. I start the day with a glass of water with lemon or lime, 20-to-30 minutes of stretching, and four-to-five core exercises (4×20 reps). Breakfast is usually eggs with veggies and either smoked salmon or smoked ahi tuna, with ground coffee bought from a small shop in New York City and prepared via French press. My girlfriend surprised me awhile back and decked out my balcony with furniture, so I will sometimes take my breakfast out there for some fresh air. Work starts around 8:30 or 8:45 AM. For lunch, I usually like to have chicken or seafood with a salad, vegetables, and rice. [For dinner] we have recently gone on a soup kick (ex: Thai red curry noodle soup) and always love indulging our pho or ramen obsession. I also like to mix in one or two snacks during the day, such as dried fruit, almonds, or a fruit smoothie, while making sure to take my vitamins and drink close to 1.5 liters of water per day.

“My daily exercise routine includes a mix of five-to-six miles of running and one-and-a-half- to-two hours of weight training six-to-seven days a week. It also helps having an exercise room in your building. This schedule involves weight training after work is completed for the day (admission: I carry my work phone everywhere), followed by studying, and then hitting the pavement for my run. [I run] at night or early in the morning, partly due to the current pandemic and the responsibility for each of us to do our part to socially distance.

Sagherian and his girlfriend at Anju. Photograph coutesy of Sagherian.

“When the pandemic first started and all gyms were closed, it was a seamless transition because I had previously bought equipment to use in my apartment. In these cases, I would use my dumbbells and yoga mat for weight training and the stationary road bike for cardio, if I wasn’t able to run. Word of advice: turn on an action movie like Gladiator or your favorite playlist to kick it up a notch!

“The pandemic has made me prioritize health and fitness even more; working from home has lowered the number of steps I typically would complete in a day, along with the mental benefits of an active lifestyle. Therefore, planning and completing these daily requirements becomes even more paramount. While gyms have reopened, the time allotted to each patron is capped, so I make sure to get activities such as warmups done at home and focus my gym time on weight training. Mentally, it has been a test to stay disciplined in my routine given everything occurring in the world.

Sagherian completing a half-Ironman. Photograph courtesy of Sagherian.

“I am a better son, brother, boyfriend, and colleague because of my exercise and healthy lifestyle. It is my time to get away from the world, relieve stress, and prepare myself to continually tackle the unpredictability that comes with life.”

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Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. Her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Petworth.