Sports nutrition expert tackles first Ironman triathlon

UTA adaptive athlete says Ironman experience will inform his future classroom lessons

Friday, Jan 05, 2024 • Neph Rivera : contact

Tyler Garner, UTA sports nutrition expert, competes in triathlon on his bicycle" _languageinserted="true

For wheelchair athlete Tyler Garner, clinical assistant professor of kinesiology at The University of Texas at Arlington, a recent Ironman Triathlon—2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run—was a challenge too irresistible to pass up.

Adaptive sports are nothing new for Garner. The UTA alumnus is a former Movin’ Mav wheelchair basketball player. They’ve provided an opportunity to meet and compete with “really extraordinary” athletes along the way.

“They motivated me and inspired me to really push my limits and see how far I can take myself,” he said.

UTA sports nutrition expert Tyler Garner poses with his Ironman triathlon medal" _languageinserted="true

The recent Ironman event in California, a punishing competition that included five hours of rain, was not Garner’s first foray into endurance races. He had previously completed a half Ironman in 2017 and also has competed in wheelchair racing. A full Ironman was his ultimate goal, and he achieved it after training for 10 months while also juggling his responsibilities as a husband, a father to a 5-year-old, and a teacher.

“My goal with training was to get to a point where I was confident I could finish the race,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to set any land-speed records.”

The training and competition will inform future lessons in his sports nutrition class, he said, and he applied some of what he teaches to his own training.

“We talk about concepts and theories, but at the end of the day, nutrition is very individualized,” Garner said. “It takes a lot of trial and error.”

By taking on the triathlon, Garner hopes he will inspire others, no matter their physical ability, to take on greater challenges.

“Maybe this is something that will encourage people to do something that scares them and really push themselves to see what they are capable of,” he said.