Betsy Bailey thrives under the philosophy that playing hard improves her work, and working hard improves her play. She enjoys the challenges of discovering simple yet indulgent ways to live mindfully wherever her travels take her. Though she has ambitions of maintaining a beautiful, informative blog, veganvolleyballer.com only gets updated about once a year.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
My journey was very gradual. When I was 16, I decided to stop eating red meat, mostly because I discovered it wasn't healthy. Then, little by little, I found more and more reasons to cut out all animal products. What started out as a quest to be as healthy as possible, led to discovering all of the other reasons to become vegan - environment, animal rights, human rights, etc.
How long have you been vegan?
I don't have an exact date of the last time I purposely ate something animal-derived, but I would say it was 12 or so years ago (2002).
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
More variety in what I eat - I discovered so many new fruits and vegetables - and a clear conscious knowing that I don't have to hurt any living being in order to survive and thrive.
What does veganism mean to you?
Being vegan touches so many aspects of my life, because being compassionate towards others (human or animal) is good for my physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. It's not just about what we eat or wear, but about how we live and view the world around us.
What sort of training do you do?
I play volleyball, so my training consists of practice with my team, plus weights, plyometrics, conditioning and yoga at least once a week.
How often do you (need to) train?
At least 5 days per week, which often includes morning lifting/conditioning and evening volleyball practice. In general, we also have one match per week.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I don't have any official credentials, but it's something I would like to look into in the future. I do have quite a bit of experience coaching junior volleyball, but it's not something I'm doing presently.
What sports do you play?
Indoor volleyball and beach volleyball. I also love basketball, tennis and soccer, but I don't get the chance to play them that often. I pretty much like any sport or activity that has a competitive element, makes me sweat and requires strategic thinking.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
There is always the protein question, but if someone who knows me actually thinks about that question before asking, they will quickly understand that it's not an issue.
What are your strengths as a vegan athlete?
I think I recover more quickly than most of my counterparts, even those who are 10 years younger! I tend to have more energy as well, but I think only part of that has to do with what I eat. The other part is my natural competitive drive.
What is your biggest challenge?
Eating on the road. Whenever we have away games, I always have to bring food with me. France is not the most vegan-friendly when it comes to eating out or buying food at rest stops.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Some are, some aren't. My first year playing in France, my coach, when he found out I was vegan, told me I must eat pasta every day for energy. I told him that if he ever notices I'm lacking in energy, then he can then tell me what to eat. Since then, I've had a few teammates actually go vegan for a few weeks to try it out. Usually, they discover they feel great eating vegan, but aren't necessarily mentally ready to go full-time yet. Baby steps.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yes. They are great and all very accommodating and open to trying new recipes. I'm lucky.
What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
I think the most common is the protein question, but I also get a lot of "I could do vegetarian, but not vegan. I love cheese." My general response is "you can do vegan, you just don't want to right now". I also explain that cheese was the hardest part for me too, and that if you do your research, you'll understand why humans do not need milk products and chances are, you'll feel better without them.
Who or what motivates you?
Fellow vegan athletes, watching any high-level sporting event, busy people who still make time to exercise and eat healthy - for example working parents - listening to music and playing music/singing, people who devote their time to helping others in need, and people who are really good at what they do.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - usually fruit or a smoothie
Lunch - a big salad with whatever veggies I have on hand and maybe some chickpeas, tofu, nuts or something like that. I love having different kinds of soup in the Winter.
Dinner - often rice, quinoa or potatoes with either sautéed or steamed veggies
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - smoothies, energy bars (I love Vega stuff and Lärabars), dark chocolate, apple with peanut butter, home-made kombucha, coconut water. I'm "lucky" that in France, a lot of the vegan convenience junk foods aren't readily available, so I stay away from them by default. When I'm in the US, I let myself eat vegan pizza with Daiya cheese and vegan ice cream, once in a while - maybe a little too often…
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - chickpeas, lentils, other beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts, mushrooms, hemp, broccoli - the list is endless
Calcium - sesame, greens, beans, nuts and seeds
Iron - lentils, greens
Honestly, I don't pay much attention. As long as I eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, I will get enough protein, calcium and iron.
What foods give you the most energy?
Do you take any supplements?
I take B12 and sometimes iron and vitamin D in the winter. I've had iron deficiency problems since my early teenage years - long before being vegetarian or vegan - so I try to keep track of my levels with annual blood tests and supplement when needed.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - hit the weights and eat whole foods
Losing weight - get active and eat whole foods
Maintaining weight - get active and eat whole foods
Improving metabolism - get active and eat whole foods
Toning up - get active, hit some weights, and eat whole foods
It's all pretty simple.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I find that I don't usually need to bring up the subject. Others usually want to talk about it when they find out I'm vegan, which then allows me to share my lifestyle without forcing it upon anyone who doesn't want to hear it.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
If you want to try a vegan lifestyle, but aren't sure you're quite ready for it, try replacing some of your daily staples with a plant-based version. For example, if you usually have cow's milk with cereal, swap it out for a rice, soy, almond, coconut, etc. version. It doesn't have to be an overnight change.
If you want to play volleyball, check out your local YMCA or Google “volleyball” in your city. There are tons of recreational leagues out there for any level.
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