Ashton Eaton is a living legend in the state of Oregon and he’s only 28 years old. The former UO track standout currently holds an Olympic gold medal from the 2012 Olympics, the world record of 9,045 in the decathlon, as well as the world record of 6,645 in the heptathlon. He even has a road (Ashton Eaton Boulevard) named after him along Highway 97 in his hometown of La Pine. Suffice it to say, you don’t accomplish this by eating donuts every morning.
“No, sir,” Eaton says with a polite laugh about his diet.
So what is the meal plan for this elite athlete?
“My usual breakfast is nothing special,” he explains. “It consists of eggs, bacon, and toast. “Lunch is usually just stuff like sandwiches. Anytime I try to have a meal, I try to pack in a lot of vegetables. It could be salad, it could be raw veggies. I’ll also have Greek yogurt, granola, or muesli. Nuts and seeds are some of my favorite snacks. As for dinner, I’ll just kind of cycle through all the proteins throughout the week. So that includes chicken, fish, pork, steak. I always go big time on the vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, for this meal, too.”
As for the daily schedule for this Oregon Track Club member, there’s little time for fun and games when you’re trying to win medals.
Every day Eaton wakes up at 7:30 a.m., then heads to practice from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. “Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I do my running and jumping-type stuff. That includes long jump hurdles, pole vault, sprinting, and then long sprinting for just kind of getting into physical shape,” says Eaton. “It’s different on the other days. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, it’s about throwing the shot put, discus, and javelin. Those are also the days I do my weightlifting. I’ll sometimes get physiotherapy afterwards twice a week. That takes about an hour and involves massaging the muscles.”
When he’s done training his body for the day, he puts his mind to work on the website (weareeaton.com) he shares with his wife, another former Oregon standout and Canadian multi-event Olympic athlete, Brianne Theisen-Eaton.
“That’s been really great,” says Eaton about the website. “It allows my wife and I to tell our story in our own words. But it also allows other people to see the struggles and breakthroughs that we’re having as we try to reach our respective goals. Hopefully, they can see this and be inspired to pursue their own dreams with struggles and breakthroughs of their own.”
Feedback for the project has been very positive.
“Most of the people we talk to really like the idea of us not just sharing everything that’s cool about track and field such as seeing the trips to Europe, etc.,” he says. “They like reading about how the pole vault practice was super crappy today. It’s good to share that because that’s what’s happening most of the time and people can relate to that in their own lives.”
Speaking of lives, what exactly is Eaton’s home life like, particularly when he wants to unwind? Well, for starters, he has to watch certain programs he’d rather not see.
“I hate reality TV shows,” he chuckles. “Brianne loves them, however, so we have to watch. Seriously, the way I unwind is by reading books and internet articles. Most of what I read online is about trying to keep up in the current realm of technology such as space, artificial intelligence, transportation, energy. All that kind of stuff. Most of the books I read are biographies. Some are about people who are entrepreneurial and other various fields.”
Eaton met Brianne (from Canada) in 2006 at the Pan American Junior Athletics Championships. “We call ourselves ‘Team North America,’” Eaton says. “The only time we’re ever rivals is during the Winter Olympics when the U.S. and Canada play each other in hockey. Other than that, it’s very much a team effort. I support her 100 percent and she does the same for me.”
If anything, their marriage is helped by the fact that they’re both Olympic athletes with similar competitive needs.
“There’s times when [we’ll] get messages from [our] friends or family with invitations to go places. But we both know that it’s just not going to be possible a lot of times, unfortunately, because we’re both so committed to this pursuit of trying to get gold,” says Eaton. “And any second we take away from it, even if it is time with family, it takes away from our ability to pursue that 100 percent.”
Right now, Eaton’s pursuits are focused squarely on preparing for the U.S. Olympic Team Track Trials in early July at Hayward Field. Unquestionably, Eaton knows this venue like the back of his hand. He’s competed here while in high school, as a Duck in college, and now as a decorated world-class athlete.
“It is incredibly special that a place like Hayward exists,” Eaton says. “It really is great to have that be the home of my athletic career as a decathlete. I love that the Trials are there and it gives me a bit of an advantage. The fans are always spectacular, rain or shine.”
Most observers see the Trials as a formality for Eaton before heading to the Olympics in Rio this August—Just don’t tell him that.
“I don’t think about Rio,” Eaton says. “I’m only focused on the Trials, and my goal is simply to make the Olympic team. I don’t care if I get first or third. I just want to make the team. If I get third place, I’ll be just as happy as if I get first because it means I’m on the team again. I don’t want to spend time or energy on something that requires another to happen first. I can’t say Rio isn’t in the back of my mind, but you still have to make it before you can talk about it.”
Having said that, some might see Ashton Eaton and wonder how much more he needs. So what keeps his fire burning?
“I guess what keeps me competitive is to keep being challenged and that’s about it,” says Eaton. “I’m really looking at track and field after Rio and asking: ‘Okay, what’s the next challenge in the sport?’ Or ‘what’s the next challenge after the sport?’ Those are the things that keep me motivated.”
Life after track?
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Eaton says. “But I haven’t really come up with anything. It’s difficult. I’ve done something that I’ve been naturally good at my whole life, so I didn’t really have to search. But now, I’m not quite sure how to search and how to find that next thing. That’s what I’m going through right now.”
One thing’s for certain. Do not expect him to become a track coach anytime soon.
“I’ll always be involved in sports, but what I do won’t necessarily be just track or anything like that,” says Eaton. “Yet, it will always be a part of my life.”
Keep up with Ashton Eaton at weareeaton.com.