By Gofire Staff

Joanna Zeiger, MS, Ph.D., isn’t your garden-variety athlete: She’s a world-champion former professional triathlete who competed for more than a decade. She’s an Olympian. She runs marathons. She’s a multidisciplinary coach.

Olympian and star triathlete Dr. Joanna Zeiger

But her fitness wisdom has been hard-won. “My athletic life is littered with setbacks, chronic conditions, injuries and disappointment,” she writes in her book The Champion Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness.

Dr. Zeiger, who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials six times overall—in swimming, triathlon and marathon—excelled on the professional triathlon circuit from 1998-2010 and was 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Champion before she had to go on hiatus due to injury. She then became a dominant force in marathons in her 40s.

She spoke with Gofire about fitness recovery tips, her struggle with chronic pain, how plant medicine has brought her relief and why she thinks it could be useful for athletes of all stripes.

What led you to plant medicine?

JZ: I had a terrible bike accident (in the 2009 Ironman 70.3 World Championships) that left me with chronic pain in my ribs due to a condition called intercostal neuralgia. I damaged almost all of the intercostal nerves on my right side. The nerves run between the ribs, so I have intense muscle spasms and rib pain. I have had nine chest-wall surgeries since my accident to correct structural and nerve damage. The surgeries have had varied success.

I started using plant medicine in 2015 to help with pain, spasms and difficulty sleeping. I tried all of the traditional pharmaceuticals used for nerve pain and muscle spasms, all of which caused awful side effects without the benefit of symptom relief.

I was reticent to use plant medicine, but after years of insomnia due to the pain, my husband encouraged me to try it. It changed my life. I finally was able to sleep better, I had pain relief and it helped with the nausea.

What were some of your misconceptions around plant medicine, and what changed them?

JZ: My barrier to trying plant medicine had more to do with the stigma surrounding it. This stigma was two-fold: First, I was a professional triathlete for 12 years; plant medicine was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Second, I spent eight years doing drug-abuse research, so that definitely impacted my feelings about plant medicine. I was terrified about getting labeled as something I am not. Plant medicine is now an integral part of my health and wellness regimen. I consume it responsibly and purposefully.

Why would you recommend athletes try plant medicine? 

JZ: I think plant medicine can be beneficial to athletes in many ways. It can help with sleep, recovery, anxiety and pain.

The many forms and formulations of plant medicine now available allow for trying different products and learning what works best. Topicals are excellent for sore muscles, while tinctures and edibles can aid with sleep and inflammation. The limited research out there does indicate an important role for plant medicine for a variety of ailments.

How do you handle the issues of dosages and tracking the results?

JZ: Historically, it has been difficult for me to decide which products to use for specific conditions, how much to use, when to use it and what method of consumption would work best. I have tried tracking my own consumption using the notepad on my phone and Excel spreadsheets, and it did not work out very well!

The Gofire App helps solve some of these issues because it eliminates the guesswork. Athletes live by measurement, times, and specific goals, so having specificity in dosing and being able to track consumption in real time is enormously appealing. In this way, athletes can start painting a picture of how and when to dose and if a particular product is working.

This empowers athletes to take control of their health and wellness using plant medicine in a very systematic way.

Make the most of your plant medicine: Download the Gofire App today.

Learn more: A handy step-by-step guide to Gofire.