#BETHEPROOF: Powering My Transition From Air Force Vet to Rugby Champ
By: Eric Duechle
January 28, 2021
After nearly 10 years of marching in step with the military, I separated from the Air Force to live a different dream—one to compete for rugby championships. With fuel and recovery support from Bulletproof products, I was able to hone my athletic skills and craft a routine that propelled me toward peak performance.
Refusing the Call to Adventure
For a long time, I refused the call to adventure.
I’d played rugby for many years at the club level in the U.S. and had opportunities to play professionally overseas, but I was afraid to give up the comfort of my job. So, I lived a half-dream, one where I was on great teams and winning games, but never truly testing myself against the best.
At the club level, we drank a lot (traditionally, rugby is a heavy drinking sport, haha). I traveled to different cities to play games and partake in infamous post-match socials. While I don’t regret my past choices, there was always a gnawing within me…
The Need for a Reset
In early 2016, I made the decision to step away from rugby. After spending the previous two-and-a-half years trying and failing to make the U.S. National Team, I gave up. I was mentally, physically and emotionally drained. I fell into a deep depression, uncertain of my future. I had stopped taking care of myself and wasn’t eating consistently, all the while, nursing a back injury.
For me, this was rock bottom.
However, as fate would have it, a fresh start was in store. Per the Air Force, I needed experience as a Flight Commander, so I was sent to Nellis Air Force Base just outside Las Vegas, Nevada. Report no later than 15 March 2016, my notice said. Given my state at the time, I showed up with hair out of regs and a poor attitude. I languished for two weeks before deciding to go home for a month to get my mind right.
I wasn’t proud of how I’d showed up and really needed to take an introspective look at myself. So, I took a pause to revisit my goals and visualize my future. Aside from my service, I knew that if I were to become a professional athlete, I needed to live with that level of intent and focus on anything I did. As my 30th birthday approached, I returned to Las Vegas—this time, determined to be the best officer I could be.
In 2017, my life began to shift courses. During the first week of the year, my team won Team of the Year, and I had just received the personal award of Company Grade Officer of the Year for my squadron. It was momentous. I hadn’t won an annual award in the Air Force before, and here, I’d won two at once. (I knew that by taking the time to recalibrate and set my intentions the previous spring made all the difference.)
A month later, I received a deployment tasker to an Army Special Forces Unit. Everything about the operation was hush-hush. I was told very little and was required to take immunization shots. From the moment I accepted the deployment, I began to outprocess. I was sent to Fort Dix in New Jersey for three weeks and returned home for one. Outfitted in civilian clothes to mask my affiliation, I left the country a week later. First, we landed in Germany for two days. Next, it was onto Iraq.
The following six months were my literal hell. Working long hours every day. Stress eating. Binge-drinking coffee. Doing anything to keep up and keep going. We combatted enemies day in and day out. I was soon initiated into a world few will ever see or understand.
One night in Iraq, under the full moon, I began to think about my destiny. The deployment was empowering, in the sense that I discovered my capacity to work hard under extremely challenging situations—something you cannot fully understand until you are truly put to the test. That night, I remember pondering my long-time dream. I’d learned that professional rugby was coming to America in April of 2018. My opportunity was near.
Crossing the Threshold
When I’d returned stateside in October 2017, my mind was fixed on leaving the Air Force to join the Seattle Seawolves for the inaugural Major League Rugby (MLR) season. First, I had to tell my Commander. It was a bit tricky, because I had recently been selected to the next rank of Major. We had been working hard to make that goal happen, and I was grateful for it, yet something changed within me after Iraq.
Seeing what I saw made me realize that none of us are immune to leaving the world unexpectedly, and I did not want to wait any longer to pursue my rugby dream.
Bulletproofing My Reality
And so at the ripe age of 31, I started my career as a professional athlete, which began with optimizing my diet and lifestyle. To get the most out of my 30s, I knew I would have to approach the decade differently than the recklessness I’d experienced in my 20s.
First, I became a follower of the paleo diet and intermittent fasting, as well as a student of yoga. It was during this time that I learned about the goodness of Bulletproof Coffee, aka butter coffee. With 300 calories of butterfat in my coffee, I was able to maintain a state of ketosis. While in a fasted state, I was able to remain in the zone of autophagy, a process in which through fasting, the body naturally clears out damaged cell components that no longer serve a functional purpose.
I learned how to unleash my limitless potential by crafting an anabolic environment with proper sleep, nutrition and meal timing. Thanks to Bulletproof Coffee, I was able to perfect the skills necessary for my mastery. I began to focus on the mental resilience and confidence needed to perform under pressure and overcome challenges. I became a teammate that was both selfless and accountable.
At the time, I was fortunate enough to live by a Bulletproof Café and began to learn and take advantage of all of the benefits of the signature beverage. I then incorporated collagen protein to help support my bones, skin, tendons and ligaments, aka my version of aging therapy. I also took to a routine of weekly yoga and nightly stretching and mobility exercises for mind-body relief.
The Road to Rugby Champion
My first professional season was hectic. It was a logistical quagmire. There was no manual. We learned everything as we went, and we learned it the hard way. Though through it all, our team bonded and grew stronger after every win and loss. We went on to win the inaugural MLR Championship, and it was breathtaking! In the moments after the final, it all seemed worth it. I felt we were being rewarded for our efforts. It’s indescribable, really, and more of a feeling than anything else. A feeling that could only be unlocked through sacrifice and determination.
While my story is unorthodox, it is a great pleasure to reflect and share it. I hope that every person is able to strive for their dreams and appreciate the fragility of life. To all my fellow veterans: I know what you are going through, I care about you and I hope you find your path to #BETHEPROOF, while also learning how to live your truth.
For me, that truth is now earning a selection to the Rugby World Cup squad in 2023. Onward and upward!
Want to read more about how Bulletproof products help everyday people #BETHEPROOF? Follow @bulletproof on social media and keep up with our blog for more inspiring stories from Bulletproof consumers just like you.
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The guest author of this blog was compensated for endorsement.