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Alcohol and Exercise: One Trail-Runner's Journey

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Beer, booze, food, cocktails, long nights on the late shift — it all sounds like a winning combo for the bender from hell, but it's actually one half of Bryan Dayton's daily, surprisingly healthy routine.

Dayton is an award-winning bartender and co-owner of OAK restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, where he specializes in mixology and locally-sourced libations. Dayton is also an award-winning trail runner: He's won two 50K trail national championships in 2006 and 2007, held sponsorships with Nike, Inov8, and Vasque Boots, and runs a marathon every year in Colorado's high-altitude climes.

Bartender by night, trail-running superman by day: Dayton is a bit of an anomaly. But he also has some great lessons for the rest of us who want to stay fit and — I'm just guessing — enjoy a drink or two. Is it possible to stay out late, get hammered with friends on the regular, and still lead a healthy life? Well, "Yeah." Greatist talked to Dayton about how he keeps his own life balanced and his advice for maintaining a healthy nightlife and a healthy everything else.

Passing the Bar

"I made some really bad decisions when I was younger," Dayton, now 39, says of his start in bartending, before laughing it off. "Nah, not really." Dayton has a sense of humor which belies why he's so highly rated as a bartender. Personality aside, his drinks have gained attention for their off-beat ingredients (homemade passion soda, walnut bitters, St. Elizabeth All-Spice Dram) and local ethos. Those qualities were first instilled when Dayton was a bus boy at Juanita's, a Mexican restaurant in Boulder. As soon as he hit 21, Dayton asked to transfer behind the bar. "I'm not going to become a dentist or a lawyer or something like that; this is what I want to do," Dayton says.

Juanita's (now closed) put great care into its cocktails thanks to its bartender, Tom Sanders. Sanders was an old hand and got Dayton pressing fresh juice and learning about mixology. "The unique thing about Juanita's was that everything was fresh pressed," Dayton says. "I was trained by Tom Sanders and he taught me the old school way. He wasn't like, "Hey, this is mixology," it was just the way you did it."

Throughout his apprenticeship, Dayton was running. He'd always been a runner, from middle school on. Much like getting a cup of coffee in the morning, running was always part of Dayton's routine, especially in the mountains and trails surrounding his home. "I freak out if I go more than two days in a row without running," he says. "I get pretty intense. I have to go." He's serious about it, too: Starting New Year's day, he runs Bear Peak (one of the most difficult "fourteeners") every weekend in the snow just to get his base up.

All that exercise helped balance Dayton even when he was pulling long hours. After Juanita's, he took jobs at mom-and-pop restaurants, tried managing a restaurant, got his sommelier license, and finally came back to bar management and opened his first restaurant, OAK at Fourteenth, in collaboration with chef Steven Redzikowski.

"I've done this for more than two decades now, but it's a different show every night," Dayton says. "We have some of the props and curtains and costumes but you have a different audience every night. At 5 p.m. the curtain goes up."

Get Drunk, Go Run

One of the hardest struggles of being a professional bartender is also making time to stay fit, especially now that Dayton is getting a bit older and has two young boys (ages five and two). Dayton likes working at night — thank goodness — but how does he keep the balance? Here are his tips:

  • Moderation: "I'll definitely cut loose for sure, but it's balancing every day life. Do you really want do that and go down roads that aren't healthy? It's just something to be aware of, because alcohol is a pretty powerful drug."
  • Try to Fill Up: "Drink lower alcohol drinks, things that are easier to absorb. Maybe stay away from copious amounts of of tequila shots and just have the mentality of saving your "blowout" days."
  • Earn Drinks With Exercise: "If you're going to go out hard, then you have to work out hard the next day. You have to pay to play."
  • Does Drinking Cure a Hangover? "I think if you go for a run and then have a burger and a beer, that's okay."
  • Hungover and Need to Perform?: "Get sleep, food, and caffeine. In that order. Hydration is key and I highly suggest eating a little potassium in there, especially with any gastrointestinal problem you may have."
  • Red Bull In a Pinch: "If you're hurting, flat Red Bull is good. It has taurine and caffeine. Make sure it's flat, carbonation will make you cramp." [Ed. Note: Dayton was pretty clear this is not "medical" advice. Run with caution.]

Healthy-Ish Cocktails

The healthiest thing you can drink is, unfortunately, just plain old water. But for those who like to imbibe, Dayton whipped up some creative, healthier cocktails to try out home.

Gin to the Boarder 1 Shot Premium Gin
2 Shots Coconut Water
Dash of Orange Bitters
Garnish of Mint

 

 

 

 

 

Fridays Tonic 1 Shot oz. Any light aged rum
2 Shots oz. Premium Tonic Water
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Garnish of Mint

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Agave and Pilsner 1 Small Shot Blue Agave (1 oz.)
Splash of Pilsner

 

 

 

 

 

Next Steps

Dayton doesn't plan on slowing down. These days, his professional running is on hold (thanks to parenthood and scheduling), but he still trains every week come rain, shine, altitude, or copious tequila shots. He's even got the team at OAK into it. The restaurant recruited 12 employees for the Boulder Boulder run and helped pay for their admission fees. "In my business, it's so easy to go to the other side," Dayton says. "It's just a matter of balancing alcohol and balancing everything, you know? If you want to feel good and get your vitamin D, then you gotta do it. [Running] is my daily shot of Prozac, and I'm sure my staff is happy that I do that, because I would be even more wound up than I already am!"

How do you balance drinking and an active nightlife with staying fit? Tell us your tips in the comments below or tweet Zack at @zsniderman.

Photos by Bryan Dayton

Hey there - I'm the editorial director at Greatist. Before joining the (crazy good) team here, I worked at Vanity Fair and at Mashable, where I... Read More »