After playing four sports in high school and four years of basketball at Cornerstone University, one may have thought that, after graduation, Jeff DeVries (B.S. ’04) would begin to settle down. But, nine full Ironman and 29 half-distance competitions later, it’s clear that he is only just getting started.

Fitness in a Snap

An active lifestyle is something that Jeff has always pursued, whether it be being on his high school basketball, soccer, tennis and track teams or getting up at 4:30 a.m. to run a few miles before the duties of the day. This active lifestyle pushed Jeff to Snap Fitness, where he works as both a trainer and a general manager, overseeing three different locations in Hudsonville and Zeeland.

When Jeff graduated from Cornerstone, he thought he’d be using his degree in exercise science to train athletes. But he quickly found that, through working his clients at Snap Fitness, he was often more fulfilled when he worked with others.

“If you can work with people who maybe haven’t been overly active, you put the same amount of effort in and get huge returns,” he said.

Jeff loves helping his clients achieve a better lifestyle. From the time he first began at Snap Fitness 11 years ago, three of his clients have lost over 200 pounds. One of these clients was the reason for Jeff’s first Ironman.

Making Each Marathon Count

In 2010, about two years after Jeff began working with Snap Fitness, one of his clients decided to participate in an Ironman competition—and that he wanted Jeff to do it with him. Though this wasn’t his idea, Jeff jumped at the opportunity to come alongside his client and encourage him in this way.

“If I’m going to tell people ‘this is what you need to do,’ then I always feel as if I need to be doing the same thing.”

The two of them trained diligently together until the day of the competition. The client was unable to participate, but that didn’t stop Jeff. He arrived on competition day, despite the blistering 95 degrees Fahrenheit heat, and pushed all the way through, completing his very first Ironman.

Though Jeff was proud to have finished and experienced this triathlon, it wasn’t something he was eager to do again. Thirteen hours of swimming, biking and running really gets to you, especially if it’s your first time. He enjoyed the challenge but wasn’t necessarily counting down the days until he could do it again.

But, about two years later, something in Jeff changed, and he decided it was time to give the Ironman another go. Going into this one, Jeff had a little more knowledge and experience, so he felt more prepared. Through this Ironman, Jeff began to realize that he enjoyed this lifestyle change. Not only was it a reason to push himself to improve, but it also allowed him to fuel his competitive drive into something beneficial.

Fueling the Passion

To this day, Jeff has completed nine full Ironman competitions and 29 half-distance races. Jeff finished 13th in the U.S. and 52nd worldwide at the Ironman distance for his age group in the 2018 season. What’s his secret? Training and perseverance.

The mornings start early for Jeff. He starts training clients at around 5:30 a.m. and goes until noon. He uses the time in the afternoon for general management tasks of the three Snap Fitness locations he runs. As 4 p.m. hits, he’s back at the gym training clients until he heads home to his wife and three kids. Finding time to train himself amidst work can be difficult, but Jeff doesn’t use time as an excuse. Each moment of his day is planned to the minute, ensuring that he’s making time for each priority.

Training is like a part-time job. Totalling 15 to 18 hours a week, the payment from training comes in the satisfaction of improving oneself. This includes three hours of swimming, four hours of running, 10 hours on the bike and strength training. But Jeff doesn’t mind the busy schedule.

“I like to have a good number of things on my plate. Whenever I have a full load, that’s when I operate best.”

However, despite his success in these marathons or the countless hours of training, the part that Jeff finds the most rewarding is watching his kids follow in his footsteps. He makes sure that they know that it’s not about winning, but it’s about doing your best. “You get out what you put in,” he explained.

On the Horizon

Jeff plans to continue training and competing in all the marathons he can. With just three more Ironman competitions, Jeff could qualify for the world championships in Hawaii, where he would share the track with some of the best athletes in the world.

He also plans to continue working with his clients and helping them become the best they can be. Because when they succeed, so does Jeff, and that makes it all worth it.