If you ask her, forward Cheyenne Parker will tell you this is the best she’s felt in a while.
And no, it’s not because she’s coming off a season-high performance in the Sky’s victory over the Seattle Storm Sunday.
This is the best Parker has physically felt since she joined the WNBA as the Sky’s fifth overall pick in 2015.
Parker missed the last 11 games of the 2017 season after nearly tearing a tendon in her right ankle. She struggled to stay in shape and develop the best nutrition habits while being sidelined.
”Once I became a pro — not playing as much as a rookie and then getting injured and having to sit out — I was still eating the same way and foods,” Parker said. “Cookies, cakes, high fructose corn syrup — all of the crap they say don’t eat. I was still eating that way, but not doing the activity that I was doing in college, so I wound up putting 25 pounds over the two seasons.”
Even though Parker constantly tried to shed the weight, it wasn’t until she went overseas this past offseason that she learned how to sustain a consistent routine with her diet.
She played in South Korea for WKBL KEB Hana Bank from November 2018 through March 2019. Parker’s team regularly held two three-hour practices in addition to playing multiple games per week.
The rigorous scheduled left Parker exhausted. She knew she needed to change. So for the first time in a long time, Parker didn’t eat sweets for a month straight.
”I had to eat the right food to have the energy to do that,” Parker said. “It forced me and helped me learned consistency and it helped me break bad habits.”
Parker added that solidarity helped her stay focused and disciplined. Heading into the prime of her playing career, Parker knew she had to come into the 2019 season physically better and was determined to not allow being out of shape hold her back.
And it hasn’t.
Parker is averaging a career-high 6.6 rebounds and team-high 1.6 blocks.
“She’s dedicated more time to her body and conditioning,” Sky coach James Wade said. “You see how she affects the game. Being able to give extended minutes helps her out and it helps us out as a group. She works hard in practice — she’s always done that, but now she’s able to sustain a high level for a long period of time.”
Parker doesn’t have the same luxuries when it comes to nutritional assistance like her male counterparts in the NBA. The Sky don’t have a team nutritionist and aren’t provided with team meals before games.
Parker and the rest of her teammates must figure out what works best for their bodies nutritionally on their own or with the help of the team’s do-it-all trainer Ann Crosby.
”Just like everything in the league as women, I work for myself,” Parker said. “I do the dirty work myself and the research, and when I was in Korea I started to research foods that help with what I need. Protein, carbs and everything I need for myself. I have a really good list of foods that I make for myself that I know is good just from researching online.”
Parker’s transformation has inspired her to want to help others.
She’s in the beginning stages of creating her own fitness program application that would assist normal people and athletes in figuring out what they should eat and a workout regimen.
Parker’s compiling recipes for the foods and juices she plans to incorporate into the program. And she’s doing that all while at the beginning of what Parker expects to be a big season.
“I’m just getting started,” Parker said.