03/27/2019 15:05 EDT | Updated 04/30/2019 14:25 EDT

Peak Performance According to a Designer and Triathlete

The Toyota Camry inspires a drive like no other. Sporty stance, exceptional handling, and available 301 HP injects excitement and power into each drive, so you get the most out of every road. In partnership with Toyota Canada, we connected with inspiring Canadians who have unexpectedly captivating hobbies, illuminating the incredible synergies between career and hobby, and how they can inform and elevate one another.

Meet Mikael Staer Nathan, graphic designer and triathlete.

For Staer Nathan, career and athletics complement each other in myriad ways.

As a teen, Staer Nathan participated in all sorts of individual sports, including kung fu, track and swimming. His family was more artsy than sporty yet he did absorb a fascination with design from them. Much of their home was decorated with modern Scandinavian pieces. They travelled to Denmark every summer to visit relatives, where Staer Nathan drew inspiration from his grandfather—an inventor, entrepreneur and artist.

"His home in Copenhagen was very eclectic," he explains. "It was a crazy art home, so visiting him there was always really interesting."

Like his grandfather, he doesn't hesitate to create something from scratch if he sees a need.

"When I first started getting into creating things online, I was very frustrated with the tools," he recalls. "They were just terrible, and I could never get things to look the way I wanted." By the time he finished high school, he taught himself code and was getting paid to design websites for clients.

Staer Nathan was studying Fine Art at OCAD when he had the chance to return to Denmark as an exchange student. There, he discovered triathlons, along with the desire to train at an elite level.

When he returned to Canada, he built a thriving career in product, graphic and web design, while continuing to train and race. While he sometimes thinks about focusing full time on triathlons, Staer Nathan says he can't imagine giving up design. "It's such a part of me that I couldn't not do it," he says. "I think it allows me to have more balance."

Blending the two passions also helps him overcome obstacles. If he has a bad training session, he knows to put it behind him and focus on his day job. "I can't dwell. I think that's a trap that a lot of athletes fall into, dwelling on their training performances...[If] they don't have something else to focus on, they can be in this vicious cycle of just beating themselves up."

He sees many parallels between his life as an athlete and his work as a designer. He has worked at startup companies and created apps from scratch. "Those are all very big tasks that require a lot of planning and thinking ahead, as well as reacting in the moment and problem solving on the spot," he says. "It's very similar to a race."

In both areas of his life, he has experienced that elusive state that some call "the zone". In a triathlon, they call it "runner's high". When designing, he reaches the high when completely immersed in solving a tricky issue.

In the most seamless blending of his career and hobby, Staer Nathan has created an app that allows athletes to build their own clean, stylish websites. "There's a great sense of accomplishment and pride in building that out," he says. He explains that the process of getting an idea, writing clever code and then finishing the product is immensely satisfying. "You hit save, you open it up and it works," he explains. "That's very similar to the sense of accomplishment you get in racing."

Find a hobby that unexpectedly captivates you, just like the 2019 Toyota Camry.