As one might expect, becoming part of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team is no easy feat. The squad was picked in nine of 10 events based on combined performance at two selection events in the U.K. and Australia in 2011. But 25-year-old Paige Railey made the cut, and now she and her brother Zach will be the first brother and sister to compete at the same Olympics (though in separate races). We chatted with Railey, who is being sponsored by Sperry Top-Sider to see how she’s getting ready for the Games. (Hint: It involves a lot of eating!)
How did you get your start in sailing?
Our family dentist suggested my mom take Zach (her older brother) to a sailing program at our local club in Florida. Zach fell in love with it from the first day, and when I was little he used to sail my twin sister and I. The thought of being free on the water, controlling a boat on my own and being outside all day just seemed like perfection to me.
Sailing requires serious muscle strength. How do you stay in shape?
My family has always been very active. We were never allowed to stay inside and play video games or watch TV when we were younger. My brother, sister and I would go for three-mile runs just for fun. Zach was 9 and my sister and I were 6! I began training to sail when I was ten years old. I did a lot of abs, push-ups and cardio. Once I was 15 I started weight training. My favorite exercises are deadlifts, cleans (the first part of a clean and jerk), stability ball work, biking and Jacob’s ladder work. Google it if you’ve never heard of it–it’s really hard!
What’s a typical training day like?
During a peak training period, I’ll wake up and do a morning lift, sail for about three hours, then do an evening cardio session. Depending on the day, lifting and cardio sessions range from an hour and a half to two hours. A typical day when I’m not sailing is weights for two hours and cardio for two hours. Training is really difficult, so I need to be diligent about what I eat and how much sleep I get.
What do you eat to keep your energy levels up?
I like to think that the food I put in my body has a purpose–to keep me healthy and build more muscle. I’m not thinking, “If I eat this, I will get fat.” Instead I think, “If I eat this then I’ll have a sugar spike and be really tired later.” Food is fuel for me and is one of the most important resources to train successfully. That being said, I am human and life is short so I do let myself enjoy treats occasionally too!
I am the opposite of most girls I know. Two years ago I was told to make it to this year’s Olympics I would have to gain 24 pounds. I’ve worked hard the past two years to gain it the right way. It was extremely hard, and I had to eat a ton! To maintain my weight now I eat veggies, steel-cut oats, Greek yogurt, lots of salad, cereals with fiber, chicken, fish, pork, cottage cheese and peanut butter.
How do you handle tricky weather elements like wind and rain?
It’s part of the territory. If you can’t handle being soaking wet, cold, rained on and splashed by arctic waters than you are in the wrong sport! The right gear is very important; I avoid bulky clothing and instead wear heavy wetsuits and Sperry Top-Sider SeaHiker boots. Body fat also helps! Before I gained the weight my trainer told me to I was freezing all the time, getting ill and couldn’t recover from a race as fast as I should have been. A little bit of body fat can go a long way with this sport.
The Games are coming up! How are you prepping?
After talking to my coach, I decided to really dedicate myself to the Olympics and cut out all the “fat” from my life. I often describe myself as a racing horse with blinders on. I have serious tunnel vision and everything I’m doing is hopefully getting me one step closer to that gold medal.