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Sanya Richards-Ross’ Secrets to Training, Staying Motivated and Finding Life’s Balance

Written on December 25, 2013 at 10:31 am , by

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Legs like whoa! Strength-training is a must for the Fastest Woman on the Planet. (Photo courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross)

The impending winter weather can discourage even the most enthusiastic runners from finding their stride—and that goes for four-time Olympic gold medalists, too. Jamaica-born sprinting superstar Sanya Richards-Ross knows a thing or two about the dedication it takes to lace up and get out there each day.

A sprinter at heart, Richards-Ross has to really push herself through long runs during pre-season training, which typically coincides with chillier months. “After my season is over, I usually take about 6-8 weeks off before we start training again, and that’s always my least favorite part of training,” she says. “It’s long runs; it’s a lot of reps and light weight in the weight room. Just really preparing myself to take training to the next level. Once my training transitions to where I’m on the track doing repeat 200s, 300s and 450s, that’s the part I do like because my body just feels great.”

Richards-Ross takes a comprehensive approach to training, integrating weight lifting and Pilates for the crucial benefits of strength and flexibility, which is why she is so powerful in her cardio-based sport. And when it comes down to it, her favorite workouts are the ones that focus on building that incredible muscle! “I love when we are doing Olympic lifts like power snatching and power cleans and squatting. I love those powerful movements in the gym and I love to really push myself. It’s so full-body and so explosive, and it correlates to the track so well,” she says.

Most sprinters are known for preferring hot, dry weather, so the upcoming months will force Richards-Ross to put her motivational mantra to good use. Whenever her training days are less than exciting or she simply isn’t feeling 100 percent, “I refuse to lose” is the mindset that gets her through it. Not to mention she really bundles up, tunes into some power songs and tries her best to forget about the cold conditions. In case you’re wondering what music inspires her (we definitely were!), she switches off between the likes of Jay Z, Drake, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin and Bob Marley, depending on her mood.

Her 400-meter solo and relay performances have earned Richards-Ross the reputation of the Fastest Woman on the Planet, but her talents extend past the track and into the academic setting. “My dad always encouraged me to not be one-dimensional, so even though I was having tremendous success on the track and doing really well, he always challenged me to read and do well in school because as much as I hoped to make it to the Olympics and be one of the best in the world, I didn’t want to put all of my eggs in that basket,” she says. This mindset not only helped her become a straight-A student, but also pushed her to work even harder when it came time to run. “When I had my homework and training, and I had a lot on my plate, it was easier to get everything done. When I only had one thing to do, I’d kind of procrastinate. I always just felt so fulfilled when I was able to accomplish all those tasks.”

When it comes to fueling up for and recovering from her grueling training regimen, Richards-Ross is all about the high protein diet. She reaches for protein shakes after a tough weight room session, grilled chicken before a meet and egg whites with fruit and smoked salmon for breakfast any day of the week. “I mostly juice my vegetables because I’m not really a big fan of them—I know that’s terrible for an athlete—but there’s a few I like, and the rest of them I just juice and knock them out,” she says. And even the top athletes in the world have guilty pleasures. “Mine are the purple bag of Skittles and rum raisin ice cream. Don’t put those in front of me before a race, because I’m going to eat them!”

At the end of the day, according to Richards-Ross, it’s most important to pick an activity you enjoy. “A lot of people go into the gym and bite off more than they can chew and just get totally turned off. Start at a level that is comfortable for you; do something that’s fun whether it’s Zumba or biking,” she suggests. “There are so many things you can do to be active and healthy that don’t mean you have to go and lift 100 pounds or run on the treadmill for an hour.”

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Speedo USA Pulls Athletes, Artists and Philanthropy Together with Cap Art

Written on December 13, 2013 at 10:33 am , by

It’s about life’s journey, rather than destinations, Coughlin says. (Photo courtesy of Speedo USA)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Searching for a meaningful gift for the swimmer in your life? Lucky for you, Speedo USA launched its Art of the Cap Campaign earlier this week, introducing five new, limited-edition swim caps designed by incredible athlete-artist duos that give back to influential charities across the country.

Team Speedo athletes (and Olympic gold medalists) Ryan Lochte, Natalie Coughlin, Nathan Adrian, Dana Vollmer and Cullen Jones paired up with celebrated artists  to design the five caps available just in time for the holiday season. At the core of the collaborations is a true connection between the athlete and the artist, from personal stories to interests and style, which breathes life into these creative designs.

The proceeds from each swim cap will be donated to five charities selected by the athletes themselves—Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, Right to Play, Kids Beating Cancer, Simon’s Fund, and the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Initiative. Head over to the campaign’s website to learn about each athlete’s connection to their selected cause and what it means to them to be able to give back. Coughlin’s design in particular reflects not only her love of swimming, but her deep appreciation of the environment. Proceeds for her cap provide sport program opportunities in disadvantaged communities across the globe.

The swim caps are available exclusively at SpeedoUSA.com for a limited time, so check out this inspirational project and unique gift idea before it’s too late! Trust us, it will be tough to decide which team made the coolest cap.

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Music Monday: U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Olympian Julie Chu’s Pump-Up Playlist

Written on November 18, 2013 at 10:11 am , by

The key to Chu’s success on the ice? Pumped-up tunes and teammates to push her to the max. (Photo courtesy of Bounty)

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are a few mere months away and if you couldn’t tell already we can’t wait. This is around the time we start getting super nosy when it comes to the athletes preparing for the game. What are they wearing? What’s their training like? What are they eating? How are they getting pumped up to make the team? To answer the last one, three-time Olympian of the women’s ice hockey team Julie Chu has a simple answer: Music! Below, check out her playlist she listens to for everything from strength and conditioning training to bringing it on the ice. Her other workout secret weapon? Team up, obviously. “Being a team sport athlete, I have learned the value of working out with others,” Chu says. “Have someone that will push you and keep you accountable. If you don’t have someone specific to workout with, then join a local gym and take part in different classes.  It’s amazing how we can feed off of other people’s energy around us.”

For those days when you’re sweating solo, plug in to these tunes and just imagine Chu crunching on the mat next to you.

How U.S. Olympic Bobsled Hopeful Jazmine Fenlator Is Prepping for Sochi

Written on November 15, 2013 at 9:14 am , by

Jazmine Fenlator took her skills on the track field to help her become a bobsled bombshell. (Photo courtesy of Team Liberty Mutual)

It seems the sport of bobsledding has a way of tempting track stars to come over to the icy side. Lolo Jones recently made the switch to try to qualify for the 2014 Olympics, but she wasn’t the first track star to trade in her sneakers for snow. Jazmine Fenlator, who is currently ranked eighth in the world after winning two silvers and a bronze during last year’s World Cup circuit, was a former track athlete from Rider University who made the switch to bobsledding after her coach mentioned that she should give it a shot. Below, she talks about her experiences with the sport so far, and what she’s looking forward to in 2014 on behalf of Team Liberty Mutual.

What was something that surprised you about bobsledding when you first got started in the sport?

Definitely how hard it is to push a 400lb. sled! I’m used to the shot put or throwing around a max of 25lb. weights or lifting in the weight room. But learning how to be explosive and fast while not letting go (because I then have to hop into the sled) was a real challenge.

Lolo Jones has been making some press about her big change in diet – do you have any crazy eating habits you have to keep up for the sport?

I am a lot heavier than Lolo, so contrary to her diet I am on a pretty strict plan. I’m gluten, dairy and sugar-free. I eat very clean and timely and have certain eating strategies for each training day, so sadly our diets are not the same!

Many people are familiar with the Night Train, the U.S. men’s team from the 2010 Olympics. If you qualify – will you name your bobsled? Is this a tradition for your sport?

Yes – it’s actually a tradition to name your bobsled! The women name their bobsleds and if it won a medal the name stays with it. The sled I was driving at the last Games won a bronze medal, so that name will stick with it. I’m looking into names right now for my new BMW sled and looking for an inspirational and meaningful English term that I can translate into Russian. I have a list of ten that I’m going to narrow down to three and have my fans help me decide.

Fenlator also spoke to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation about Hurricane Irene, where her family lost their home due to flooding days before she competed in the World Cup. Watch below to see how she was able to compete during tragedy.

Misty May-Treanor Keeps Her Eye On The Prize With New Partner

Written on October 14, 2013 at 9:50 am , by

Oh, you know. Misty kickin’ glass, per usual! (Photo courtesy of VSP Vision Care)

Gauging the speed, distance and spin of an opponent’s 60+ mph serve is crucial in the game of volleyball — especially when you’re three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor. That’s why she never messed around with her astigmatism and far sightedness. “Growing up, I always got an annual eye exam,” she told us as she kicked off VSP Vision Care’s five day-long free screenings in Atlanta, GA last week in honor of yesterday’s World Sight Day. “It’s important for people to maintain their eye health. Many people don’t have vision insurance for their eye care needs.” And by many people, around 210,000 Atlanta residents are currently without coverage.

Giving back by hosting the largest free eye care event in the U.S. during the controversy surrounding Obamacare and the current government is just one of the projects Misty has up her sleeve now that she’s retired from international competition. “This is one way that I can lend my voice to help others in the community,” she says. “I’m also coaching and trying to start a family.”  So what about playing the game? Of course she can’t keep herself off the court! “I still play for fun,” she says, spilling that her fit routine is focused more now on low-impact exercises with lighter weight training than she endured pre-Olympics. And don’t think that just because she’s not sporting those skimpy (but awesome) uni’s she has given up on staying strong with that killer muscle tone. Her current goal? “To burn as many calories as I can so that I can eat whatever I want at Thanksgiving,” she jokes.

With Sochi right around the corner, Misty looks forward to cheering on the good ol’ U.S. of A. “A lot of the winter sports are foreign to me,” she admits. “I didn’t grow up a skier or ever go to a luge competition, but they’re just as exciting to watch.” Her favorite to watch? Figure skating, although bobsled and hockey are close seconds. Don’t expect this decorated Olympian (she keeps her medals safe in their boxes in a “secret place”) to get sentimental, though. “I’ve gone through four Olympics and it’s nice to take a break from competition and be able to focus on other aspects of my life, which I think makes you a more well-rounded person,” Misty says.

For more information on the importance of annual eye exams, check out VSP Vision Care’s website. Be sure to talk to your local optometrist about early detection for vision problems and other potential chronic diseases linked to eye health, too.

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Bobsledder Jazmine Fenlator Shares Her Secrets To Turning Struggle Into Success

Written on September 12, 2013 at 10:46 am , by

Written by Kristen Haney, editorial intern

Fun fact: Jazmine was Broadway-bound as a kid! “I tried out for ‘The Lion King’ when I was nine or ten. I still have my tap shoes,” she says. (Photo courtesy of Topher DesPres)

It only takes six seconds before a bobsled pilot is singlehandedly in charge of steering a 400-pound sled as it plummets down an icy one-mile track, whipping around a labyrinth of turns at upwards of 75 mph. No pressure, right? Not for Jazmine Fenlator, who’s used to steering herself and others through tough situations.

The USA bobsled driver and Olympic hopeful has triumphed over her fair share of struggles both on and off the track. Despite serious family health problems, personal injury and the loss of her home to Hurricane Irene, the New Jersey native has kept her sights focused on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, finishing right behind the reigning Olympic gold medalist at the 2012 Lake Placid World Cup with new partner Lolo Jones. Oh, did we mention she also juggles her training with studying for grad school? We caught up with the resilient athlete, ranked second in the U.S. and eighth in the world, to discover her pre-race rituals, hidden childhood passions and how she continues to bounce back from personal setbacks.

We’d love to know what you’re training for right now. It sounds like the Olympics, hopefully soon?

I’m hoping to vie for a medal in Sochi, so that’s less than six months away. It’s pretty exciting. Right now I’ve just been going back and forth between Calgary, Canada and the U.S. Calgary has an indoor ice facility and the U.S. doesn’t, so to simulate our sport as much as possible, we’ll go up there in the off season. We also do a lot of dry land training in the off-season, when we’re off-ice, running, lifting, sprinting. All that good stuff.

You come from a track and field background. How did you get into bobsled?

I was a track and field athlete in college at Rider University, and was looking to train for London. Some good friends of my coach, who were also coaching our rivals, kind of mentioned that they did bobsled after their careers, and asked what I wanted to do. And he was looking at them like, “Bobsled? What are you talking about? She wants to do track, but I’ll mention it to her.” At that time I was qualifying for NCAA’s and I was pretty focused on one goal at a time, so he submitted my athletic resume for me. They ended up contacting me and asking me to try out, so I tried out in the fall of 2007 and haven’t left. I fell in love with the sport and pursued that path instead.

What have been the highlights of your career so far? 

What’s pretty awesome is Lolo Jones came out for our team last year, as well as Tianna Madison, and now we have Lauryn Williams. I’ve been a huge fan of Lolo and for her to be my direct teammate and friend throughout this past year has been super awesome and not anything I ever expected. I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s extremely humble in our sport and just soaks up information. She has a lot of experience she brings to the table as well. Last year was my second season on the World Cup. Lolo’s my brakeman and she was only in the sport for two and half weeks when we came away with a silver medal.

How do you prepare for a really big race or event?

At a competition I have to have music. It’s something that just helps fuel me. I always have to rock out to Bob [Marley]. It’s in my roots. My dad’s Jamaican. Some rituals: I like to wear all black under my suit. For me, black is like a warrior—in the zone, ready for battle. But I also like some subtle swag, so I’m an accessories kind of chick. I have a lime green watch and I paint my nails gold and lime green—gold for victory, lime green for my bobsled color.

What was it like with Lolo being so new?

You get to choose who you race with: brakemen have driver choice and drivers have brakemen choice, so it’s kind of like a prom. You’re like, “Hey, do you possibly want to race with me?” Brakemen have that first six seconds, and usually it’s less than that, at the top of the hill to show what they’ve got athletically, and then it’s up to the pilot to maintain it. When I raced with Lolo in team trials, I was super impressed. I’ve seen her compete in hurdles and be super resilient—she’s been knocked down, suffered from injury, and gets back up. At the line, we had that bond right away.

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Erin Hamlin’s Need For Speed Is On Track For Sochi 2014

Written on August 15, 2013 at 10:54 am , by

Be sure to tweer (tweet cheer) Erin and USA Luge on this upcoming season. (Photo courtesy of USA Luge)

85 mph. On a sled. Feet first. Inches above a track made of solid ice without protective gear—except a helmet. In case your stomach hasn’t sunk to your toes yet, imagine zooming down the slippery 3,200+ foot course unable to see where exactly you’re going, just “feeling” it. Gulp. Welcome to the dangerous, yet thrilling world of luge. The sport, which made its Olympic debut in 1964, may sound chilling to most but is nothing short of an adrenaline-pumping ride for Team USA’s World Champion, Erin Hamlin. How does one start luging? Are those sleek ensembles even warm? We got the scoop and so much more. Read on and be sure to cast your USA Luge uniform and sled vote by August 24—that’s right, you have a say in what look our athletes will sport for the Sochi 2014 Games. 

How did you get into the luge?

It’s kind of an obscure sport so it’s not really your normal I-did-it-in-school story. USA Luge does what’s called a “Slider Search” every summer. They go to a couple of random cities around the country and recruit kids. It’s the only way they can really get people into it. My dad had seen an ad for this program in his company newsletter and asked if I’d be interested. I was a gymnast at the time, so I was in that whole athletic mindset. I decided to go, pretty much on a whim, and as cliché as it sounds, the rest is history. I got pulled into the development program in 2000. It’s super competitive, so of course they tell you that only five kids out of the 400 are ever going to make it anywhere. I was like, “Alright, I definitely want to be one of those five.” I got hooked right away.

Did your gymnast background translate into the luge?

I definitely think it benefited me as a 12-year-old. I remember being the only girl at my tryout who was able to do a pull-up! I think that real foundation of athleticism and core work, as well as flexibility and upper body strength, helped.

Tell us a little about your training now—we heard you’re quite the yogi!

Yes, I do yoga as much as I can. Less than I would like to, but there are a few other types of training that are more important for me right now. We do a lot of weight training. On the track we really focus on our start, which is a really powerful explosive movement. So we do a lot of Olympic lifting, as well as other more sport-specific stuff like rowing movements; a lot of pull-up and core work like planking and weighted or body weight mid-section work.

Does yoga help you stay centered?

I know one of my strengths is really being able to stay relaxed, and that’s a huge part of our sport. It helps the sled react better. Being able to stay relaxed and not get myself too worked up before races—I can really just chill out and not get too hyped up. [Yoga] just makes me more of a laid-back person in general, I think. If I do have a really bad race, I tend not to dwell on it for very long. I can learn from it and leave it behind quickly so it just helps me to move forward better.

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Win An Autographed Ball From Beach Volleyball Pro Kerri Walsh Jennings!

Written on June 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm , by

Pro Walsh Jennings busts her butt for that killer physique. (Photo courtesy of AVP)

Written by Chloe Metzger, editorial intern

Olympic beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings is no stranger to pressure, but this time the mom-of-three is putting the heat on herself: “My post-pregnancy body needs a lot of work right now. I’m just starting to rebuild my foundation.” Walsh Jennings, who is gearing up for the seven-city AVP (Association of Volleyball Professional) Tour, stopped by the FITNESS office to chat with our uber-excited editors about pregnancy, Pilates and the secrets to her fit physique (spoiler: a ton of hard work). Bonus: YOU could win an autographed ball from the superstar herself!

You welcomed your third child, Scout Margery, to the world just two months ago. Other than a lack of time, how has motherhood changed your exercise routine?

It’s made me more focused, for sure. I used to have plenty of time during the day to take care of myself and get my workouts in, but now it’s get in, get done, get out. When I was pregnant, I stayed really fit so that I could hit the ground running, especially with the AVP Tour coming back this summer. It’s a big objective of mine to come back and kick everyone’s butt, so I needed to start pretty fit. I’m building a strength foundation, trying to stay really flexible, and then working to get my agility back. It’s very humbling every day—but really fun, too!

So what were your workouts like during pregnancy? How’d you  stay in such great shape?

I played volleyball, lifted three times a week, did Pilates twice a week, and then did other random workouts. I’m really lucky in that I can mix up my workouts a lot, and I have really nice trainers who help me think outside the box. I keep my body guessing—I think that’s huge.

That’s definitely a lot! Anything in particular you love to boost your flexibility?

I do Pilates twice a week. I’m a firm believer in it—I think everyone in the world should be doing Pilates, especially people who are pregnant or post-partum. It’s a beautiful way to get your core back and your body awareness back. Flexibility is a function of strength, and I need to be flexible on the court, so that’s a huge priority. You need to tackle every base.

Which moves do you swear by for toning your tummy, especially post-pregnancy?

Everything Pilates! It’s all about the deeper ab muscles. I work on the big Plyo Ball a lot. I’m also really into windshield wipers. I think that anything with twists is really good, not only for your spine and your obliques, but for your entire abdominal structure.

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Relive the 2012 London Olympics with a “FIRST” of Its Kind Sports Documentary

Written on June 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm , by

Caroline Rowland at the London Olympics for FIRST film

“I fell a little in love with every one of the athletes featured in FIRST,” Director Caroline Rowland says. Photo courtesy of New Moon.

If you thought the buzz about the London Olympics ended last summer, we have news for you: There’s a brand-new sports documentary that chronicles the journey of 12 first-time Olympians, including Americans Missy Franklin and John Orozco. Aptly titled “FIRST: The Official Film of the London 2012 Olympics” the two-hour film is a real treat for anyone who enjoys the emotional personal stories, montages set to killer soundtracks, and gripping recaps that accompany the Olympics. Last Thursday, select theaters screened the film, but you can watch it on NBC on July 27 or buy the DVD here.

During the Olympic Games in London, Caroline Rowland—the film’s director and the Executive Creative Director of New Moon—was granted special access to exclusive areas by the International Olympic Committee. Here she shares some behind-the-scenes insights into her behind-the-scenes film.

Why do this film now, instead of four or eight years ago? What makes this the right time to film and release FIRST?

CR: Throughout the history of the modern Olympic Games, each Games has been immortalized on film. But the London 2012 Olympic Games made a specific commitment to inspiring a generation—so it’s fitting that FIRST focuses on young people and their transition into adulthood through their experience of being an elite athlete at their first Olympic Games.

What were some of the biggest challenges in creating/filming FIRST?

CR: It’s always challenging to film at major sporting events, but the challenges of creating a feature film—using the technology and approach that would typically be used in a more controlled environment— certainly kept the entire production team on their toes!  Between 26 sports, 10,500 athletes, hundreds of thousands of spectators, and unpredictable outcomes…it was all challenging.  But at the heart of it were 12 superstars who kept us all immersed in the experience and we were able to confront everything that was thrown at us.

What were your favorite parts in creating/filming FIRST?

CR: Having the opportunity to be at the London 2012 Olympic Games for 17 days, 17 hours a day, at the heart of the action was unforgettable.  I fell a little in love with every one of the athletes featured in FIRST. Getting to know them ahead of their events meant that I had a very special interest in their performances.

What do you think this film means for the athletes in it, as well as other Olympians?

CR: Several of the athletes in the film have commented on how the film has given them a prism through which to see their own Olympic experience, after they emerged from the most heady and defining experience of their young lives.  FIRST is the sort of story that any athlete—amateur or professional—can relate to. It is about triumph and adversity and the very human experience of being vulnerable in the face of unseen forces.

What’s the one takeaway you hope the audience will get, upon watching the film?

CR: I hope that FIRST is an uplifting, inspirational film that reaffirms all the things that make it incredible to be human—and specifically, an athlete.

FITNESS had a chance to screen the film and we loved it! So make sure to tune in on July 27…and in the meantime, we’re going to try and hunt down some of the songs from the fab soundtrack! For more info, like /OlympicsFilm on Facebook.

How Boxer Mikaela Mayer Knocks Out Cravings And Her Sexy Abs Secret!

Written on May 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm , by

Read on for her secret to knockout abs! (Photo courtesy of Frances Iacuzzi Photography)

 

Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern

Care to step into the ring with 22-year-old amateur boxer Mikaela Mayer? Chances are this former model will knock you out—figuratively and literally. In 2012, she secured the title of U.S. National Champion and brought home bronze and gold medals from the World Championships and Continental Games, respectively. The Los Angeles native was an alternate in the London Games (the first year women could compete), and has her sights set on gold in Rio. We talked training and being bikini-body ready for summer (have you seen her abs?), plus her genius secret for keeping that sweet tooth in check.

How did you discover boxing?
I signed up for Muay Thai at a gym near my house, and was practicing to keep myself busy. A few months in, I suffered a slight back injury that prevented me from kicking, so my trainer made me take boxing fights to develop my hands. Once I tried it, fell in love and never went back! I remember telling myself only two or three months in that I was going to be the best female fighter in the world.

Clearly that’s working out! How often do you train?

When I’m in camp for a tournament, it’s six days a week, two to three times a day for six weeks. It’s nothing but eat, sleep, train, repeat! The workouts will vary week to week, but it’s a mix of interval running, swimming, strength training, boxing and sparring three to four times a week.

Well, that must keep you bikini-body ready year-round, right?

Even when I don’t have major competitions coming up, working out is still a part of my everyday routine. Partly because I enjoy getting stronger and more skillful and partly because getting back in shape after you have let yourself go is too hard! So I always try to maintain. Staying in tip-top shape requires working out consistently. You can’t make excuses for skipping the gym. It needs to be a priority.

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