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Olympics

Pro Tennis Star Vika Azarenka on Staying Positive and Keeping Workouts Fun

Written on March 7, 2013 at 9:23 am , by

Mom may not agree, but our fingers are crossed for another Olympic appearance from Vika Azarenka! (Photo courtesy Robin Fenlon)

Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern

In case you haven’t heard of professional tennis player Vika Azarenka, we’ll catch you up to speed: She’s won two Australian Open singles titles (2012 and 2013) and two mixed doubles Grand Slam titles (2007 US Open with Max Mirnyi and 2008 French Open with Bob Bryan), plus an Olympic bronze medal for singles and gold for mixed doubles (with Mirnyi) at the London Games. Impressive for a 23-year-old, right? Before the BNP Paribas Showdown against Serena Williams at Madison Square Garden (Williams won the exhibition match 6-4, 6-3), we chatted with Azarenka about how fell in love with the sport, what she enjoyed about the 2012 Olympic Games and how she keeps her workouts fun.

When did you first pick up a racket?
I started to play tennis when I was seven years old. I was very close to my mom, and she worked at a tennis center. I couldn’t go anywhere without her, so after school, I would come back and walk around with her. She didn’t get a chance to work, so she had to distract me somehow. She gave me a tennis racket and a ball, so I started hitting it against the wall, and it was fun. One of the coaches saw me and asked if I wanted to join the group with the other kids. I was scared at the beginning, but once I started I was so happy. I really found a love for the game as a kid.

As they say, the rest is history! Aside from winning your medals at the London Games, what was your favorite part about the Olympics?
The whole journey. It was very tennis-oriented because we played far away from the other sports, so I didn’t get a chance to visit anything else. It was an amazing experience. The transformation from Wimbledon to the Olympics was completely different. Playing in singles and mixed doubles was incredible. Read more

Olympic Gymnast McKayla Maroney on Getting Back Into the Gym and Finally Being Impressed

Written on March 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm , by

McKayla Maroney is back in the gym healthy, healed and has her eyes set on another Olympics!

Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney might have been less than impressed with her vault silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games, but her attitude these days is straight gold. I got the chance to chat with Maroney as she helped launch TEN, a line of 10 calorie sodas from the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group on the lessons she learned in London, recovering from injury and what she thinks about teammate Aly Raisman’s Dancing with the Stars announcement.

I love that the tagline for the TEN campaign is “McKayla is finally impressed.” Are you so sick of hearing about and seeing your not impressed face all over the Internet?

I wouldn’t say I am sick of it, but it definitely comes up in every topic with every person I talk to. It’s great that now I can turn it into something positive, and be impressed with TEN. My favorite out of the line is the Sunkist TEN; I have always loved orange soda so now I can enjoy it without all the sugar.

What are some of the lessons you learned from your time in London at the 2012 Summer Olympics?

The first thing I learned was how to deal with the media. I came to the Games and I had no media experience and I didn’t know how to take it all with a grain of salt. All of us on the team had our media issues, Gabby with her hair and then my face – so we had to learn how to let it roll off our backs. At the beginning it was hard, because I was just a gymnast. I was never famous, I was used to being in the gym eight hours a day and I never had anyone judging me because of my face, they were judging me on my gymnastics! Now I handle life way better and I’m actually happy that it happened because nothing hurts my feelings anymore. And since I want to get into acting I have to be ready for a lot more of that kind of attention. Read more

Shawn Johnson Talks Balance & Raising The Fitness Bar Post-DWTS

Written on February 19, 2013 at 9:00 am , by

Johnson challenged us to sweat-test the new XBox360 Nike+ Kinect Training with her. Let’s just say she kicked our butt! (Photo courtesy of Lauren Cardarelli)

Shawn Johnson has had us on the edge of our seats long before Dancing With The Stars. Like most of America, we were glued to our TVs during the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she took home a gold and three silver medals. A ski injury shortly after, though, forced the bubbly gymnast into announcing an her early retirement. Johnson may have been sidelined from defending her title last summer in London, but this optimist has yet to lose that infectious grin or love for fitness.

Two seasons of DWTS as a Season 8 winner and All-Stars runner-up introduced the Olympian to a new type of exercise, sparking an interest in other athletic ventures and a healthy lifestyle revamp. Now, at 21-years old, Johnson is stronger than ever. We talked to her about transitioning into the new gymnastics-less phase of her life, going Paleo and body love. Here’s what we landed:

What is the hardest part about being an Olympic athlete?

For me, the hardest part changes all the time, looking back on it. I feel the hardest part of being an Olympic athlete is just the discipline, especially in gymnastics—we’re so young. We start training when we’re three years old. We start living in the gym 40 hours a week when we’re eight. Just kind of taking that whole normal childhood experience away and being an Olympic athlete—I mean it takes a lot of mental and physical power and being able to be 16 and stand on the Olympic podium and have the mental strength to handle that pressure. I don’t honestly even know how I did it back then because I feel like now I’m like, ‘I could never do that!’ 

Favorite Olympic moment—spill!

I would say outside of the competition, my favorite moment was in the Olympic Village. Everybody was lining up to walk through opening ceremonies—the gymnasts aren’t really allowed because we compete the next day—I saw towering over everybody was Yao Ming. I was starstruck, no joke. I ran from my team, who was headed back to their dorms. I wanted a picture so bad and I remember I literally was tapping on his thigh like looking up at him and he never paid attention. He probably thought I was a fly on him or something!

How has your workout changed since the Olympics and DWTS?

My workouts have changed drastically. I’m no longer in the gymnastics gym. Honestly, it’s kind of a big goal and new learning experience for me. I feel like as soon as gymnastics was over, I made it a point to not go back into the gym so I could learn how to do workouts and train and stay healthy outside of it. It’s kind of a therapeutic thing almost. It’s closure almost. But I work with one of the best trainers ever—she’s like my best friend—Jeanette Jenkins. 

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Hot Beach Body Secrets from Volleyball Players (Including the Pregnant Kerri Walsh Jennings!)

Written on December 1, 2012 at 11:22 am , by

April Ross and Xi Zhang play in the Hilton HHonors Beach Volleyball Challenge (Photo courtesy of Lucy Pemoni/AP Images for Hilton HHonors)

FITNESS recently caught up with our July issue cover girl three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, along with fellow USA Volleyball players April Ross and Jennifer Kessy at the Hilton HHonors Beach Volleyball Challenge. You can catch Kessy and Ross, who nabbed silver at the London Olympics against Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, take on Team China, Chen Xue and Xi Zhang, at 3 p.m. today on the NBC Sports Network. Walsh Jennings commentates during the match, which was held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort in Honolulu.

Kerri Walsh Jennings Talks About Being Pregnant during the London Olympics

FITNESS: Was it scary playing so hard in the London Olympics knowing you were probably pregnant

Kerri: No, not at all. I was maybe a week and a half late max by the end of the Olympics. At that point, most people don’t even realize they miss a period. I knew we tried and I was just on it. But I would have never put myself in that situation if I thought the potential baby in my body was going to be at risk—and I know that’s not the case. I played volleyball until the time I was 9 months pregnant with Sundance [her second son, now 2] and felt like I was doing right by him and the same thing with this baby. Being physical is what I do and it makes me feel good and it benefits the baby inside me.

Kerri Walsh Jennings and Lisa Haney at the Hilton HHonors Beach Volleyball Challenge (Photo courtesy of Lucy Pemoni/AP Images for Hilton HHonors)

Did it change your mindset at all during the Games?

Kerri: It wasn’t stressful, it was nothing negative—it was just more inspiring. I didn’t take a test until I got home to confirm it, but you know. It was just like, What if? I remember telling Casey [Jennings, her husband] that I’m late and he’s like, That’s so great. That’s how we do it. And I thought, You’re right. We’re here at the final stage of one journey that we’ve been working so hard for and we’ve always really wanted to start this other adventure of adding to our family right away. So it just feels like the timing was so blessed and we’re just really grateful.

You wear a bikini for your job. Do you feel self-conscious about your body when you’re pregnant?

Kerri: I do. The hardest part for me is right now [mid October]—I’m 15 and a half weeks pregnant and you know you can’t really tell that I’m that pregnant but you can. My muscle turned to mush right away with this pregnancy and I actually am very self conscious, and so I wear a lot more leggings and cover up a lot more. And I live in California and it’s hot all the time and it drives me crazy.

I generally don’t have an issue with that. Not that I really love my body or anything, just that I appreciate my body and that kind of helps me overlook what I’m doing. So once I turn the corner and get a little bigger than I am right now I think I’ll appreciate my body again because I know what it’s doing and I’m grateful. But it’s hard—it’s hard to see the cellulite, it’s hard to go from one place where you’re walking around in a bikini top to you can’t even imagine being in a bikini.

I heard you think the baby is a girl.

Kerri: Yeah. The pregnancy is so different so far. My skin is so different—I have way more acne than I’ve ever had­—and I’ve been sick way more. With my two pregnancies with my boys [Joseph, 3, and Sundance, 2] I had maybe two days total where I didn’t feel great and this has been the majority of the days I don’t feel great. Chinese calendar says we’re having a girl. My money’s on a girl. We’re going to open a present on Christmas morning to see what we’re having and then we’ll celebrate either way. I love my boys—I would not trade my boys in for the world. But I would love for my husband to have a daddy’s little girl.

Read on for Jennifer Kessy’s and April Ross’ Beach Body Secrets Read more

Professional Freeskier Roz Groenewoud Teams Up with Target and Chats About the 2014 Winter Olympics!

Written on November 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm , by

As part of her partnership with Target, Roz will layer up with the C9 line to keep her warm when taking on the half pipe. (Photo courtesy of Target)

Imagine participating in a sport that lasts only 30 seconds. That’s exactly what Roz Groenewoud does, except she’s managed to master the sport of professional freeskiing. Last year Groenewoud won the X Games both in the U.S. and Europe and this year, she’s excited to not only try to hang on to her spot on the podium, but also to gear up for the debut of freeskiing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. As Target’s newest Elite Athlete (joining the ranks of snowboarder Shaun White) we got the chance to chat with Groenewoud on how she’s getting ready for the qualifying trials and why being nervous before a run is a good thing!

How do you train for freeskiing?

The half pipe takes about 30 seconds to get down, so I do lots of plyometics and biking, things that work on bursts of speed. Right now I’m training at home (in Squamish, BC) and I’m not doing anything on the snow. I’m just working on getting stronger. In the summer strength training is lots of lower body reps like squats and dead lifts with less weight and then when the winter season gets closer it changes to less reps with more weight. I do a ton of trampoline training too, especially practicing how to fall safely.

What are some tips for when you fall so that you don’t get injured?

First, you have to protect your head. I wear bump pads, a back protector and a mouth guard all the time but it’s important to keep your limbs in. If not, your ski could snag something and that’s how you can get really hurt. Read more

How U.S. Soccer Superstar Alex Morgan Prevents Injuries On and Off the Field

Written on September 12, 2012 at 10:01 am , by

Luckily for Morgan, a torn ACL was just a hurdle in her soccer career. (Photo courtesy of Depuy Mitek, Inc.

When balls fly at my head, I usually duck. Thankfully, U.S. Olympic soccer player Alex Morgan does not. As you might remember, Morgan scored the winning goal (off a header) at the Olympics in overtime against Canada to take the U.S. team into the game medal match against Japan. Now that the Games are behind her, Morgan is teaming up with DePuy Mitek, Inc., the official sports medicine sponsor of the 2014 FIFA World Cup to launch an initiative to educate parents, coaches and athletes about the importance of injury prevention. Read on to see how she stays injury-free and what she wants athletes everywhere to know.

What’s the main idea behind this initiative with the Sports Injury Prevention Program?

Aside from teaching parents, coaches and athletes how important it is to make sure your muscles are warm and ready to go before a game, they’ve also created the FIFA 11+, a warm-up program designed to reduce injuries in athletes 14 years and older. If you do these exercises twice a week, which consists of a mix of running, balance and plyometric exercises you significantly decrease your chance of getting hurt on the field.

Do you remember the first time you were badly injured playing soccer?

I tore my ACL when I was 17, which was a really important time in my life. It was my first college season and basically the worst time ever to get hurt. I had to get surgery and it took me five months to get back on the field. I wish they had this program back then, especially because female athletes have a much higher injury rate.

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U.S. Soccer Captain Christie Rampone’s Post-Olympic Workout Plan

Written on September 7, 2012 at 11:02 am , by

Rampone's fourth appearance in the Olympics is a record for a U.S. soccer player. (Photo courtesy of FRS)

U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Captain Christie Rampone was no stranger to the Olympics this past summer. The team’s victory marked her third gold medal in the sport, in addition to the slew of championships and awards she’s racked up over the years. Now the busy mom of two is back home in New Jersey, and we got the chance to chat with her to see what life is like after London.

Congrats on your third Olympic gold medal! What was the first thing you did after the winning game?

After the gold medal match our team had a big celebration with family, friends and some of the U.S. Men’s Basketball players. We danced and chatted until almost 5 a.m.! After the party, my teammates and I headed back to the Athlete’s Village to get a couple hours of sleep before the media frenzy began.

Soccer is such an endurance sport. What did you eat and drink during the Games to keep your energy levels up?

I’ve been taking FRS Healthy Performance chews and drinks for a few years, regardless of if I’m training or not. Aside from that, my diet during competitions consists of a lot of pasta, chicken, strawberries, blueberries and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

Read more

Look and Train Like an Olympian

Written on August 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm , by

Speedo provided Team USA another year of stylish strokes. (Photo by Lauren Cardarelli)

Although the Olympics are officially over, we can’t help but miss all of the excitement (and inspiration!) this year’s athletes brought to our televisions. We may not have the stroke of Missy Franklin or speed of Allyson Felix but we can still try to train and outfit ourselves like our favorite champions. If you’re still burning with Olympic fever, we have the best games gear that will encourage you to go for whatever “gold” you set.

Patriotic Pool Wear – Swede Arne Borg became the first Olympic Gold Medalist to win in a Speedo back in 1932. Since then, the world’s top-selling swimwear brand has been lapping competition with their innovations. This summer, Speedo outfitted the entire US swim team with the latest performance technology, the Fastskin3, which improves hydrodynamics and reduces drag. Not looking to make the $595 investment? The 2012 Team Speedo Collection commemorates the Olympic games utilizing their Endurance+ training suit fabric. This stretch technology and cut lasts 20% longer than traditional suits for a more affordable $82!

“Dimples,” a Good Thing – According to a recent British study, sneaks with “dimples,” or fabrics replicating the texture of a golf ball, resulted in an overall better aerodynamic performance. We think the Reebok DMXRide, Nike Zoom, Nike Free and Nike100km are all great examples of the running shoe design found to affect both energy consumption and finishing time. Looking to strut your stuff in kicks clad in stars and stripes? Check out the gold-worthy Saucony’s commemorative Women’s Jazz Low Pro Medal collection and ASICS Red, White & Blur Limited Edition Gel-Bur33!

Check out those spikes! (Photo by Lauren Cardarelli)

Break PRs – Track events often come down to hundredths of a second and that means sprinters, especially, need lightweight spikes to help their traction. Puma’s Usain Bolt evoSPEED Sprint LTD Spikes are flexible, while offering optimum grip, stability and Jamaican pride. Tyson Gay, who took home silver in the Men’s 4x100m relay, preferred the adiZERO Prime SP by Adidas, which weighs in at just 3.5 ounces thanks to the seamless upper SpringWeb.

Have a Ball!Arguably one of London’s biggest nail biting match-ups was when reigning champs Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor took on fellow Americans, Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, in the final women’s beach volleyball match. You, too, can bump, set and spike like the fab ab duo with Kerri’s favorite Oakley shades, the Commit SQ in Black, known for its lens clarity. The official Olympic Volleyball game ball is now also available by Mikasa.

 

More from FITNESS:

5 Olympic Moments with the U.S. Women’s Rowing Team

Keep Your Olympics Fire Burning with a Gold-Medal Workout!

London 2012 Olympics: Chatting with Mia Hamm About Team USA!

5 Olympic Moments with the U.S. Women’s Rowing Team

Written on August 15, 2012 at 10:05 am , by

From left to right: Meghan Musnicki, Erin Carfaro, Esther Lofgren and Mary Whipple showing off their gold medals!

Though the Games are over, we couldn’t pass up a chance to meet the nine women who made history by winning back-to-back Olympic gold in London this summer. They are 7-time World Champions and the first female team to accomplish a win at the 2008 and 2012 Games. Read below to hear all about a few of the ladies–Erin Cafaro, Mary Whipple (the boat coxswain), Esther Lofgren (who previously shared her rowing tips with us), and Meghan Musnicki. Side note: The girls brought their medals to the office and they are heavy! (Not to mention shiny!)

1) Tell us about your first “Holy sh*t, I’m an Olympian!” moment, in regards to the 2012 Games.

Meghan Musnicki: I didn’t get hit with that feeling until the Closing Ceremonies. They funneled us all from the Olympic Village down to the stadium. You walk down through the stadium and come out where the marathoners ran. All you see are these huge high walls and confetti streaming down and thousands of people screaming. That was definitely a “whoa” moment for me.

Even more so than the Opening Ceremonies?

MM: We actually didn’t go to the Opening Ceremonies because we raced the next day! We were in our satellite village, about 90 minutes from downtown London.

Esther Lofgren: When we went out for our first race was when it hit me. We had been there for over a week and had watched everything being built like the grandstands. So when we started warming up, it was such a cool feeling to finally be doing what we had all trained for.

Mary Whipple: Usually when we race not many people are watching, and sometimes only our parents are there! The first day when we were finishing our final practice the gates opened up and the crowds were insane. For finals it’s usually that way, but for the first day, never. That was so special, especially since rowing is so huge in London.

EL: It’s 8:30 a.m. and there are 30,000 people watching you, which is definitely not how it usually is! Read more

Keep Your Olympics Fire Burning with a Gold-Medal Workout!

Written on August 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm , by

Compete with classmates to see who earns the gold medal. (Photo courtesy of New York Sports Clubs)

We know it’s hard to figure out what you did with your time before the Olympics started. Having the opportunity to watch all of the inspiring athletes on a regular basis taken away has left a serious medal-sized hole in our hearts. So if you’re looking for something to fill the void, we may have the perfect workout.

If you’re in New York City, Washington D.C., Boston or Philadelphia anytime in August, head over to select New York Sports Clubs, Washington Sports Clubs and Philadephia Sports Clubs locations to give the free UXF-London Calling Edition class a try (non-members are welcome!). When we heard that the workout promised a butt like Hope Solo and legs like Lolo Jones, and let our competitive streak come out to play, we sprinted right over!

The one-hour class features five timed stations where you’ll box, row, hurdle, lift and jump to a seriously fit bod. Race yourself against the clock to increase the number of reps you hit each time (participants rotate through each station five times) or bring a friend and see who can clock more with each round. After you’ve sweat through the stations, team up with a buddy to conquer a plank and sit-up combo—one performs standard sit-ups; the other holds their partner’s feet while up in a plank—along with other core-blasting exercises. To wrap things up, the instructor hands out a gold, silver and bronze medal to whoever completes the most reps collectively.

After muscling through the workout ourselves, we can assure you that this class is no joke! Find a class near you at the NYSC website, then come back here and let us know how many reps you completed, and if you stood on top of a podium at the end of class. We nabbed the silver medal!

Now you tell us: What will you miss most about the Olympics?