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Olympic Skier Julia Mancuso Talks Sochi, Smoothies and What’s Next

Written on February 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm , by

Where does Mancuso keep her other medals? “My mom normally has them but I had her send them to me so I could have them all [together] for at least a moment.”

Slush and the resulting sloppy conditions were all the buzz in Sochi the past few weeks, but according to alpine skier Julia Mancuso, who snagged a bronze in the ladies’ super combined slalom, it wasn’t as bad as everyone cracked it up to be. In fact, Mancuso told us that she liked the hills in Russia! To put it simply, “it could have been worse.”

The Squaw Valley resident had yet another outstanding Olympic experience competing in three events and attending a handful of others to cheer on Team U.S.A. Adding a fourth medal to her accolades was the bling-a-licious cherry on top. “I was struggling going into this season so being able to get a medal was kind of a bonus,” she confessed. “I was hoping to use that energy into the next events and that didn’t happen. I was a little disappointed but looking back, I achieved something that so many athletes don’t get to do.”

So what’s her success secret? No Beyoncé dancing pre-race ritual here (although we still love you, Queen B). The most decorated woman in U.S. Olympic alpine history swears by one thing: getting her head in the game. “Ski racing is 99 percent mental, so for me it’s about getting to the start and relaxing—getting in the right mindset to go fast!” 81 miles per hour, fast. Talk about mind over matter!

Unlike other Olympians who are just arriving home, Mancuso skipped out on the Closing Ceremonies for a short stint in the States before finishing off her World Cup season. “Three more weeks and then it’s time to start training for next year,” she said a few days before jet-setting off to Switzerland.

And all of that traveling definitely adds up—especially when it comes to diet. “I try to eat healthy but it’s hard to plan ahead,” she said. “It’s one more thing to stress about if you’re not getting the right foods, so I try to control what I can and make good choices of the stuff I can’t control.” Her fuel of choice? ZICO-based smoothies. Check out her fave pre- and post-workout recipe below. Delicious and nutritious, perfect for whatever “podium” you’re looking to achieve.

So what’s Mancuso up to next, once she gets a little down time? She’ll be swapping snow for Hawaiian waters to indulge her surfing and paddleboarding interests, then flying to London to attend her BFF’s wedding. Sounds like a fun year ahead!

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Lolo Jones: Third Time’s the Charm for This Dual-Sport Olympian

Written on January 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm , by

Fun fact: Lolo loves her downtime. Mindy Project, New Girl and Orange Is The New Black are her top guilty pleasure picks. (Photo courtesy of Lolo Jones)

Track & Field World Champion Lolo Jones embraces defeat. In fact, it’s the driving force behind her success so far, she says, and what the athlete will most definitely draw from on her bobsledding road to redemption in the upcoming Games. That’s right: this week the 31-year-old was selected for the 2014 Olympic Bobsled Team, along with fellow track star Lauryn Williams. No wonder Jones’ mantra is, “A failure isn’t a failure if it prepares you for success tomorrow.”

The duo became the ninth and tenth Americans to ever compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, which—let’s face it—is pretty darn cool. Fingers crossed that the third time is the charm for Jones when it comes to the podium. The speedy all-star has certainly put in the work, gaining 30 pounds of muscle (thanks to a new routine and proper recovery with Twinlab CleanSeries performance protein products) for her new gig’s dangerous terrain.

“I transitioned to bobsled about a month after track season,” she told us while prepping for team trials. “I’m still training to be a fast and powerful sprinter, but the main difference is, as opposed to running a 100-meter or hurdle race, now I’m running maybe 40 to 50 meters before jumping in a bobsled.”

The shift to colder temps hasn’t had too much of an effect on Jones, though. In fact, she finds it more peaceful to work out during the winter and even embraces trudging through the snow (more than we can say for ourselves). “I feel like I’m pushing my body more than when it’s easy and beautiful out,” she admits. I guess we should bundle up and embrace the Polar Vortex then?

Three to five layers are key to keeping toasty, Jones says, as are wool socks. “They’re waterproof and keep your feet warm!” For slick and slushie days, she relies on Asics GEL-FujiSetsu G-TX sneaks, too. The athlete swears she isn’t superstitious, but she does pride herself in being well-organized—especially before a competition. Her warm gear is neatly laid out before bedtime to avoid adding to any jitters. “The last thing I need to do is wake up race day and look for this or that,” she says. “You’re already nervous enough, the last thing you want is that one missing thing to add extra nerves.”

So what has been her biggest career highlight to date? That’s a tough question, to say the least. “Anytime I put on Team USA and represent tons of people back home, it’s a huge honor,” she says. And we wish her nothing but the best of luck in sporting red, white and blue yet again in the coming weeks. You got this, girlfriend!

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How Gymnast Aly Raisman Stays Fit and Motivated During Her Off Season

Written on January 23, 2014 at 9:04 am , by

U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman sported bright pink and coral Reeboks during her ZQUICK video shoot last week. (Photo courtesy of Reebok)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

With the Winter Olympics around the corner, we’re gearing up to cheer on Team USA—and so are some of our fave summer athletes like Aly Raisman! “I was just at the figure skating nationals where they pick the Olympic team, so I’m super excited to watch the girls compete,” says Raisman. “I’m also really looking forward to watching hockey.”

Rather than venturing to Sochi and cheering from the stands (that trip is expensive!), Raisman will be supporting her talented friends from the comfort of her own home, providing the perfect opportunity to keep up her own prep for the next time she’s in the spotlight. Back in September, Raisman resumed her training with two-a-day workouts where she focused on conditioning and floor events practice. “It feels great to be back,” she says. “It’s exhausting but I love it, so it’s definitely worth it.”

While the extensive training may wear her out, Raisman truly missed it during her traveling year off. Spending almost every night in a different hotel, she found it tough to squeeze in a 45-minute sweat session—that might be the norm for us, but this athlete is used to pushing her body for six to seven hours a day! Bouts of cardio and ab toning kept her sane though, and  she enjoyed “me” time during sprinting intervals on the treadmill while jamming to her favorite tunes. She also used creative bodyweight training to keep her arms and legs gymnast-strong.

Back at the grind, Raisman knows she has to fuel her body well to perform her best. “I love having Greek yogurt before a workout because it’s really light and has lots of protein,” she says. “After, I have a piece of fish or chicken with fruit or vegetables.”

She also thinks that, while she’s not superstitious, some strange habits are worth abiding by. “My coaches say that wearing black is bad luck. For competitions I am never allowed to wear a black leotard, use a black gym bag or wear black warm ups,” she says. “I guess I feel like black is bad luck too, since I have been with my coaches for almost ten years. I won’t even buy a black car!”

In the end, if there were one thing we could all learn from Raisman this year, it would be the power of a positive attitude. “I try to start every morning with a positive thought of an image of myself having a good workout,” she says. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.’ I always think about this when I’m at workout. If I feel nervous or anxious to compete, I always think of myself landing each skill and executing it really well.”

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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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Ice Dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White Shape Up for the Olympics

Written on November 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm , by

Meryl and Charlie danced their way to their third straight Skate America win late October. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Meryl Davis and Charlie White aren’t your typical college students. In between their studies at the University of Michigan, the most decorated U.S. ice dance team squeezes in agility, cardio and weight training, along with over five hours of ice time a day. A rigorous schedule—and resulting podium success—is nothing new for the duo. For 16 years now, Meryl and Charlie have been rising in the ranks together, taking home silver in the Vancouver Olympics and becoming the first U.S. ice dancing team to win World Championship gold.

Days before stopping by our office, the ice dancers added yet another accolade to their collection, their third Skate America crown for first place short and free dances in Kent, Washington. Now that’s how you start off the 2012-2013 season! We sat down with the champions, who dished their partnership secrets and training strategies for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Here’s what they had to say (and more!):

What is the biggest difference between ice dancing and pair skating?
CW: In ice dance it’s much more what you would imagine ballroom dancing to be. Closer positions, we’re holding each other like a lot of shows that you see, like So You Think You Can Dance…It’s sort of like that on ice, in a lot of respects, with the lifts that we do and some of the musical choices even, it’s comparable. In pairs, it’s more throwing the partner, lifting them above the head.
MD: We’re much more performance-based, for example we’re allowed to use lyrics in the music that we use, whereas pair skating they have to use instrumental music. It’s much more based on the elements for them, whereas for us, we’re trying to tell a story on the ice. It’s more about general impact, as opposed to going from one thing after another.

Walk us through your typical workout.
MD: We skate five days a week so we get the weekends off, which is nice, but typically we start on the ice around 7 or 8 a.m. Usually we’ll have an hour break somewhere in there, whether it’s an hour straight or two half-hour breaks, but we go for about five hours, sometimes six. When we’re done on the ice, we have a gym upstairs in the same facility where we workout and do some kind of cardio—3 days a week—weight training, agility, things like that. We throw some ballet in there sometimes, too. We avoid it at all costs.
CW: Yeah, [ballet] is a necessary evil for us. It’s never something we’ve embraced but it really helps with the skating, the posture, stuff like that.
MD: Our program this year is actually one of the most classical ballets, Giselle, so when we officially decided on doing that music this year, we unfortunately realized we weren’t going to avoid ballet this season.
CW: I do a lot of lifts with Meryl so it’s important that I have good shoulder stability so we’ll lay down a ladder, for instance, and do sort of agility. I’ll hold a kettlebell while I do it to sort of make sure I can transfer onto the ice that same sort of just balance and yet the strength with my shoulder…the most important thing is for skaters, especially, is just the core and making sure we’re strong through the core. Read more