Natalie Coughlin is a pretty big deal. Not only is the swimmer a 12-time Olympic medalist, she is one medal shy of becoming the most decorated American female Olympic athlete in history. A goal, which she will likely meet this summer in Rio. We caught up with Coughlin to see how training is going, what keeps her fueled up and more.
What does training for the Olympics even involve?
I’m in the water six days a week, two hours at a time. I’m also in the gym 90 minutes a session, four times a week. I’m constantly training, but recovery is a big part of training too. In my down time, my biggest hobby is cooking. I decompress after training by cooking a really wonderful dinner or prepping breakfast for the next morning.
What do you eat to keep your body running properly?
Getting a lot of protein is the most important thing for me. I have protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also snacks. I always have almonds on hand and other great resources of protein to make sure I’m recovering and repairing for my body for the next practice or competition. I have what I call my emergency packs, which contains almonds, herbal teas and chocolate — for when my sweet tooth comes around!
Does you feel like there is more pressure for you to perform well in Rio since you are only one medal away from being the most decorated American female Olympic athlete in history?
No, not at all. It’s a wonderful goal to strive for, but it’s not my driving force. I know what I’m capable of doing and as long as I listen to my coach and control the things I can control, like my diet, rest and sleep, I just have to have faith that everything will come together.
How do you calm your mind before an event?
I calm my mind by controlling what I can control and letting everything else go. … I also always do the same stretching routine before my race, so that helps prepare my mind, too.
Was there ever a moment when you felt like quitting?
I’ve definitely experienced points where I needed to step away from swimming, just because it’s exhausting and all consuming, but it wasn’t the competition that made me feel that way. It was just thinking about [swimming] seven days a week, 365 days a year. But I absolutely love my job.
Be honest — does Olympic Village live up to the scandalous headlines that pop up every summer Olympics?
Olympic Village is just like college, except everybody is an athlete preparing for the biggest moment of his or her life. Stress is definitely high. I think all the rumors come from people needing to blow off steam, but honestly, it’s not as exciting as people think. It’s mostly a lot of sleeping, resting and waiting for your race.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence