Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, 30, is the definition of steady discipline as she heads into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, her fourth and possibly final Olympic competition.
We chatted with the Los Angeles-born track and field star about her recovery from a hamstring injury, how her Christian faith drives her running, and how she struggles to eat up to 3,500 “clean” calories a day to fuel her intense, five-hours-a-day training:
A few years ago, I got much more serious about my diet, and it’s made a big difference in the way I perform and the way I feel. … I decided to get tested and see what my body was deficient in and what I could make up with nutrition. So now I have a kind of very planned-out system: I wake up. I usually start my day with Chobani yogurt [which is one of her sponsors]. … For lunch I’ll have a salad with some type of protein in it. … And then my dinner is a bit bigger. I eat a lot of fish, some red meat, a lot of vegetables, brown rice. I try to keep everything pretty balanced. It’s important to make sure I have enough nutritious food to fuel me through the intense days.
She keeps healthy snacks on hand
Half the battle is having it there. For example, yogurt, or nuts prepared in a little baggie I can just whip out when I need it.
Ice cream is my guilty pleasure. … You can get so just tied up with trying to do everything right that you need to be able to reward yourself from time to time.
She knows when to skip the gym
Growing up in California, it was and is a very active place. I grew up outside riding bikes and just playing with the kids around me. … My favorite place to run is on the beach, kind of like in the Playa Vista area. It’s nice and quiet.
Her injury taught her patience
As runners, that’s definitely the last thing that we want to hear. [But] you have to be patient. You have to get back to the basics. Sometimes, instead of thinking that you’re going to get back out there and run, you can get creative, do other things while getting back into full swing. You can do some really intense workouts in the pool and on the bike. … Many runners probably don’t go to the doctor when they’re injured. It’s always the best thing to go get checked out because you never know how serious something is.
Her faith is her fitness fuel
Faith leads my life. That’s definitely the reason that I run. I definitely feel like I’ve been blessed with this gift, and so that’s something that helps me to see the bigger picture. It’s so easy to get caught up in winning everything and just the kind of the grind of what professional sports is, but it definitely helps me to kind of pull back and see that there’s a greater purpose. [Career down moments] are still difficult. I think a lot of times you want faith to kind of be the answer to everything, and it’s still a struggle to get there, you know? There are very real moments that are hard, but I think that it helps me to be able to learn the lesson that there is a purpose, a reason why maybe that happened, and it can create something in you and it might be preparing you for something better in the future.