Q&A: Olympic Swimmer Natalie Coughlin

June 19, 2013 | by by JASMIN ROSEMBERG | Homepage

Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin.
Olympian Natalie Coughlin is a Northern California native who puts health and fitness first.

Twelve-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin has her share of swimming accolades (three gold, four silver, and five bronze, to date). With the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in her sights, you can usually find the 30-year-old champion swimming five-six hours a day in a pool near her alma mater, UC Berkeley.

But between travel to Santa Clara for the USA Swimming Grand Prix and Barcelona for the Swimming World Championships, nutrition and the outdoors never take a backseat. The native Northern Californian, who always felt “most at home in the water,” makes sure to carve time for simple pleasures like cooking, gardening, surfing, running, hiking, and more. A passionate humanitarian and role model, she recently teamed up with LensCrafters to educate the public about vision care.

We caught up with the accomplished athlete to learn about her health and nutrition tips, how she’s perfecting her strokes for Rio, and at which restaurants in LA she likes to indulge.

Where are some of your favorite beaches and pools in California to swim?
NATALIE COUGHLIN: I do all my training in Berkeley, up north. Down here, I like Manhattan Beach a lot, and Venice Beach is an iconic LA beach. Up north, my favorite is probably Cowell’s, which is in the Santa Cruz area. I love surfing, so I like to go to the beaches where there’s some good people watching, but also some good surf.

Do you have a nutrition program that you follow?
NC: I don’t have a specific diet, per se. But I definitely try to get in as many fresh and organic fruits and vegetables as possible. So rather than stick to 3-4,000 calories a day, I just kind of listen to my body. I start every day with this green smoothie, which has kale and spinach and bananas and seaweed. Whenever I’m cooking, I try to use my ingredients wisely and get the most nutritional bang for my buck.

Are there certain products that you rely on for your performance?
NC: It’s the summertime, so everyone always thinks about staying out of the sun, and putting sunscreen on. But one of the things people forget is that you need to protect your eyes as well. I never leave the house without putting my sunglasses on. I have light blue eyes and I’m constantly outdoors, so I have to protect them from UV rays. I also wear eyeglasses, especially when I’m traveling. Hopefully I’ll be going to Barcelona this summer, and that’s a very long flight. So I won’t wear my contacts, I’ll wear my glasses to give my eyes a chance to breathe.

How are you getting ready for these upcoming competitions?
NC: I have Nationals coming up, which would then lead to Barcelona for World Championships. So right now it’s about just resting as much as possible, and making sure that I’m 100% ready to go. In heavy training periods, I swim up to five or six hours a day, and that’s a combination of weight training as well as swimming. I’m focusing more on sprinting and specializing than I ever have in the past, and I’ve added in more weight training sessions. I’m lifting weights four times a week, which is quite a lot. So I’m really focusing on my power and my strength, and hoping that that translates into speed in the pool.

What was your experience on Dancing with the Stars like?
NC: It was athletic in the sense that I was challenging my body every day with something so different than swimming. But it was fun just playing dress-up all the time, wearing over-the-top makeup that you can’t wear anywhere else, and these crazy costumes. I also got to meet people from all different backgrounds, from Kelly Osbourne to Chuck Liddell to Debi Mazar.

What are your favorite restaurants to visit when you’re in LA?
NC: This goes back to my Dancing with the Stars experience, but I loved Mozza (6602 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, 323-297-0100). Getting a pizza from Mozza became my Sunday routine. I love Italian cuisine, and it’s so fresh and flavorful, and just a very chill spot. Also along the Italian route, I loved Angelini Osteria (7313 Beverly Blvd., Mid-City, 323-297-0070). My husband and I would share that huge, caveman-style piece of steak. It’s definitely a good date-night restaurant.

See our Q&A with another award-winning athlete, Maria Sharapova>>

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