The Summer Olympic Games may be months away, but we’re already getting jazzed. And to quench our thirst for all things Olympics, we recently jumped at the opportunity to interview Olympic gold medalist swimmer Natalie Coughlin, as she’s a spokesperson for the California Dried Plum Board. With the distinction of being the most decorated female athlete of both the 2008 Beijing and 2004 Athens Games, Coughlin has won a medal in every single Olympic event that she has ever entered, for a total of 11 Olympic medals. Eleven!
Aside from her incredible accomplishments as a world-class athlete, Coughlin is just plain cool. She loves to cook, garden and, obviously, likes to work out. Not to mention that she’s been on Dancing With the Stars and, rumor has it, raises chicken. Talk about an interesting gal! Read on for her favorite healthy snacks, her unique way to recover after a hard workout, what really goes on behind the scenes at the Olympics and those chickens!
Interview with Swimmer Natalie Coughlin
- FBG: You’re one of the best female swimmers ever, but you were also a contestant on DWTS. Which is harder: dancing on DWTS or training for the Olympics? And which is the better workout?
- NC: DWTS was a fun experience, and I enjoyed it tremendously, but nothing is more nerve-racking or stressful as training and competing for the Olympics. DWTS was a fabulous workout. Very fun experience and something I enjoy. It’s really incomparable!
- FBG: Why is gardening so important to you and such a passion? And what is raising chickens like?
- NC: Raising chickens is a lot easier than you would think. All they really need is shelter from the elements and predators, some space to roam, food and water, and they give you fresh supply of eggs constantly and provide excellent manure for the garden. Gardening is important to me because it allows me to grow variety of fruits and vegetables that I can’t get otherwise at the market, and grow enough that I cannot get enough of. One of my favorites is kale. I have an entire bed dedicated for kale and another for just herbs. It not only helps my cooking but also saves me money at the grocery store. One of my favorite recipes is kale with coconut.
- FBG: We’ve heard you take a post-workout mustard bath. Please share details on what that includes and why!
- NC: One of my things I always travel with is bath salts, things that make a stark hotel room more comfortable. So, I bring my snacks like dried plums, herbal teas, chocolate and always bring bath salts. I bring a brand of bath mustard sauce—it opens up the pores with aromatic oils and pulls toxins from the skin. It doesn’t smell of mustard at all, but pepperminty. Dr. Singha is the brand. They are all-natural holistic-type of products.
- FBG: What is your diet like, and what are some of your favorite quick meals and snacks to prepare?
- NC: My diet—as much as possible—I try to have a plant-based diet, though I’m not vegetarian, by any means. But I try to have lots of vegetables and save the meat to have the most flavor for meals. I try to have the least amount of processed foods as possible. For my go-to meals, I like to have a good breakfast waiting in the fridge. My Bircher Muesli is good to have, and I can make it the night before and just stir it up in the morning. And with my hectic travel schedule, I like to have snacks on the road. I like my gluten-free snack bars. It travels well to the gym and on a plane. Now that it’s winter time, I like my winter risotto with bitter greens.
- FBG: What’s it really like at the Olympics? Behind the scenes?
- NC: I don’t think it’s as exciting as people imagine. In reality, you are resting quite a bit in your room. There is a common area that you share with teammates, but we spend time in our room. The rooms are kind of bare bones, so you bring photos and things to entertain you during your down time and things that can make a stark room more comfortable. We also spend a lot of time in the cafeteria, which is good for people watching, and a good spot to get to meet different athletes from all over the world. There is a lot of hanging out and a lot of downtime. I describe it as something like a college campus—but not as many parties and it’s still cafeteria food. This will be my third Olympics and, more than anything, I am just really excited to get the trials over with and hopefully qualify. From there I hope to do well both individually and as a team. It’s a different mindset because I have been there three times, so I don’t feel like I have a ton of pressure, so that is a good place to be in.
Ya’ll know who we’ll be rooting for in the 2012 Summer Olympics! Will you be rooting for Natalie Coughlin with us? —Jenn