Health

Here’s How A World Champion Runner Actually Eats And Trains

Dinner is literally carbs with a side of carbs.

1. This is Sanya Richards-Ross.

She’s 31 years old, lives in Austin, Texas, and is a world champion sprinter who trains hard to be very fast. Also, she loves rum raisin ice cream, cheese pizza, and Skittles. But more on that later.

2. At the moment she’s training to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.

She’s already won four Olympic medals: Two golds in the 4×400 relay and one gold and one bronze in the 400-meter sprint. She was previously ranked the best 400-meter sprinter in the world.

3. So how does someone run 400 meters (a quarter mile) in 48.7 seconds?

Andy Lyons / Getty Images

BuzzFeed Health talked to Richards-Ross to learn about how she’s preparing for the Olympic trials, which take place in July.

4. For starters: Pull-ups, squats, push-ups, step-ups, and dips.

Courtesy Sanya Richards-Ross

 

Even though her sport is running, about 40% of Richards-Ross’s training is strength-based — she lifts weights three to four days per week. Getting stronger all over with functional movements like squats, push-ups, pull-ups, step-ups, and dips helps her prepare for heavier, more explosive lifting later in the season.

5. Then come the pretty heavy barbells.

Courtesy Sanya Richards-Ross

Courtesy Sanya Richards-Ross

 

Olympic lifting is an important part of Richards-Ross’s weight training, and also one of her favorite ways to work out. It requires the lifter to move a barbell from the floor to overhead using speed, precision, and explosive power, all of which are crucial to sprinting. Practicing different variations of these lifts (like the hang cleans Richards-Ross is doing here) helps her sprinting, especially when it comes to exploding off the blocks at the very beginning of a race.

6. And of course she runs five days a week.

Richards-Ross spends about two hours per day doing sprint workouts at distances from 200 meters to 800 meters, but says that anything over 500 meters is “too long.” “I like my workouts short and fast,” she says. Her most dreaded running workout: five minutes of running alternating with five minutes of rest for 30 long minutes.

7. She also does 1,000 sit-ups every night.

And cross-trains by cycling and running on an underwater treadmill.

8. Another important part of her training is 100% mental.

Christian Petersen / Getty Images

“Mental prep is the toughest part for elite athletes,” she says. “I visualize myself on start line so when I go out on the track it feels like I’ve been here before … When I’m standing there I tell myself, ‘I’m prepared. I already won this race.’”

She also watches videos both of her own great performances on the track and of athletes who have done amazing things in her events.

9. BTW, Richards-Ross only takes six weeks off of training a year.

Which means she’s working hard and following her diet basically always.

10. With all her training, Richards-Ross’s diet has to keep her fueled for workouts and help her recover from them afterward.

Courtesy Sanya Richards-Ross

“I honestly feel like I am training the entire day, and I consider food part of my training,” says Richards-Ross. A typical day of training starts with hard-boiled eggs, gluten-free cinnamon raisin toast, and yogurt with fruit.

After breakfast, Richards-Ross heads to her first workout of the day, either weightlifting or running depending on the time of season.

11. After her first workout of the day, she heads home to make lunch.

Courtesy Sanya Richards-Ross

For lunch, Richards-Ross makes spaghetti with broccolini, red and green bell peppers, onions, parsley, and bok choy, and tops it with grilled chicken breast. Then, if her training is particularly heavy, she’ll take a mid-afternoon nap.

12. Her between-workouts snack is a scoop of fruit-and-vegetable salad which she makes in a big batch to eat throughout the week.

Courtesy Sanya Richards-Ross

One of Richards-Ross’s goals for her diet is to incorporate as many colors as possible. This salad has chopped romaine lettuce, spinach, red grapes, strawberries, blueberries, yellow corn, dried unsweetened organic cranberries, shredded carrots, and sliced apples, and is dressed with fresh lemon juice.

13. After two workouts, a nap, maybe a massage, and probably some time with her physical therapist, it’s time for dinner: brown rice with vegetables and whole wheat linguine.

Couresy Sanya Richards-Ross

She steams brown rice and adds carrots, onions, peas, and low-sodium soy sauce. The main course is linguine sautéed in coconut oil with julienned peppers, broccoli, and bok choy.

14. Once a week she has one of her favorite treats: rum raisin ice cream or cheese pizza.

 

Richard-Ross says that she tries to take cheat days on weekends so that she can enjoy things like birthday cake and eating out, because she hates “being the person who can’t eat anything,” she says. Keeping her cheat meals to a once a week helps her stick to her diet overall, she says. “I actually look forward to Saturday or Sunday … I think it’s important to have those things in your diet to look forward to. It refocuses me for Monday when I’ll stay on my diet until cheat day comes around again,” she says.

15. She’s also got a soft spot for Skittles.

“I’ll kill a whole bag on a Saturday or Sunday,” she says.

16. What a hero.

See you in Rio in August 2016, Sanya!

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