In her storied swimming career, long-time TRX user Natalie Coughlin has amassed an enviable horde of neck treasure that includes 18 World and 11 Olympic medals. Yet Coughlin still kicks hard in hot pursuit of her most daunting goal to date: Medaling at the London Olympics to become the most decorated U.S. female Olympian of all time. Reaching that goal requires total focus and balance, both in life, and within her training program.
“I’ve had to sacrifice a few things in my life to accomplish my goals in swimming,” says Coughlin. “I think of myself as training 24 hours a day, 365 days a year no matter if I like it or not. Every choice I make has to complement my goals in the pool.”
Like all great champions, Coughlin’s herculean achievements have an aura of inevitability and effortlessness about them. But that’s only because of the 23 years of hard training and smart recovery Coughlin has logged to reach the summits she has conquered. Her day starts at 4:30 a.m. and she completes pilates, swimming, and weightlifting sessions all before 10 a.m. Her second breakfast precedes another pool session, power circuit and more pilates, before dinner at 4 p.m.
“It’s a very long day that’s over very early. I think I have dinner at the same time as most senior citizens.”
Coughlin spends about 50 percent of her training time in the pool and the other half on dry land. Her weight training coach introduced her to the TRX Suspension Trainer after the 2008 Olympic games and it has been a staple in her training ever since. “Swimming is all about connecting your arms to your core to your legs and being really efficient. The TRX forces you to stabilize your core and use your entire body in coordination.”
TRX Suspension Training works well for Coughlin’s hectic schedule and frequent travels, too. “I’m able to get a full-body strength workout no matter where I am; whether I’m at home, in a cramped hotel room, or at home at the gym, I can always do the same workout.”
Many great athletes burn out from the pressure and sometimes monotonous repetition required to stay at the top. But Coughlin finds balance pursuing passions that have nothing to do with swimming and everything to do with finding peace of mind and life balance. “I have hobbies outside the pool that calm me down and are almost meditative,” she says, listing cooking, gardening and photography. “My philosophy is really being present in the moment. If I’m swimming, I’m focused on swimming. If I’m home cooking, I’m enjoying cooking. I make choices to support my goals but I try not to obsess about the physical part when I’m not doing it.”
And yet with the summer games fast approaching, it’ll be her fixed focus on swimming that puts her in a strokes-reach of making history.