‘I’m an Olympian and the Youngest Person To Run a Marathon in All 7 Continents—Here’s How I Fuel My Body for Exercise’

Photo: Stocksy/ Nataša Mandić
When thinking of women to highlight in celebration of Women’s History Month, it’s no surprise that Olympian Winter Vinecki comes to mind. Namely because she’s accomplished impressive feats (which she started doing before even starting elementary school) and has broken record after record as a professional athlete.

The Olympic competitor and Juice Plus+ Ambassador from Michigan began competing in athletic sports from a very early age—five years old. At five, Vinecki ran her first 5K, by eight, her first 10K, and by 10, a 10-miler. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she went on to break two world records before she turned 15: She was the youngest person to run a marathon on seven continents—including the coldest place on Earth, Antarctica—and was the first daughter-mother duo to do so as her mom joined her on her in completing this remarkable achievement. Most notably, Vinecki has had an impressive and fruitful career as a professional skier. She’s going on her sixth year on the United States Ski Team, which she first joined in 2016, and has won titles like gold medalist at the 2021 Moscow World Cup.

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All to say: Vinecki knows a thing or two about how to fuel her body for peak athletic performance. Well+Good had the chance to catch up with her to learn more about her workout regime and how she keeps her body going—both mentally and physically—especially when it’s freezing cold outside. (They don't call her Winter for nothin'.) More on how this Olympic athlete nourishes her body ahead.

fuel the body during winter winter vinecki
Photo: Winter Vinecki

Tips for fueling your body before a workout in the winter

According to Vinecki, it’s no coincidence that working out in the cold can feel more challenging. “Working out in the wintertime poses some unique challenges for the body because not only are you working to perform the task at hand, but you are constantly using energy to stay warm,” Vinecki says.

The ability to overcome the cold while engaging in physical activity can vary depending on the type of sport, of course. “In some sports, like running, you can warm up quickly and stay warm. In other sports, though, it is not as constant,” she says. For example, she notes that in aerial skiing—the sport she competes in—there are short bouts of jumps, followed by quick breaks, which makes staying warmed up especially challenging.

One solution Vinecki shares for withstanding these cold-weather workouts—aside from tons of layers of warm clothing—is fueling her body appropriately. “Many times, this means timing my meals so that I eat something before heading out or bringing food and snacks out on the mountain with me,” Vinecki says, which is usually a warm, hearty meal that helps keep her fueled for hours. “One of my go-to meals before training on a winter morning is hot oatmeal with dried fruit, nut butter, and flax seeds sprinkled on top,” she says.

Vinecki stresses the importance of well-rounded nutrition and the role it can play in achieving optimal athletic performance. “What you put into your body is what you are going to get out of it. Not only does good nutrition help me feel my best for everyday performance, but it also ensures that my body is able to recover and be ready for years and years of performance to come,” she says.

“What you put into your body is what you are going to get out of it. Not only does good nutrition help me feel my best for everyday performance, but it also ensures that my body is able to recover and be ready for years and years of performance to come."—Winter Vinecki

Another aspect that always remains consistent in Vinecki’s body-fueling routine (regardless of the season) is staying adequately hydrated. “No matter the temperature, water is always the most important drink for me before a workout. When it’s extremely cold, though, it is really easy to get in the habit of not drinking enough water. To help with this, I love teas on cold days and even just having some hot water with lemon and honey,” Vinecki says. Meanwhile, on hot days you might find her adding citrus or mint into iced water for an extra refreshing boost.

How this Olympian keeps her body going not only physically but also mentally

Of course, fueling her body with nourishing foods is one of the most important aspects of Vinecki's training: She notes that keeping her mental health in tip-top shape is especially important when finding the strength to overcome difficult challenges both on and off the slopes. “I have been a competitive athlete most of my life,” Vinecki says. The now 24-year-old athlete with nearly 20 years of experience competing in professional sports has had to overcome many hardships, including moving away from at 13 years old, overcoming numerous injuries, and losing her father at the age of nine due to a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer. “This experience really taught me to not put off until tomorrow what I am capable of doing today. I am grateful for each day that I am alive and have the chance to keep trying again,” she says.

When faced with these difficult times, Vinecki has allowed her gratitude for life and passion for what she does to guide her way both physically and mentally. “I have always found the strength to overcome these challenges partially in the fact that I have a passion for the things I do. I am eager to be the best I can possibly be in my sport and know this means doing things not everyone will do,” she says. That, along with a nourishing bowl of oatmeal, of course.

An RD shares how to eat for optimal energy:

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