If there’s one thing Olympic athlete Kerri Walsh Jennings wants you to know about beach volleyball, it’s that it’s a hell of a lot harder than it looks. And she knows that lots of fitness goals are, too. (Including yours?)
You might remember Jennings from the 2012 Summer Olympics, when she and her longtime partner, Misty May-Treanor, enthralled the country in round after round of beach volleyball—the pair ended up winning gold.
This summer the mom of three won the Manhattan Beach Open tournament for the seventh time. “It’s the Wimbledon of beach volleyball,” says the Santa Clara-based athlete. But that win doesn’t mean she’s going to hang up her two-piece.
She’s already in training mode for the Rio 2016 Olympics, with her partner April Ross, and the duo are on the beach most days. We chatted with Jennings to find out what her training schedule’s like and to get her advice on accomplishing a fitness goal—whether it’s running a marathon, knocking out 20 burpees, or getting on the beach more. —Molly Gallagher
1. Can you tell us a bit about your training schedule? Five to six days a week I’m working really hard. I’m on the beach four to five days a week, two to three hours a day, with my partner. Also, I do Pilates three times a week, work on agility, endurance, strength, and I do a program called fast switch. It’s Olympic lifting and working on my strength in the weight room, all with the focus of proper form.
I have mental training with a sports psychologist. We work on positive sub-talk. I also have physical therapy, I’m a big believer in working as hard as I can and making sure I get enough recovery time. Sleep is a big part of that, too.
2. Do you get the “volleyball is just eye candy” thing? And if so, what’s it like defending your sport? I would just invite any people who think it’s a walk in the park to check it out. It’s one of the most intense, physically demanding and mentally demanding sports there is. It’s a challenge that I love so much. It requires so much of me. I work my butt off.
3. What’s your eating schedule like in-between workouts and practices? Well, I drink a lot of protein shakes. I’m a terrible cook, but I’m learning how to do it. I have a new favorite cookbook, Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain. It’s basically gluten-free, Paleo-type eating. Her cookbooks have been really fun and definitely a game changer when I’m playing. I also keep honey sticks in my bag—I’ve partnered with the National Honey Board—and they’re a nice pick-me-up.
4. How do you relax? I actually cancelled the rest of my day today, because I’m going to go take a nap. That’s my favorite thing. My youngest is 16 months and she’s still waking up in the middle of the night. My husband and I are both athletes and sleep is the biggest thing we need for recovery. When I’m tired, I’m grumpy.
5. What’s your biggest piece of advice for someone who’s running a race, or working toward a fitness goal? Make it fun. You don’t need to do it alone. Recruit someone who will help you stay accountable. The hardest thing for me—I have three kids, I’ve had so many injuries—is having patience when I’m achieving a goal. If you’re just getting back at it or training for your first marathon, have patience and have faith in the process. Trust in the process. If you love it and believe in it, you’re going to get there.