Ask an Athlete: An Olympic swimmer talks workouts and work-life balance

Natalie Coughlin has brought home 12 Olympic medals (6 in just one Olympiad)—works out 5 hours a day, and still finds time to grow her own veggies.

natalie coughlin swimmer bikini

Staying fit and healthy is Natalie Coughlin’s full-time job, and she’s really good at it. The professional swimmer has brought home 12 Olympic medals for the U.S. (6 in just one Olympiad) and broken multiple records in her sport.

When she’s not in the pool, she’s surfing, doing Pilates, gardening at her California home, and cooking kale. And promoting the importance of eye health as Lenscrafters‘ first lifestyle expert. We caught up with the inspiring athlete to find out more about her ultra-healthy lifestyle and how she does it all.

When you’re training for races, what is your workout/training schedule like? When I’m training it adds up to 5-plus hours a day of swimming, weight training, Pilates, and running.

Wow. I know you’re a healthy eater–and a gardener, too! What do you grow? I have a pretty big garden at my house. When I moved in almost six years ago, I started ripping out anything that wasn’t edible and then putting edibles in. I grow a lot of kale, tomatoes, beets, carrots, and strawberries. Gardening has been a learning process. I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve had more experience, but it’s so nice to go outside and go pick fresh vegetables or whatever herbs you need and have fruits that you’ve grown.

Do you cook? What’s your favorite dish to make? I love to cook! I will cook anything and I am a big believer of cooking in-season. I grow a ton of kale, so one of my favorite go-tos is a green smoothie. It’s not really cooking, but it has kale, romaine, celery, parsley, coconut water, apples, bananas, pear, and lemon juice. It’s something that I drink every morning or as a snack, and it’s full of good vitamins, minerals and enzymes. I’ll make a big batch and have that waiting for me every morning. I also have a great recipe for butternut squash baked risotto that’s delicious and perfect for the fall.

Natalie Coughlin

Sounds delish. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered as a professional swimmer? The biggest challenge I’ve faced is balancing the professional side of things (photo shoots, travel schedules, media) with the athletic side (training and competitions). I’ve gotten better at managing my time and energies as I’ve had much more experience with the demands of being a professional athlete. —Lisa Elaine Held

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