Lindsey Vonn reveals why peak fitness is all about doing what you love
Lindsey Vonn is a seasoned skier, having scored four overall World Cup titles and a gold medal in downhill at the 2010 Winter Olympics. She’s a stunning model (just check out her Instagram—<a href="https://www.instagram.com/lindseyvonn/" target=_blank>@lindseyvonn</a>). And she’s a fierce competitor, having battled back from numerous injuries: most recently, a broken right arm with nerve damage so serious she wasn’t able to move her hand. So it should come as no surprise that her fitness tips are on point.
I have a confession to make: I hate running. Or let’s just say that I strongly dislike it and never do it. Running in gym class as a kid, I loathed every minute—my knees hurt, it made my hips sore, I felt uncoordinated and there was no point ever when I didn’t wish I was playing any other sport. When my father started taking me to the track to help me get in shape for the ski team, I still didn’t like running, but I was willing to do it to pass the test in order to make the U.S. Ski Team. When I look back at my younger self, though, I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t found skiing and I’d only tried jogging or sports that include a lot of running. I would still be in sports in some capacity, but I’m not sure that I’d be a professional athlete. The possibility that I might not be a professional athlete is difficult to even consider because—and here’s my second confession—I love training. I’m not exaggerating; I really enjoy working out. If I had to stop skiing tomorrow, I’d still exercise almost every day only because I love it so much and I’ve seen how training has changed my life in so many positive ways that I couldn’t even imagine who I’d be—and who I’d become—without it. Working out has helped me win medals and world records, of course, but it’s also turned a girl from Minnesota with insecurities just like everyone else’s into a confident woman. Exercise has helped give me the courage to chase my dreams and keep chasing them no matter the setbacks or serious injuries life throws at me. It’s made me more determined, not only to get the most out of my sport but also to get the most out of my life. I realize that most people don’t love working out, and many have to force themselves to exercise—if they even exercise at all. That makes me sad, because I believe everyone would love working out as much as I do if they only took the time and the effort to find activities that make them truly happy. I wasn’t born with some elusive gene that makes me love working out, after all—no one is. It wasn’t until I found my Fitness Me—or who I am in the gym and on the hill—that I developed the passion for working out that I have today. That’s a big reason why I wanted to write Strong Is the New Beautiful: to help you find your Fitness You, or the way of working out that will make you your happiest and healthiest. We all go on a journey through life to find ourselves as individuals, and finding your Fitness You—how you best express yourself through activity, exercise or movement—is no different. It takes time and effort.
You may have to try a dozen different machines, sports outside the gym or even those activities that aren’t traditionally perceived as exercise until you discover something that you truly enjoy. But at the end of the journey to find your Fitness You, you’ll want to exercise just as much as you like to do any hobby, and it’ll be second nature to do exactly what your body needs to be strong and lean.
I fell in love with skiing at a very young age, but that doesn’t mean I found my Fitness Me when I was two—that’d be similar to someone saying that she found what makes her happy for life at age two. It took time to learn what I truly enjoy and what I could do often enough to make me happy.
When I was a kid, I threw myself into every activity that I could—fairly easy to do when you have four siblings. I biked, swam and hiked in the summers, and sledded and skied in the winters. Out of school, I played soccer, did gymnastics and took figure skating lessons.
While I liked many of these activities and sports, none was as fun as skiing, particularly racing. I liked the feeling of going fast and pushing myself to go faster, and I connected better with the kids who raced than with those who did gymnastics or skated. No one ever forced me to ski—it was always what I wanted to do. And it made me happy.
By the time I was nine, after I met Olympic skier Picabo Street, I knew that I wanted to race professionally. But I had to make the U.S. Ski Team first, which meant passing a rigorous fitness test. When I was 14, I began working with a trainer and lifting weights, and my father started taking me to the track to run at night and on the weekends.
I didn’t enjoy lifting as a teenager, and I hated running. Thankfully, though, I was determined to find another way to get the aerobic activity I needed, and that’s how I discovered cycling.
I got a bike and started doing long rides down the roads near my childhood home in Minnesota and through the mountain valleys of Vail. I loved it. It didn’t make my body hurt like running, and I could challenge myself on the bike in a way I was never able to on the track, testing myself to climb Vail Pass without stopping or bike 30 miles to a Minnesota lake in less time than I did the week prior.
This was a critical discovery for me as an athlete because I realized that to enjoy a workout, I needed a way to challenge myself to go longer, harder, faster or farther. Not everyone is competitive or likes to be when they exercise, but I am, and discovering that I enjoy an inherent challenge when working out has helped me create routines that are more satisfying and rewarding.
Today I still prefer to bike for aerobic exercise, and I’ve found new rides and ways to challenge myself while training in Europe and all over the world, as well as around my home in Vail.
I love lifting weights now, but I didn’t enjoy strength training at first. It took time to develop the confidence that I needed to feel good about working out in the weight room and to find the exercises that made me feel mentally and physically strong. This meant experimenting with many different routines and ways of strengthening my body before I found what I love and am addicted to doing.
Even though I began skiing professionally at 15, I’ve never stopped trying new sports and ways of working out. After all, you never stop growing and finding yourself as a person, so why would you ever end the adventure of finding your Fitness You?
Today I’m always watching what other athletes and people do in the gym to try to find new ways to train. People are constantly coming up with clever, creative workouts to get strong, and I believe that you can learn from anyone, no matter their sport, fitness ability or experience level. And that’s another thing I love about working out—you can find inspiration everywhere you look.
Vonn didn’t always have a gold medal-winning diet. Her childhood dinners were more likely to be grilled cheese sandwiches than fresh salads. But as an elite athlete, she’s discovered that unprocessed foods make her look and feel the best. She advocates “eating lean” rather than “eating clean,” focusing on a healthy but unrestrictive diet.
What does a day of lean eating look like? Here are some of Vonn’s go-to meals and snacks.
Breakfast: steel-cut oatmeal with nuts and a touch of maple syrup.
Snack: whole grain toast with avocado, tomato and fresh basil
Lunch: kale salad with tofu, sweet potato, barley, pistachios, pomegranate arils and vinaigrette dressing
Dinner: simple stew with a protein (like tofu) and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, asparagus or potatoes, all served with whole grain croutons or brown rice.
Dessert: protein balls with chickpeas (yes, chickpeas), nut butter, chia seeds and dark chocolate chips
Are pro athletes who wear makeup automatically weaker than their bare- faced competitors? Of course not, but it’s a popular misconception. Vonn doesn’t buy into the idea that she has to choose between being strong and being girly. For example, she loves wearing makeup—especially when she’s racing. Applying makeup helps her feel confident and powerful, as if she’s literally putting on her game face.
Her top tips for slaying on the slopes? Wear bolder eye makeup than usual to make your eyes stand out, disguise the infamous skier’s goggle tan with foundation and concealer and pat on bronzer for a subtle glow.
What is Vonn doing right this second? Well, there’s a good chance she’s getting ready for a workout, doing a workout or recovering after a workout. Her typical training day in summer goes something like this.
From Strong Is the New Beautiful by Lindsey Vonn. Copyright © 2016 by Lindsey Vonn. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
PHOTOS BY Lauren Ross