Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings Isn't Done Yet
We sat down with the athlete to talk about her new gig with Almond Breeze, the 2016 Olympics and how she defines good health.
Kerri Walsh Jennings is one of the few people in the world who knows what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal—three times. The beach volleyball athlete, along with her longtime partner Misty May-Treanor, scored at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 games and now, Walsh Jennings has her eyes set on taking a fourth next year in Rio de Janeiro.
Amidst her busy schedule which includes training, being a new spokesperson for Almond Breeze and, of course, being a mom to three kids, we had the chance to sit down with the Olympian to talk fitness tips, whether or not athletes really eat 5,000 calories a day and her not-so-secret Pinterest obsession.
As a new spokesperson for Almond Breeze, why is this brand a fit for you?
"It hasn't always been the case in my career where I can be really selective with my partners. I needed to overlook some things to pay the bills and fund my dreams of winning gold medals and my life on the court but with this partnership—it's such a fit. I've been drinking almond milk for a couple of years now because it has less sugar without sacrificing taste and more calcium. It just feels really good as, an athlete, to fuel my body and feel really good about what I'm putting in my body. "
Once you win an Olympic gold medal, how does anything else in life measure up?
"I keep chasing them! It's been a lot of hard work to not define myself by those accomplishments. Once you win it, that's old news. What am I going to do next? That's kind of the blessing and the curse of it all because it's such a beautiful thing to accomplish something so big. And, the accomplishment in itself is wonderful but really what I learned with maturity is that the experience in getting to that opportunity is where the real gold is at. I'm trying to live my life like that everyday. Even when I'm done competing I'm still going to be striving for my gold medals, whatever they are."
Have you had any "gold medal" moments recently?
"My kids, are just golden in every single way possible, and my husband. I have to leave home a lot in my job and it's the most devastating part that never gets easier. But, the fact that my kids are seeing me chase my dreams, seeing me put myself out there, failing and succeeding in all these things, I think it's pretty priceless. To me, that's what life is all about—family. Gold medals everyday."
When did you fall in love with fitness?
"I've been playing volleyball since I was ten and I was born into a sports family. Both my parents are athletes, so I was born an athlete and I was born to compete. That's all I've known my whole life."
What is the best fitness advice you ever received?
"I think what I've learned through trial and error and my whole life as an athlete is that, with fitness, there has to be a well rounded picture. It can't be just fitness alone. It has to be nutrition. It has to be recovery, sleep and hydration. If you look at it in a holistic way you get so many more benefits. When I think of fitness I think it's great to step out of your comfort zone in a safe way. I applaud everyone who goes to the gym—everyone is so busy. At the same time, I see people mindlessly spinning and I'm thinking 'I'm so glad you're here but, do something,' you know? Do it with intention. I think that's something that crosses every genre of life—whatever you do, do it with purpose. You don't have to kill yourself, but have a purpose behind every workout. If I'm going to sit on the bike for half an hour I'm going to try to get uncomfortable on there."
Aside from playing on the court, what are your favorite ways to exercise?
"Within my volleyball training I do a lot. I lift weights twice a week, I do pilates three times a week, twice in the studio and once on the beach, on the track or at one of my friends' backyards. I do brain training work with a sports psychologist. I do physical therapy. When I'm on the road, I do a lot of bodyweight stuff. I just always use my body in different ways to keep it guessing. I think it's important to have variety in your workout. If people wonder why they're not getting results, it's because they're not mixing things up."
How do you come up with your workouts?
"I'm really lucky I have experts to look to. Not everyone has that, but there are so many resources you can use. I'm addicted to Pinterest and I go on there for everything. It's amazing all the circuits you can do, Tabata, bodyweight, I live on that thing and I love it. You still have to do exercises well, but it's such a great resource and most of that stuff on Pinterest you can do in your living room."
What does eating healthy mean to you?
"Clean eating and staying away from processed food as much as possible. My family and I go to farmers' markets, to Whole Foods and we're just mindful on what we're doing from morning 'til night. We don't eat a lot of sugar and we do consume a rainbow of colors for fruits and vegetables."
Is it true that Olympic athletes really need to eat 5,000 calories a day?
"No, no! Michael Phelps apparently eats 10,000 or something, but I literally have no idea how many calories I put in my body. I'm not the best person to talk to when it comes to nutrition because I get so busy I forget to eat—that's why my shakes in the morning and after practice are really important—anything that's easily consumed is what I do. Calorie intake, I'm not that worried about it because I know I'm using my body and fueling my body."
How does the rest of 2015 look like while you're training for the Olympics?
"Madness. A lot of winning, a lot of travel, a lot of challenges and a lot of teamwork. Chasing Olympic dreams is really fun. One of the hardest things about it is once you finish your journey and you're giving high fives and you've got the gold medal around your neck, it's just you and your partner up there on the podium when there's a whole village behind you. For the next year, I'm going to stay as close as I can to my village, to my partner and trainers to make sure that when I hit the court in Rio they're going to be with me in my heart and my head. I'm going to be so prepared from head to toe. That's what a lot of this year is, it's just soaking everything in and living in it so when I get to Rio I just press play. I think that the journey is where all that happens. The process is so important. I'm looking forward to winning that gold medal in Rio and saying thank you to everyone that helped."
What will it be like heading to the Olympics with a new partner?
"Really exciting. April [Ross] is such a champion, a winner, you know. When Misty first retired I was really emotional. I was just sappy about it. It was a beautiful thing. Then, I reframed it: I get a new friend out of it, I get to know someone whose been a thorn in my side for so long—April is one of the best in the world, always—and I get to join partners with someone who will teach me new things. I'm so impressed by the woman she is and so it's been really, really fun. The weirdness and the transition is all over, we're firmly a team. The respect is there, the love is there and what I love so much about April is that she is all in."
Flash forward to years from now when you're done being a competitive athlete. What does your career look like?
"I look forward to that. My goal in Rio as far as my brand and my partners go is to create a wave of momentum and keep riding it out. I want to go on a speaking tour, I want to inspire people. My husband [also a professional beach volleyball athlete ] and I are building a volleyball academy for kids and families. We're going to bring in all of our experts—my sports psychologist, Pilates instructors, nutritionist—all in one house and share the wealth. I would love to write books, I'd love to do a little TV, I just don't want to do one thing. I love working. I love chasing dreams and I'm kind of addicted to being uncomfortable, so I want to keep pushing myself and trying new things to keep growing."
Let's talk beauty—as someone in the sun all the time what is your skincare must-have?
"Hydration, for sure is number one. That's one of my New Year's resolutions is more sleep and hydration. I am also religious about sunscreen in the morning I use Skin Authority SPF 30 ($42) and higher and I reapply often. I definitely wear my visor when I play. For my first couple of years playing, I didn't wear a hat and got so much damage. That's something I've learned the hard way."
What's in your gym bag?
"Way too much stuff. A diaper? A sock? I have protein bars, I have a bottle with a shaker, I have my gym shoes and socks, elastic bands, a jumprope, my wireless JayBird earphones ($124) which I love. I have my phone which has my workouts, my trainer gives me stuff and I bring it, or I'll go on Pinterest. I've also been making my own deodorant."
Tell us more about that, we're fans of green beauty!
"It's a detoxifying deodorant with coconut oil, arrowroot powder, tea tree oil and I absolutely love it. As I get older and think of my kids I don't want to put anything bad in my body. I don't want deodorant with aluminum and all these chemicals. I just want to hippie it out a little bit. We have so many cultural toxins and stressors out there we don't need to add more."
Lastly, when you ever feel like you're at your final straw or losing motivation, what do you do?
"I think about why I'm doing what I'm doing and I think of the team around me. That really helps me stay motivated. If I say this is all for me then I'll sometimes think, 'Well I'm too tired today'. When I think of my kids or my husband, partner, trainer I'm a pleaser and I don't want to let anyone down. That's one of the beautiful things about being on a team, you've got to be selfless, you've got to push through when you don't want to. It's made me better being on a team, so I just gotta suck it up and do it with a smile."