Olympic Swimmer Natalie Coughlin Shares Her Secrets to Success From the Pool to Her Garden

Natalie chats with us as she gears up for her fourth Olympic games this summer in Rio.

Natalie Coughlin Interview: title TBD

12-time Olympic medalist swimmer Natalie Coughlin dishes to us about being an urban gardener, her favorite go-to recipe and tells us what it's really like to be labeled the 'Most Decorated Female American Olympian'. 

You're an urban gardener and self-proclaimed foodie. Can you elaborate on what it means to be an urban gardener? 

Even though I live in the suburbs, I’m able to raise chickens for eggs and grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. And this year I’m adding a proper beehive to raise honeybees. (I already have a natural honeybee hive in one of my Oak trees and need to move them.) 

What is your favorite, go-to recipe that you love to make and that tastes good but also keeps you on track?

I absolutely love pasta so one of my favorite go-to recipes is my Kale Almond Pesto. I have tons of kale growing in my yard and along with almonds, it’s a great way to sneak in some added nutrition in to a comforting dish [find the recipe below].

Do you have a favorite cooking show or celebrity chef whose recipes you always turn to?

I’ve always really liked Giada de Laurentis. I don’t have a drop of Italian blood in me, but am obsessed with Italian food. I love Giada’s California spin on traditional Italian cooking.

How did you end up guest judging Iron Chef America? What about your appearance on Chopped? Which was more fun for you as someone who is so passionate about cooking?

Chopped was so much fun but terrifying! I know I’m a great cook, but time-management is not my strong suit in the kitchen. Plus I’m not a dessert person, so that round was especially difficult for me. But it was such a great lesson in making a quick decision and following that path. If you make a misstep in Chopped, you need to make it work!

As someone who loves food, Iron Chef was a bit more fun for me. I was mesmerized by the Batali / Lagasse team. Mario Batali, in particular, was so comfortable and relaxed the entire time! My favorite dish was his egg yolk sweet potato ravioli in sage browned butter. Amazing!

Challenges, plateaus and setbacks are important parts of the journey. You can feel sorry for yourself or treat those moments as learning opportunities. Evaluate what you can improve and move on!

–Natalie Coughlin

How does the label "Most decorated American female Olympic athlete" make you feel? Was competing in the Olympics something you always dreamed of as a kid?

I dreamt of being an Olympian when I was a kid, but didn’t really know what that meant or how I would get there. I simply knew that being an Olympian was the pinnacle of my sport. So to be “most decorated female American”… it’s something that I don’t think has fully set in. Maybe when I’m done swimming competitively it will.

What advice would you give younger females who have big dreams of competing in the Olympic games some day? Do you have a secret to success?

Challenges, plateaus and setbacks are important parts of the journey. You can feel sorry for yourself or treat those moments as learning opportunities. Evaluate what you can improve and move on!

Do you think there is a stigma surrounding female vs. male professional athletes?

I’ve never felt a stigma about being a female in sports. My parents, especially my Dad, always pushed me to set goals and work towards those goals. 

At Livingly, we 'Live Life Beautifully.' In your opinion, what makes a woman beautiful?

Living healthy...mind, body and soul.

The shots from your ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue [2015] shoot are absolutely gorgeous!

Any advice for our readers about feeling comfortable enough in your own skin to bare it all?

Thank you! Earlier in my 20’s I would have never been comfortable enough to do that shoot. I think there’s an inherent confidence that women get in their 30’s.

A big thank you to Natalie for chatting with us and we wish her best of luck in Rio this summer! Bring home the gold, girl!

Natalie's Almond Kale Pesto

Natalie Coughlin Interview: title TBD
Natalie Coughlin


1/2 cup almonds

1 bunch of kale 

3 – 5 garlic cloves (depending on your love of it!)

1 – 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (depending on your spice level)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/4 cup cheese (I like a half/half combo of Parmesan and Pecorino)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds on ungreased baking sheet and bake slightly browned and fragrant, approximately 5 minutes. Set aside.

Blanch kale in boiling water until slightly tender and bright green (approximately 2 – 3 minutes). Remove from water, drain and pat dry.

In a food processor blend kale, almonds, garlic, crushed red pepper, lemon zest and cheese until relatively uniform. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency (you may not use all the oil). Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. 

This pesto can be used on pasta, fish or chicken, or as a spread for a sandwich. Makes 2-4 servings.

Fashion, beauty and lifestyle editor at Livingly. Miami Hurricane obsessed, forever Miami Heat loyal, Food Network junkie. You can reach me anytime at alison.higgins@livingly.com.