How They Train

This past week, I spent a few days at Nike HQ in Beaverton, Oregon. If you’ve never been to their campus, and have the opportunity, take it. After five minutes on their campus, it’s easy to see why they have an easier time recruiting new talent than a lot of D-1 football programs. Their campus is immaculate, they have restaurants and cafeterias and gyms galore. At lunch, there are young, creative, good-looking employees playing soccer and running on trails and taking workout classes alongside professional athletes who are doing much of the same. And it’s just outside of Portland, one of my favorite cities in the country.

The entrance to "the kitchen," Nike's Secret Research Lab on campus. Very cool to get to peek behind those doors.

To gear up for the Olympics, Nike brought a group of mostly fitness editors, a few fashion/lifestyle editors, and one sports writer to campus to spend time with several of their female Olympic hopefuls. We had the opportunity to meet and chat with each of the athletes, and then experience a bit of how they train. They gave us great insight into how they think about aspects of their training like nutrition, sleep, stretching and peaking for Olympic Trials.

It was a really fascinating, and fun, few days.

Boxing hopeful Marlen Esparza, who is moving up from 106 to 112 pounds in order to compete in London, took us through a condensed version of her circuit training. Gymnast Shawn Johnson and Coach Chow led us in a dynamic stretching and abs workout.

Misty May and her coach/dad Butch take us through some beach volleyball drills.

We played beach volleyball with Misty May Treanor, soccer with Carli Lloyd and practiced sprint starts with Carmelita Jeter, the Fastest Woman Alive and second-fastest woman ever. (Flo Jo still holds the WR in the 100 meters.) Jackie Joyner Kersee, who is a ray of sunshine and has more energy than most anyone I’ve met, worked with us on hurdling and even joined in our editor/writer relay race. She was on the opposing team and no, she was not interested in backing off to let us win. (We didn’t.)

Talk about packing a punch. Our 112-lb. women's Olympics boxing hopeful, Marlen Esparza, spars with her coach, Rudy Silva.

The most interesting part about the week, for me, was learning how differently each athlete, and each sport, tackles training. Shawn said she couldn’t imagine completing Marlen’s training regimen, even for a week. Misty May and Carli couldn’t imagine their practices taking place on a four-inch beam. The sprinters can’t imagine running 26 miles and the distance runners don’t understand why anyone would stop after 100 meters. Because Nike has access to so many athletes from so many backgrounds who play such a variety of sports, they are able to take from each of them to help design the most well-rounded training program for each of their athletes. Once again, making me wish I was visiting that campus as a 15-year-old Olympic hopeful.

Definitely a highlight of the trip. A lesson in hurdles from the woman, Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Then again, my ticket to the Games is already bought and paid for, and my credential is on its way. And all I have to do is sit at a computer and type.

THE shoe ... Michael Johnson's 1996 gold-medal-winning gold spikes, out of their lockbox for the day. They weighed less than the necklace he was wearing that day in Atlanta.

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