Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn made her Olympic debut in 2002 at the age of 18, and went on to earn two medals ― including one gold ― at the 2010 Vancouver games. Although she has recently been derailed by injuries, Vonn is finally healthy and training for the 2018 games in South Korea.
She is also preparing to release her first book, Strong Is The New Beautiful, in October. The athlete caught up with The Huffington Post to talk about her writing debut, why she puts so much effort into getting enough sleep and the challenging issues surrounding the Rio Olympics.
Why did you decide to write a book? What is your ultimate goal?
I hate the word diet. All the books you see these days are about dieting and what works best ― everyone’s different, everyone’s body is different. [The book is about] finding what makes you feel good, and it gives you background information on what you’re eating so you can make the right choices.
How would you describe the ideal audience for this book?
The main thing for me is to empower women to be confident and lead a healthy lifestyle that makes them feel empowered and strong. It’s not about being thin or small or any particular size; it’s just about being comfortable and confident with who you are.
When it comes to your nutrition, what have you found most valuable?
I’ve tried basically everything, which is explained in the book. I’ve tried paleo, I was on a high-carb diet, I was on an Atkins-style diet, but I found that I needed balance. So I think I’m on the end of higher fat and higher protein: Whole milk or 2 percent, almond butters and peanut butters and dark chocolate, and as long as you have the high fat content, sometimes the sugar is totally fine. That’s the thing: Everyone needs a treat.
There’s no way you’re gonna say, ‘I’m going to go on a diet, I’m not eating chocolate for two months.’ For me that would never happen. It’s a part of nature ― you need chocolate, it’s everything in moderation. As long as you have something fatty ― for example, sometimes I overdo it and I eat too much chocolate, or too much ice cream, and then I have to eat something. Like I’ll eat a piece of chicken and avocado and I’ll feel better.
I’m a big sleeper. That’s how I recover, and that’s how I’m able to constantly be going. Being able to do two workouts a day and still doing photo shoots and press conferences and all that stuff, it’s because I sleep so much. I need ideally 10 hours a day ― normally it’s eight to nine at night and then I always have a nap if I can squeeze it in.
What have you noticed when you don’t get ample sleep?
We did some studies and analyzed my sleep. On days that I didn’t sleep and wasn’t rested, I didn’t have the energy in my workouts that I normally have, and also my brain doesn’t work. Sometimes in the morning I can’t even form a complete sentence. My brain and my body ― it needs sleep.
My train of thought ― there is no train, the train is off. When you’re going down the mountain at 80 mph, it’s important to have a clear mind and be able to react quickly.
How would you have handled a Winter Olympics with a similar onslaught of issues as Rio?
It’s tough. I think I would still go. You don’t get that opportunity again. Obviously the health risks are pretty substantial, but at the same time, if you’ve worked your entire life for something, it’s pretty hard to let that go on a what-if scenario.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.