Olympic Q & A: Bree Schaaf, USA Bobsled

Bobsledder Bree Schaaf does it all. She went from collegiate volleyball player, to becoming a member of the U.S. Skeleton team, to bobsledding where she goes 90mph down the track! If that's not being a great all-around athlete I don't know what is.

MindBodyGreen: You went from Division One collegiate volleyball to skeleton to bobsledding? How did this happen?

Bree Schaaf: Skeleton and women’s bobsled made their debut as an Olympic sport in 2002, and that was the year that I was finishing up my senior season at Portland State University. I saw women’s bobsled on television and thought, hmm, I’m big and fast, I think I may be able to do that. It turned out I was fast enough, but not nearly big or strong enough, so I got steered into skeleton. Originally my brother, Tim Schaaf, was really interested in Skeleton, and after sending his athletic resume out to the skeleton development coach, he got invited out to a driving school. He did really well, told the coach about me, and I got invited to the next driving school based on my athletic resume and how well my brother did.

I made the switch to bobsledding in 2007 after finishing up the ‘06/’07 world cup tour in skeleton. Essentially I was sick of dragging my face against the ice. My head is so large that in the high-pressure turns my face would get buried and I couldn’t see where I was going. I felt myself hitting a plateau where I wasn’t improving anymore by sliding blind. I convinced the bobsled coaches to give me a shot, and after laying down great physical testing scores I was in. Then it just became a matter of putting on the necessary strength and size to compete in bobsled, as well as get a feel for a completely different steering mechanism and sled behavior.

MBG: Are there any skills you've taken from volleyball and applied to bobsledding?

BS: Definitely my work ethic. PSU Volleyball taught me not only how to work hard and push myself beyond my limits, but to enjoy doing it. That’s something I’ve carried with me all through training. My workouts may have a different purpose now, but the same work ethic applies.

MBG: Has your diet changed in preparation for the Olympics?

BS: In the off-season I stick to a very strict diet catered to my training needs, but allow myself a cheat meal every few weeks. My meals and nutrient ratio’s are all dictated by my workouts and what I need to put in my body to recover from workouts that day. I also switched to all organic food this summer and it really made a difference. It’s tough, but it all pays off when we get into the season and food gets tricky. We compete mostly in Europe and I don’t have as much control over what goes into my body there. Our meals are prepared by the small hotels we stay at so the body composition base that I build over the summer helps me maintain that weight and strength during the season on a tough travel schedule.

MBG: What does a typical training day entail?

BS: Breakfast, then 1.5 hours later I start with sprints and explosive work (typically something like 10 15m starts and 6 flying 30’s), then a post-workout meal, nap, pre-lifting meal, 1.5 hours later lift (mostly leg intensive i.e., squats, cleans, deadlifts, lunges, etc with upper body like bench and weighted pull-ups mixed in for balance).

MBG: What is your favorite way to relax before you compete?

BS: If I’m in the states I usually travel with a full digital 88 key piano, and that really helps me relax and focus. I can just put my headphones on and tune out the world. In Europe I usually bring some sort of project with me that I work on while listening to a book on tape or watching movies. I spent the entire pre-Christmas part of the World Cup Tour embroidering a silk tank top for my sister. So doing something with my hands is my favorite way to relax.

MBG: What’s on your playlist before a race?

BS: Journey's Greatest Hits

MBG: Favorite healthy food?

BS: My morning egg scrambles, they’re unstoppable. And I’ve also perfected my steel cut oats.

MBG: Sounds yummy!  You like to cook – what’s your best dish? 

BS: Ooh, I go through different phases depending on what kind of cuisines have inspired me. I love eating something delicious at a restaurant and then going home and trying to duplicate it in a healthy way that applies to my dietary needs. My mom would say the best thing I make is my whole-wheat monkey bread.

MBG: Favorite guilty indulgence?

BS: Soft-Serve. I love those designer soft-serve parlors that are popping up everywhere, I want a machine so I can start developing my own.

MBG: What does mind/body/green mean to you?

BS: I think that when you are in harmony with your nutrition you are in harmony with your body. And being good to my body goes hand in hand with being good to the earth, so I try not to eat anything that comes in a wrapper, as most of the time this equals highly processed. Eating whole organic foods is not only good for your body but far more sustainable for the earth.

MBG: Favorite quote?

BS: "Live as though you’ll live forever. And be prepared to die tomorrow."

MBG: What’s your favorite book?

BS: Fiction: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Non-Fiction: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

MBG: Inspiration?

BS: The betterment of self, through competition, life, and learning.

MBG: Anyone you are looking forward to meeting at the Vancouver Olympics? 

BS: I’d love to meet Stephen Colbert.

For more on Bree Schaaf:


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