Olympic Sprinter Allyson Felix Shares Her Go-To Core Workout & How She Stays Motivated
Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen.
If one thing is certain about 2020, it's that absolutely nothing went according to plan. And for Allyson Felix, that sentiment certainly holds. The four-time Olympic sprinter was training for the 2020 Olympic Games when the pandemic shelter-at-home orders went into effect, earlier this year. Shortly thereafter, the Summer Olympics were postponed until 2021.
"When you think about running and racing, there's such a buildup and such a process, you spend so much time in preparation," she tells mindbodygreen in an interview. "To do all the work and realize the race isn't happening is really hard."
However, the disappointment didn't stop the six-time Olympic gold medalist from continuing with her training. "I gave myself the space to grieve the loss, to feel it and experience it," Felix says. And from there, she set out to shift her mindset. "I took my time, then I had to figure out: What's my new goal; what's the new plan to get there; how can I do even better now?"
Now, Felix is in the throes of training for next year's games—and her regimen is pretty impressive, to say the least. Here, she shares what her training schedule looks like, her recovery routine, and how she fuels her body for success.
Her workouts include a mix of running and strength training.
This likely comes as no surprise, but, as an Olympian, Felix works out...a lot. "Typically [I train] around five hours a day," she shares. Three of those hours involve running on the track or the road—she also homes in on middle-distance training, speed work, and technique.
In addition to running, Felix hits the gym for strength training, usually four days a week. "I spend about one and a half to two hours in there doing all my strength work—a lot of plyometrics, a lot of Olympic lifts, and things with my own body weight," she says. All of which helps her body stay strong and functional for optimal running performance.
Core work is crucial.
One major component of Felix's strength training is core work. "It's probably 30% of the exercises I do in the gym, and I always do a little extra at home." That's because "Core is so crucial, especially to a sprinter," she says.
As for her go-to exercises? Felix is a big fan of classic core exercises like Russian twist and bicycles. "I also do a lot of planking and piking up," she says, adding that she loves incorporating variations on plank that really challenge her stability.
One example: "I'll put my forearms on a large exercise ball and feet on a box, then shoot my knee to my chest, and really focus on isolating that core."
Recovery is just as important as training.
Not only is Felix dedicated to her training schedule, but she’s also diligent about her recovery routine. "For me, that looks like ice bathing after an intense session, doing foam rolling and massage stick, and stretching," she says. "I make sure I'm really stretching before workouts, after workouts, and when I have time at home to really get into those muscles."
On an active recovery day, Felix may go for a longer run—where she also keeps body preservation in mind. "During those road runs, I love using Dr. Scholl's performance sized-to-fit running insoles—they provide comfort, arch support, and are one other area where I can help prevent injury," she says. "I see that as contributing to my recovery, as well."
Felix is also sure to take one full day off, when she may get a chiropractic adjustment or massage. Beyond the physical recovery, though, these days also serve as a mental refresh. "The day I have off, I try to really have off. I'm not thinking about training; I'm not thinking about racing; I really try to let my mind rest," she says. "It's how I start my days as well; I have a gratitude journal, and I just focus on unplugging from all of that work and intensity."
What's more, Felix takes a chunk of time off every season, which she says really helps. "I think that's helped me have longevity [in the sport] and still feel excited about it," she says. "It's important to take a step back and have other things in life you enjoy—my family really helps with that."
She stocks her home with healthy fuel.
When the Olympics were postponed, one area of well-being Felix decided to focus on was her nutrition—in order to be even stronger when she returned to racing.
That said, anyone who spent extra time at home this year knows that sticking to a nutritious diet (sans unhealthy snacking) can be a challenge. "For me, I decided anything I'm bringing into the house needs to be good for me and fuel my body," says Felix. "So I make sure I have fresh fruit in the house, and my go-to healthy snacks like granola and yogurt." From there, it was about staying disciplined, all with her Olympic goals top-of-mind.
While this year could have been profoundly discouraging, Felix decided to seize the opportunity to focus on "small things I can do at home to be even better when I return to racing," she says. "It's a shift in mindset, and continuing to push forward—it's not that it's never coming back, but it's at a later date now."
Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen. Kristine is a New York University graduate with a degree in journalism and psychology, and also a NASM-certified personal trainer. She has spent her editorial career focused on health and well-being, and formerly worked for Women’s Health and Health. Her byline has also appeared in Men’s Health, Greatist, Refinery29, HGTV, and more. In her current role she oversees, edits, and writes for the health, food, and movement sections of mindbodygreen.