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Nick Symmonds Interview
I've interviewed bodybuilders, figure models and cover models. My life doesn't really get boring. But when the opportunity arose to interview Nicholas Symmonds, middle-distance runner and 2008 800m Olympic track star, I was almost at a loss for words.
A real-life Olympian; in my midst. It's not often that we have interviews with this kind of dedicated, amateur (or professional) performance athlete like Nicholas.
He is one of Bodybuilding.com's "locals," having grown up in Boise, Idaho. According to his blog, he "was blessed with an amazing family that made me want for nothing. I had love from my sister and parents and they supported me in any goal I set for myself, but more importantly made me believe I could accomplish these goals. When I told them that I would one day like to be an Olympian they just smiled and said, 'then do it.' When other people laughed or doubted they just kept smiling, almost as if they knew it was destined to be."
Clearly Nick is a man in touch with his roots. A down-to-earth, grateful-for-everything young man who just happened to get the chance to compete among the best in the world at a sport he's passionate about. How many people can say that?
Just how modest is Mr. Symmonds? Well, of his qualifying race, he said, "I think I did well today, but I never expected anything big. I tried to come out and put my nose in there and it felt good ... That performance was as much for them as it was for myself and I look forward to making them all proud when I take on the rest of the world in Beijing."
[ Q ] What was your first reaction when you qualified for the Beijing Olympics?
[ A ] My first reaction was total relief. As soon as I crossed the finish line all the pain of the race faded into pure elation and I felt about 100 lbs lighter. I finally accomplished the dream and knew I would forever be able to call myself an Olympian.
[ Q ] How do you feel knowing your one of an elite group of athletes representing your country as an Olympian?
[ A ] I feel incredibly honored to be representing the USA at the Olympics in Beijing this year. The way the US selects its
track team was a constant source of frustration for me as you could be hands-down the best in a given event, but if you fail to perform at the trials you will be left off the team.
Knowing that if I got tripped or sick and would have to wait four more years to prove that I belong on an Olympic team terrified me. However, having now made the team, I feel so proud knowing that it didn't come easy, but rather I had to race 7 of the most talented half-milers in the nation.
[ Q ] What are your expectations going into the Olympics?
[ A ] I'm trying not to have any expectations going into the Olympics but to rather go over and treat it like any new experience or any other race.
When I travel I try to have an open mind and be ready for anything and when I compete I give 100%. If I do both of these things in Beijing it will be a successful and satisfying experience.
[ Q ] What is your training regimen like on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Do you periodize it? (i.e. Have different phases within the off-season/in-season?). If so, how does it change from one season to the next?
[ A ] Well I could write an entire novel on how we train, or rather, my coach Frank Gagliano could, but I'll try and break it down a bit. We do
I would say that 6-8 months of the year is considered a base phase where we are emphasizing building strength. We do this with lots of miles and tons of over distance workouts. During this phase I average 10 miles a day. I get these 70 miles in 9 runs and along with this I swim a mile twice a week and lift twice a week. So, if you add that all up I'm pretty much working out twice a day everyday.
I try to get the harder of the two workouts out of the way in the morning. When race season starts up we switch our emphasis to speed and cut our weekly mileage by about 10%.
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The workouts are much shorter, but much faster; much more race specific. I still swim and lift during this period but often I'm on the road racing and pools/weightrooms are harder to find so its not quite as consistent as it is during the base training.
[ Q ] What is your nutrition like during your competition season and your off-season? What kind of foods to you eat? How much? What is a day in the life of a track superstar, nutrition wise?
[ A ] Most people would be surprised to find that I pretty much eat anything I want whenever I want. My diet doesn't change at all throughout the year and I consume close to 3500
calories a day.
When you run as much as we are it's all about getting enough food in to keep you going. With that being said I actually eat pretty healthy.
I eat three well balanced meals a day that I usually prepare myself. I almost never eat
fast food or drink pop. I suppose my guilty pleasures are a Dr. Pepper every now and then and a pint or two of
beer Saturday nights.
[ Q ] Which supplements do you currently use? Does this also change between your on-season/off-season? How have they helped your performance?
[ A ] I've never been big on supplements as I feel I should be able to get everything I need in my diet if I'm eating correctly. However, I do take a
multivitamin each day to make sure I get something I may be missing as well as a tablespoon of liquid
iron to counteract some of the natural conditions that occur from the massive pounding the body goes through as a professional runner.
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[ Q ] What is the best advice you've received regarding training or life in general?
[ A ] For me, the most important piece of wisdom I ever received came from my mom when I was still a prep school athlete. She told me, "Nick, running is something you do, its not who you are." This has always been important for me because it helps me keep this sport I love in perspective.
The life of a professional athlete is filled with many highs and many lows and as you progress along this roller coaster of emotions it's easy to get caught up in it. Remembering that running is just something I do, has allowed me to get through the tough times knowing that I could leave the sport tomorrow and still be a successful person in whatever challenge I decided to take on next.
[ Q ] What are some words of advice/encouragement you would give to other aspiring athletes/sprinters/Olympians?
[ A ] The biggest piece of advice I can give an aspiring athlete is to get to know your body and trust in yourself. Only you know what is best for you as an athlete and sometimes that goes against conventional wisdom.
When everyone was telling me I needed to go to a Division I school for college I felt otherwise. I went to a small liberal arts Division III school and it ended up being the perfect place for me to develop into a world class athlete.