Not many teenagers can boast of gold in the Olympics. The list of Americans who can claim gold in both the team and individual all-around gymnastic competitions is far shorter. Gabby Douglas is the only name on that list. She achieved the feat for the first time ever in London in 2012.
And now, after being named once again to the U.S. national team in November, Douglas is training in Columbus for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Under Coach Kittia Carpenter at Buckeye Gymnastics, Douglas is prepping for a history-making comeback some call impossible—to be the first woman since 1968 to repeat in gold in the Olympic all-around, and to be the first American to do it… ever.
Bright and bubbly when we talked to her at the end of 2014, Douglas spoke with Fit about her training, nutrition and how she’s prepping for the big show.
Talk about why you chose Columbus to train and what you’re enjoying about it. I’m really liking Ohio. I was watching Nia Dennis, she trains here, and I was watching her video and I saw that Kittia was an awesome coach. I had previously met them and I thought, “Let’s call them up and see if they would be open,” and they just opened up the gym with welcoming arms to me, and I’m so happy to be here.
What are you looking for in a coach and the physical training they can provide? They have to be very technical, and they have to know what they’re doing and know the athlete; the fitness level has to be there.
“You totally have to be fearless. You have to be strong. You have to be bold. And you can’t shrink back.”
Talk about the mental side to training and what kind of coach you need. I’m looking for someone to critique me and push me to the next level. If you have a coach who doesn’t do that, you’ll still be at the same level week seven as you were week one. You need someone who pushes you. You may not like it, but it’s good for you.
When you’re training, how do you stay motivated to keep going even when it’s tough? I stay motivated by watching different clips from the Olympics, or training in general. That just keeps me motivated, keeps me on my toes.
What does nutrition mean to you and your training? It’s 100 percent for me. Nutrition is so important. When I was younger I was like “whatever.” But now I know. It’s so, so important. Vegetables, really green, green vegetables and meat really recover my muscles. And I see a difference. When I was in L.A. and I wasn’t training, I would have pizza and greasy foods, and I would wake up and my shoulders would hurt so bad, and my hamstrings, and I was like, “What is the deal?” I’ve noticed when I eat not-recovering foods, I wake up and my muscles aren’t recovered.
Do you use bars or supplements? I’m trying to get more into supplements, but I have to be very careful because I get drug tested. But I want to do natural supplements or maybe vitamins that may really help me.
You were injured last year. How did you work through that injury and stay motivated to get back on track? You have to be patient because if you’re too harsh, you can potentially injure it more. You have to be very wise. If it’s healed and you’re too scared to do it, then you can’t do that either. It has to be somewhere in the middle. You have to be patient. And for me, I did a lot of physical therapy, icing, heating before practice, maybe took Aleve for inflammation. I would do an Epsom salt bath for my ankle. You just really have to be on top of it. It puts you back further if you don’t.
Do you believe a huge component for your training and your life is being fearless? You totally have to be fearless. You have to be strong. You have to be bold. You can’t go out there and be scared because you’re going to get hurt. And you can’t shrink back. You literally have to attack the skill to make it because it’s dangerous for you to be doing all these difficult skills and be like, “I don’t know.”
Do you feel like you approach life and your goals that same way? Is that your personality? Yeah. I look back at 2012 and I’m like, “Why wasn’t I more aggressive in my training?” I need to be more aggressive. And it just started to click with me in 2013 and 2014. Like, I need to attack this skill.
On Aug. 5, you’ll be a year out from the 2016 Olympics in Rio. What does your life look like at that point? At a year out, it’s right around the corner and, I’m not going to lie, everyone gets stressed. It’s far, but it’s not. Everyone’s so uptight. It’s so intense. And then you start seeing the commercials and it’s like, “Oh my gosh.”
What are you trying to accomplish between now and the Olympics? I just want more international experience. Before I was an underdog, so I didn’t really have that experience. I want to do another World Championship, another Pacific Rim [International Championship in 2016], go out there and compete.
For girls who look up to you, or anyone who has a big goal, what’s your advice to them? I just try to be so positive. It’s all about taking that big step. You don’t want to give up. Because the worst thing you want is regret. Hey, if you didn’t make it, at the end of the day you can say, “Wow, I feel so good because even though I didn’t accomplish that, I gave it 100 percent and gave it my all.” You can walk home at the end of the day with your head held high. It’s all about perspective. Some of your goals are not going to be easy, but just fight for those goals and you can make it.