Figure skater Rachael Flatt, 17, the reigning U.S. ladies' champion, is going for the gold at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
What’s your daily workout routine?
Typically, I have about 3-4 sessions per day. I have two in the morning and 1-2 in the afternoon. One of my afternoon classes is power stroking [an ice skating technique] and I go to the OTC (Olympic Training Center) twice a week for training. I also do ballet and other strength training workouts off the ice.
What’s your approach to nutrition, and do you tweak your diet in advance of a competition?
I really try to [eat] a wide variety of foods and food groups each day. I go for the intensely colored fresh fruit and veggies. I also eat lots of lean protein and low-fat dairy.
When I compete, the content is similar, but usually decreased. I do try to adhere to a dinner of lean protein and few carbs the night before I compete to maintain my energy level on competition day.
How do you keep your energy up as you train, do schoolwork, and act as a spokeswoman for Reading is Fundamental? How do you balance all those demands?
I keep my energy by staying focused and really managing my time. Balancing skating, school and other activities can be difficult so time management is key.
I also find strength from my parents, my coaches and my peers, who really help me stay grounded and support me to the fullest!
I also plan my meals and food intake to make sure I have enough energy during the day with healthy snacks and meals like fresh fruits, low-fat dairy, lean protein and some carbs.
When a competition comes up, how do you approach it as far as your mental outlook? Do you do visualization exercises, or meditate, etc.?
Honestly, I try to rely on the hard training that occurs in the weeks prior to a competition. You've got to work at your preparations every day. Procrastination just doesn't work.
[As Aristotle said,]' "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
And, once we are at a competition, I focus on relying on the training -- practice like it is a competition and then you will compete like you practice. I train hard so that it reflects when I compete.
I also bring homework with me wherever I go. It takes my mind away from skating for a little bit.
And we try to watch funny movies or videos. [TV shows] "The Office," "30 Rock"... and "The Daily Show" have been great ways of keeping the pressure at bay!
How do you handle setbacks - for instance, if you’re not happy with your performance, how do you shake it off and move on?
Part of maturing as an athlete is learning from setbacks or less than optimal performances. Sometimes we watch videos of performances and analyze the programs for technical or performance errors. If you aren't willing to put the work into improving, maybe it's time to move on to something else in your life.
With all your training, how do you avoid injury?
I have had a number of injuries over the years, including torn ligaments, sprained ankles, concussions, and bulging discs in my lower back. The trick is to learn to listen to your body -- learn what are the daily aches and pains and what is not normal.
My coach has a three-day rule of thumb: If you are still hurting three days after the initial injury and you did not pursue seeing a physical therapist or doctor, then it's time to follow up with a medical professional.
You make skating look effortless - and no doubt, the artistry is something you work very hard on. Do you think that’s something that people are born with or they can learn?
For me, I would have to say my love of skating is innate, but as [figure skating legend] Dorothy Hamill always tells me, I must work hard in order to achieve results and truly enjoy myself. So I think that people can learn if they put in the hard work and I also think this applies to most things in life, not only skating.
What are your plans after high school?
I will keep skating -- it's my first love -- but I am also planning on attending college. I have applied to nine colleges and am anxiously awaiting to hear what schools have accepted my applications.
We hear you want to be a doctor or maybe a vet. Why, and do you have a specialty in mind?
I have become more interested in engineering in the last few years, so maybe chemical engineering or biomechanical engineering, sports medicine -- so perhaps medical school.
What do you do for fun?
I like to hang out with my friends, watch movies, go to school dances, play tennis, go to the beach -- normal teenage stuff.
Do you have a “guilty pleasure” food and if so, what is it?
Well, I love Italian food. So, pretty much anything Italian!
What advice do you have for teen athletes who want to improve their skills?
Practice, practice, practice! Working hard and practicing has made me the skater that I am today.
What advice do you have for teens who aren’t active at all?
Find something that you love and do that. I firmly believe that something will not be rewarding to you unless you truly enjoy it and love doing it!
I love skating and I cannot remember a day in the last 14 years where I have not wanted to go to the rink and skate. Well, except maybe a day or too when I have been so sick, I just did not want to get out of bed.
So I would encourage teens, especially those who aren't active, to try a whole bunch of different things until they find something that is for them.
When you’re done with skating, what do you think are the biggest lessons it will have taught you that will help you in the rest of your life?
Work hard, play hard. This statement applies to me across all facets of my life.
What other events are you looking forward to watching at the Olympics?
I would love to watch some speed skating, maybe some snowboarding, freestyle skiing. So many events to watch -- not enough hours in the day!
Lastly, one lighter question - How do you pick your skating outfits?
Costume design is a collaborative effort between my choreographer, my dressmaker, my mom, and myself. We think about how the music might suggest a certain style if it is character based, or choose a certain color to create a certain mood. Then we begin sketching, and go from there.