Welcome to our "Like An Olympian" series. During the 2012 London Olympics, HuffPost Healthy Living will take a look at lifestyle and fitness lessons from competitors, coaches and former Olympians alike.
As the reigning American cross country mountain biking national champion and second-place finisher at the 2011 London test event, Georgia Gould is poised for greatness at the 2012 Olympic Games.
A member of the LUNA Chix Pro Team since 2006, Gould has been riding mountain bikes since 1999 and finished eighth at the 2008 Olympics.
We asked her some questions about what it takes to train for the biggest race of her life -- and what you can learn from her, even if you've only biked around the block.
What have you learned through your Olympic training that you carry over into your everyday fitness routine?
The biggest thing I have learned over the years is the importance of staying fresh mentally. Sometimes certain workouts just seem way more daunting than others. I have a great coach, and we work hard to make sure that I am motivated for my workouts in order to get the most out of them. In the off-season, I like to take a break from the bike and run, ski or do other stuff.
How important is nutrition in your training?
I think nutrition is really important. I don't like taking vitamins and supplements -- I prefer to get my nutrition from real food. I like cooking and eating, and I eat really well, even when I'm not training and racing.
I make sure I eat right after training or racing, and I try to incorporate carbs and protein to help my body recover from those hard efforts. People always ask me if I have a strict diet, but really I just use common sense. I find it is important to be flexible, especially since I travel so much. I have tried being really strict about my diet, but it didn't work for me: I need balance and I like to be able to eat whatever I want in moderation.
What are some healthy eating staples for you?
It sort of depends on what my body is craving. But for lunch, I love a big salad. I throw in whatever I have on hand and whatever sounds good: lettuce, carrots, avocado, tomato, olives, a little feta cheese and sometimes a can of sardines or wild salmon. Leftover roasted veggies often end up in my salads, too.
I also love eggs. I take some kind of greens (spinach, arugula, etc.) and whatever else I feel like (zucchini, mushrooms, sausage, peppers) and saute them for a few seconds. Then I make a few little nests, crack an egg in each one, sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, and maybe some good quality cheese. Then I turn the heat down and throw a lid on the pan until the eggs are cooked the way I like them (a little runny). I usually eat that with some toast and maybe a little avocado on the side. If I'm short on time, I just scramble everything together and it's still pretty delicious!
I snack on things like sliced apples with peanut butter, toast (I make my own bread!), yogurt with homemade granola and berries and my favorite LUNA Bar, the Chocolate Dipped Coconut flavor.
How important is sleep in your training? What do you do to ensure you are rested for a race?
Sleep is very important. When I am traveling, I sleep with earplugs and an eye mask to ensure that I get quality sleep (I call it my "total isolation chamber"). That said, there are definitely nights when I have trouble sleeping because I am excited and/or nervous. When that happens, I try not to stress about it, because that only makes it worse. I focus on relaxing, and eventually I fall asleep.
Any other tips for managing pre-race nerves?
Embrace it. Nerves are good -- being nervous means you care, and it helps you to push a little harder when you need to. Be excited that you are nervous, and let that motivate you! Also, have a routine. A race-day routine like eating breakfast, packing your race gear and warming up gives you structure and keeps you from being scattered or chaotic. A familiar routine allows you to focus and relax (while still embracing your nervousness!). When I have a lot of free time leading up to a race, I find it useful to stay busy and distract myself. I read, do crossword puzzles, play games or chat with a teammate to keep myself from obsessing about the race.
For more from our "Like An Olympian" series, click here.