wellness theories

Kerri Walsh Jennings on Weight Lifting, a Fourth Olympics, and Being Well

Photo: Samo Vidic/Getty Images

Kerri Walsh Jennings is a three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball with former partner Misty May-Treanor. Walsh Jennings, 36, is training to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio with April Ross. The pair was slated to compete in this weekend’s AVP Kingston New York City Open, but Walsh Jennings withdrew after injuring her shoulder in a tournament last week. (She dislocated it, got it popped back in, and returned to win the match. No big deal.) She told us she was “bummed” but is looking forward to cheering on her husband and fellow beach volleyballer Casey Jennings, with whom she has three children. Walsh Jennings spoke to the Cut about protein powder, strength training, and so much sunscreen.

How I start my mornings: I’m usually running out the door in the morning, so I’m a shake girl. I use Designer Whey protein powder and greens, usually spinach, with unsweetened vanilla almond milk. On the weekends, I like to make scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and sprouted bread.

What my training looks like: It depends if my husband has practice first or if I do, but usually it’s 7:30 when I start. We practice on the beach for two or two and a half hours. Then it’s either Pilates in the studio, a workout on the beach, a track workout, or a fast-twitch workout, which is strength training. I do two lifting sessions for the week. One is Olympic lifting and the other is circuit training, more like Tabata-style. It’s short, but it’s really effective.

On weight lifting: I like lifting weights for the empowerment it gives you. I love my physicality; I love seeing the muscle tone. And muscles help your metabolism. When some people get back into working out, they make cardio the primary focus and it can be so defeating.

On food: I try to eat clean. Lean proteins, greens, trying to eat the rainbow of colors. But I’m not perfect. I’ll eat a bar sometimes after my first session. I love my bars and protein powder — they do serve a purpose — but you also need whole foods.

My wellness advice is: I like when someone tells me what to do, so I like working out with a trainer. But not everyone can afford it. So go and do training sessions until you get the basics down. Then, even if you don’t have access to a gym, you can do things without equipment. Body-weight workouts are so awesome. There are a lot of resources online — I’m a huge fan of Pinterest and the fitness section; it’s my inspiration.

On “me” time: I aspire to wake up before my kids in the morning, and they get up around 6:30, so sometimes it’s only a few minutes. I want to have that time for myself so I can be better for them.

On the prospect of a fourth Olympics: My injury scares me. I’ve had injuries before and come back stronger, so there’s comfort in that. People are talking about this fourth Olympics, but I have to qualify and this changes the timeline.

How wellness has changed for me: Before, it was just about my body. Now it’s body, mind, and spirit. If my mind isn’t there, my body’s not going to perform. If my spirit isn’t there, it’s not going to perform.

My biggest wellness struggle is: Rest and recovery is the hardest thing to do now. The fact that my kids wake up twice during the night, that means I’m getting no more than three hours of sleep at once. It’s a reality for parents. I’m aware of all the pushes and pulls on my body.

On reducing stress: I’m really working on being mindful and meditating. Some of these words are still considered taboo, but I like to take time to be quiet even if it’s just six to ten minutes. I’m Catholic, and growing up you’d say “God” and people are like “don’t put that on me.” Sometimes, when people say “kale” and “meditation,” people are like “don’t put that on me.” A few years ago, I think the topic of meditation would have made me uncomfortable.

How I end my day: I’ve gotten back into reading before bed. And technology is off at nine, though it could really go off earlier. This comes from my sports psychologist Mike Gervais, but I ask my kids how many breaths they want to take that night and they’re like “a million!” and I say “Okay, focus on taking three really deep ones.” If you’re aware of your breath, it’s going to serve you so well.

On sunscreen: I feel like I bathe in it. I have a great partnership with the Skin Authority and they’ve helped me take care of my skin. I apply before I leave the house and I reapply it, too. Some people put it on then don’t reapply. That’s one thing I would tell my 20-something self. I wasn’t as good about it when I was younger.

On skin cancer among pro volleyball players: We talk about it and it scares the crap out of us. Thankfully, the AVP brings a dermatologist once a year and a lot of us get our skin checked. But we should probably go twice a year since we’re out in the sun so much.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Kerri Walsh Jennings on Weights and Wellness