The Olympian Allyson Felix holds the title of “most decorated female” in track and field. But above her career in sports, Felix is a wife, a mom, an activist, and most recently, a designer for Athleta after the brand tapped her as its first athletic partner. This summer, she concluded her 20-year international career, but there is life after retirement for Felix. And it’s fabulous.
We chatted with Felix the morning after a “historic night for her” when she received the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali award. “How Ali put his beliefs above the competition and above sport is very admirable,” she said. And Felix knows a thing or two about standing up for her beliefs. In 2018, while carrying her daughter, Felix developed preeclampsia, a blood-pressure condition during pregnancy that can result in life-threatening complications, and following her C-section she was vocal about the felt pressure to return to her career. “My experience has definitely opened my eyes and I really want to see it easier for women to be able to do both and not have to sacrifice anything,” she says. So in partnership with Athleta, Felix started a program to support mom athletes, creating child-care grants for Olympian and Paralympian moms and offering child care at the U.S. track-and-field championships. “Next year I really want to broaden that,” she said. “My goal is to make it the standard at events, not just track and field events.”
It’s great to see the program you started for Olympian moms. Part of your dedication to female athletes is designing functional clothes for women. As a first-time designer, how did you think about the collection?
I have typically spent some of the winter months in Vail, Colorado, because we have a place there and around the holidays I have to keep up with everything that I’m doing in the warm weather. I usually run and lift weights; I thought about that a lot creating an outerwear collection. In the past, it’s been about excessive layering up, and I wanted to eliminate that feeling but still provide warmth. It’s been cool to be able to be in cold weather and feel like I can push myself to the maximum without feeling like I’m weighed down by what I have on.
I wanted to bring that to the collection for other women. I wanted women to be able to have the ability to train in the cold without being held down by a ton of layers, but also be able to move throughout their day and feel fashionable. The pieces are not only made to perform at the highest level, but they’re also very stylish. The puffer coat is my favorite.
What makes you feel most powerful?
When I feel prepared. When I have gone through my training and shown up for myself. That doesn’t mean every day has been perfect or everything has gone exactly as planned, because there are a lot of days where I have to give myself grace. But it’s knowing that I didn’t cheat myself. I gave the best that I had. That’s when I feel the most confident and strongest.
How about as a mom?
When I feel like I have done my best. I always have the intention to be present and to show up and to love my daughter the best that I can. Some days that feels really great and I feel like I’m killing it, and other days I’m like, I feel like I didn’t do a great job, but I know that I’ve given the best that I can and that we’ll just keep going.
What are some personal love notes or life affirmations that you tell your daughter?
I am enough, I’m strong, I’m kind, I’m capable, I’m loved, I feel safe. We typically do them when we’re walking into school together. She’s probably very tired of them because I make her repeat them, but it’s really a little special moment for us.
What do you think about when you run?
Anytime I’m doing any type of running that’s a longer distance, it’s always a challenge for me, so I’m typically just thinking about life or any type of distractions. Sometimes I’m listening to an audiobook or a podcast to distract me. Other times I’m just with my thoughts and it’s almost like a little bit of therapy, just kind of dealing with whatever’s going on in my life and having some quiet moments alone.
I try not to think about the time that’s passing and I try not to think about if my body is hurting or any of the things that would keep me from continuing on. Sometimes the mind tries to play tricks on you, but you just have to pump yourself up and keep going.
And when you make it to the end and win a race, what’s the first thing you do?
Usually have a cheat meal: a nice steak or ice cream and a dessert because I have a sweet tooth. After I share a moment with my family, I’m usually all about the food; I’m like, Where are we gonna go to celebrate? I like to cook and bake too, though. Pound cake is my favorite thing to make, so I’m always on pound-cake duty at any family function.