Before earning an elusive 400-meter gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, Sanya Richards-Ross was long considered the world's fastest woman in the event. But that first-place finish at the London Games earned her true validation; the Jamaica native-turned-U.S. citizen had finally achieved a dream she'd been striving for since she was 9 years old.
The ensuing years, however, have delivered Richards-Ross a series of setbacks, including multiple toe surgeries and a strained calf muscle. But let's be clear: Although her 30-year-old body is in rehabilitation, her championship mindset and drive remain healthier than ever. One look at her Instagram and her rigorous training regimen, often accompanied by the hashtag #RoadToRio, is guaranteed to silence any doubters who presume her fastest days are behind her.
The Texas resident recently visited New York City to attend the launch event of her luxury faux fur line Foofi & Bella. And before her big night out on the town, she invited us to tag along as she trained at Equinox Fitness with a focus on strength and core building that left us both terrified and inspired. We were also right by her side, dodging raindrops, as Richards-Ross zipped through the city to take care of business. If you ever wondered how much training is required to have a performance of a lifetime that averages no more than 50 seconds, read on. She'll tell you in her own words.
The Calm Before The Storm
"My days differ throughout the season, but if I have the perfect morning, I wake up around 8:30 or 9 a.m. Sometimes I do about 15 minutes of meditation to clear my mind and think about the day. Then I eat breakfast. That's the most important meal of the day for me. If I don't eat my breakfast, I'm not a happy camper the rest of the day. And then I'm off to the gym or track for two hours of training at each.
"Here, I'm just doing a 10-minute walk to warm up the body because today's focus is lifting and core work."
It's Go Time
"I train five days a week, Monday through Friday, on the track. Saturday and Sunday are my days off. I'm usually in the gym three to four days per week, depending on the time of year. When I'm preparing for the Olympics, hardcore training begins in January of that Olympic year. So before that, I visit the gym four days a week, but as I get closer to Olympic competition, I reduce it to three days per week because it's more important for the body to get more rest so you can compete well."
There's No Place Like Home
"Traveling during my intense training season isn't ideal. I'd rather be settled into my regular daily routine with my coach. But the good thing is if it's necessary I travel, I can train almost anywhere. I just need to get into a gym that has high-performance equipment."
Stretch It Out
"Here, I'm stretching with my physiotherapist, Adrik Mantingh. Physios are important because they help your body recover after grueling training sessions. We'll do massages, but really deep-tissue massages following every training session. They're nowhere near as relaxing as a massage you receive at your favorite spa. He specializes in making sure my hamstrings, quads and everything is at its best, but I trust him with all of my body needs. For example, he accompanied me when I had toe surgery last year. The doctor gave him instructions to help me heal and recover and he managed that process for me. Think about it this way: A race car driver works with someone who fine-tunes his or her car. That's who Adrik is to me. He makes sure my hips -- and everything else that sometimes gets out of whack when you're running a lot and lifting heavy weights -- are all in line. He takes care of it all."
What's Your Why?
"I've been a pro athlete for 13 years. I'm often asked what motivates me daily, and it's my faith. God's given me a great gift, and my gift back to him is working hard and being my best. This year is most likely my last Olympics. You know when you're practicing and the coach says, This is your last one, give it your best? That's how I feel every single day."
"I don't mind training, but I really dislike pullups and dips most. Honestly, anything upper-body related [training] is not my favorite. I love legs. But upper body? Not so much."
Eyes On The Prize
"Thinking about the #RoadtoRio got me like ..."
"Becoming an Olympic athlete was a dream of mine since high school. Back then I started doing 500 to 2,000 situps per day, and it's something I continue today. I might be just a little bit obsessed, but for a 400-meter runner, having a strong core is very important. The last 100 meters is all about your core strength, your breathing and all of that stuff. So I'll do about 25 reps of each exercise and will work my schedule around my core work so I can get it in."
Pleasure And Pain
"Most people hear 2,000 core exercises and think I'm crazy, but I really enjoy doing core. Don't get me wrong, they are challenging, but it's one of the easier things that I do. And it can be kind of relaxing. Sometimes I'll knock it out while I'm watching mindless reality TV. So yeah, it's not the most passive thing I do, but probably the most beneficial."
Happily Ever After
"Adrik and I have been working together for almost 10 years. The first time I received a treatment from Adrik, I thought, Oh, this is never going to work. I didn't think I'd use him again because it felt awful. His treatment was so deep and intense. I thought, Why would he work so hard on me like that? It was really painful and uncomfortable. But the next day, I felt better than ever. I told my mom how great I felt and that I needed to go back. And the rest is history!"
"Here I got to do something I rarely get to do -- shop at the Nike store for my own gear! I'm very fortunate that Nike sends me lots of training gear each quarter. And because I travel so much, all of the pieces are very useful. But walking around the store and being drawn to different styles, patterns, textures and colors is a rare experience for me. I felt like a kid on Christmas. It was so much fun!"
Ask And It Is Given
"So, earlier in the day, a Nike store employee left me a comment on Instagram saying she was a huge fan of mine and asking me to visit her store. I only had three days in New York and my schedule was packed, but I knew I wanted to visit a Nike store while in town, so that was already part of my plan. When I saw her comment, I of course knew this, but she obviously had no clue. Long story short, I surprised her by visiting her store (again, something I already intended to do before seeing her message). And then we posed for this photo. It was too funny that it worked out that way, but I'm glad it did. Now, if only everything were that simple."
"After working up an appetite shopping at Nike, it was time for lunch! I usually eat three meals per day and drink one or two protein shakes throughout the day. I also juice a lot. I don't like supplements and prefer to get all of my vitamins naturally. I eat pretty cleanly and try to stick to an eating schedule. I ordered a soup and grilled chicken salad for lunch. I had a long night ahead of me and needed to make sure I'd be full until a late-night dinner."
I'm Not a Businesswoman, I'm a Business, Woman
"Many people don't know this about me, but I'm involved in a few exciting business ventures unrelated to track and field. Generally speaking, I love marketing and am the chief marketing officer of all the companies I work with. There's something about choosing a logo and building a website that I love. My husband and I are starting a luxury black-car service in Austin. My sister and I own a hair salon. And the launch party for Foofi & Bella, my luxury faux fur line with my partner Angela Simmons, was held this night. So if I'm not on the track or in the gym, chances are I'm on the phone tending to business for one of my companies."
"Growing up as a young athlete, I always felt I had to suppress my love for beauty and fashion. There's a perception that you have to be hardcore, or almost like a boy to be taken seriously as a female athlete. I didn't care about makeup, heels or any of that stuff. But my family was always very stylish and it's always been in my blood. So freshman year in college, I said, You know what? I can express myself, embrace my femininity and kick butt! So for me, fashion and beauty are a form of self-expression. I love trends. I love changing my hair. I might do long, short, black, blonde, bob, you just never know."
"Here, I'm entering the Foofi & Bella launch event, and this look is very Sanya Richards-Ross. I wear a lot of sporty attire, but I try to jazz it up. You'll rarely see in me sweats, but I love to wear a skirt or dress with sneakers. My feet are my moneymaker so I have to protect them and avoid heels as much possible. While I'm very comfortable, I still look chic. Sporty chic. And the faux-fur vest was the perfect finishing touch."
"And to quote Beyonce, 'Now pose for the camera. Flick, flick.'"
"And back at the hotel is a quick snapshot of my sneaker lineup for three days in New York. They might not be stilettos, but I'm still a girl who needs options!"
Shana Renee is the founder and editor-in-chief of All Sports Everything and a passionate New York Jets, Knicks and Yankees fan. Follow her sports talk on Twitter at @ItsShanaRenee.