Olympian Gwen Jorgensen On Her Secret to Running Fast

Gwen Jorgensen

“Sleep is just as important as training”

Gwen Jorgensen knows how to set big goals. A year after winning Olympic gold in the triathlon in 2016, she had a baby, changed her sport, and set her sights on bringing home another gold medal in 2020’s Olympic marathon! She told me the decision was actually pretty straightforward: “I felt I had reached my potential in triathlon…The marathon is a huge challenge, but one that keeps me motivated on a daily basis.” Getting a good night’s rest is an essential part of Gwen’s training. Read our conversation below for the nightly routine that helps her balance new motherhood with her marathon medal goal.

Katie Couric: Your story is pretty amazing, Gwen! In 2017, you announced–after winning the 2016 gold medal in Rio for triathlons–that you would go for the gold in the marathon! Tell us about that decision…

Gwen Jorgensen: I set big goals in triathlon and worked for years to accomplish them. I felt I had reached my potential in triathlon and I was no longer motivated to go after something I had already accomplished. I am a very driven person, but I am driven by new challenges. The marathon is a huge challenge, but one that keeps me motivated on a daily basis.

You also recently had a baby, congratulations! Was it difficult to transition back to your regular training and get your performance where you want it to be?

I did not give the birthing process enough respect. My actual pregnancy was manageable, but the birth was extremely scary and difficult. I was bedridden for weeks and had to go in for a surgery a week after giving birth. It was a very long recovery back, however I had a great team helping in my comeback. I’m so thankful for my pelvic floor PT Jessica Dorrington and all of her knowledge to help get me back to pre-pregnancy strength.

What advice would you give other moms who are trying to fit exercise into their busy routines?

Give yourself time and don’t compare yourself to others. I had so many people supporting me as I continued to train at a high level while pregnant. Every pregnancy and birth is different. See a pelvic floor specialist to ensure you are able and ready to get back to exercise. Once you are able to return to exercise, either find a gym with a daycare or workout with your baby. You can use your baby as a weight or push them in a stroller.

I love that you and your husband work together and that he’s so supportive of your athletic career. What do you think makes you such a great team?

My husband is incredible. He breaks the norm and we have been able to accomplish so much because of his support. He gave up his career to support me full time. I can say with confidence that without Patrick by my side I would have not been able to win gold in Rio. Patrick and I communicate extremely well and we know that we are a team. Every decision we make is one that we make together. Our communication is one thing that sets our marriage apart. We are with each other a lot, and I love it! I don’t know many other couples that spend more time together than us. I feel so fortunate to spend so much time with my best friend.

I read that you often run up to 120 miles a week when you’re in marathon training — that’s incredible! What difference does a good night’s rest make in your performance?

Sleep is just as important as training. Without sleep, our bodies cannot recover and won’t be able to perform. I love being able to use SleepIQ to track my sleep. I’m able to see if I am getting sick or if my training load is increasing too much by my SleepIQ score, breathing rate, and resting heart rate.

Okay, take us through your nightly bedtime!

My bedtime routine starts at 8 pm when I brush my teeth with my son, Stanley. After brushing teeth, Stanley turns off the lights as I carry him to his bedroom. I lay him down with his (empty) yellow pillow case and ask him who he wants to sleep with that night: “Mr. Moose, Bunny Bun-Bun, Mrs. Bear, or Puppy.” He almost always chooses Mr. Moose. I give Stanley a kiss and walk back to my bedroom to close my blackout blinds and curtains. I have both because I sleep a lot better in the dark. I make sure the room is between 60–67 degrees Fahrenheit, and I turn on my white noise machine. I spend about 30 minutes watching TV with my husband before we turn off the TV. I put my phone on airplane mode in another room and get back in my Sleep Number bed. I then read for about 30 minutes before falling asleep. I am very strict about my routine and always make sure I’m attempting to fall asleep without distraction by 9:30 pm at the latest. I have found that having a routine has allowed me to get the most out of my sleep. The biggest game changer has been eliminating my phone by turning it off and leaving it outside the bedroom. I normally wake up around 630 a.m. because this is when my son, Stanley wakes and comes to our room.

What’s on your bedside table?

Honestly, it’s a ton of children’s books because the first thing Stanley wants to do in the morning is crawl into our bed and read. Right now I have My Dad is Fantastic, Alphabet Trucks, Toots, Elmo, and The Way Back Home. I also have my journal next to my bed as I write notes in it if I think of something while sleeping or around bedtime.

As for a book recommendation, my favorite books are autobiographies and I love Open by Andre Agassi.

Do you have a winding down playlist?

I have just recently started listening to podcasts, but am still searching for the perfect one. I do listen to classical music before bedtime, which is something I started once having our son, Stanley. He seems to love it and I do too.

What’s your most valuable sleeping tip that you’d like to share with everyone?

Make a routine and stick to it. Make sure your room is quiet, dark, and turn off your phone. I suggest getting a Sleep Number bed. It changed my relationship with sleep and my husband enormously. Patrick likes a soft bed, and I like it hard. We never had a bed that we both enjoyed until we got our first Sleep Number i10 bed. It has been an amazing thing for our relationship and sleep.

Thanks so much, Gwen!

This interview originally appeared on Medium.com