The Olympics™ are just around the corner and in addition to seeing our favorite athletes compete, it's also a great time to see former Olympians who have taken on new roles. We spoke with Nastia Liukin on the road during the Olympic Trials to talk gymnastics, commitment and her role as a commentator for NBC during the games at Rio!
ATHLEISURE MAG: Growing up in a family of Olympians, how did this craft your interest in the sport and how did you get into it?
NASTIA LIUKIN: Well, believe it or not, my parents didn't even want me to do gymnastics. They knew how hard it was and they just wanted their one and only child to be happy. But for me, my happiness came from gymnastics. I never wanted to leave the gym. I fell in love with the sport at such an early age.
AM: As someone who trained from an early age, how did this affect your outlook on life in terms of commitment, dedication etc?
NL: Commitment and dedication where both two major factors that helped me achieve my goals. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I had to be committed in order to achieve those dreams. Nothing would be handed to me. I was never the strongest gymnast, so I had to work extremely hard on conditioning in order to perform a lot of the skills.
AM: What was your training like heading into the 2008 Olympic games and how did you maintain balance while you were at the games?
NL: Training heading into the 2008 Olympics ™ was pretty intense. 7 hours a day, 6 days a week (sometimes 7 days a week) depending on the competition schedule. I really didn't think or do too much else besides training, physically therapies, extra cardio or conditioning. My life revolved around the Olympics that entire year, and most years as well. But specifically 2008.
I didn't want to look back in September of 2008 and think what if, what if I would have trained more, done more routines? Those thoughts started to haunt my mind, so I made sure to not let them creep into my mind too much.
AM: As an athlete, you never know where your career will go, since then you have created clothing lines and been a spokesperson for other brands, how exciting has that transition been and do you have other projects coming up that you can tell us about?
NL: To be honest if you would have told me that 10 years ago, I would have never believed you. I started gymnastics because I had such a huge passion for the sport. It was never to make it a career or build a brand, or even win gold medals. I loved flipping, and learning new skills. It all gave me a thrill. Now at 26 years old, I look back at everything I have done and continue to do and am so thankful for it all. But, I do have to say it hasn't all been handed to me. I feel like it’s a full-time job trying to continue doing what I’m doing with my career and I’ve had the chance to work with some amazing people in the industry that have helped shape my career into what it is now. I am working on a few projects that I’m so thrilled to be working on, but for now I have to keep them a secret.
AM: We've listened to you commentating on the Men's and Women's Gymnastic Trials and know you are doing this throughout the games, how exciting is it to be the NBC Commentator for Gymnastics?
NL: I was so honored when NBC offered me this role. To be able to continue being involved in something I love so much has been incredible. It has definitely been a learning experience and with each time we are on air, I learn more and feel a little more confident. This is now my fourth year, but there is nothing like an Olympic™ Games. So I’m extremely excited for Rio!
AM: Going into Rio, who are your favorites for the US Men's and Women's team that you can't wait to see - who should we be watching out for?
NL: Simone Biles, without question, is the heavy favorite on the women’s side. She has the chance of winning 5 GOLD medals in Rio. Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas are trying to make their second Olympic™ Team and have a great shot. So it will be a very fun competition on the women’s side.
On the men’s side, Sam Mikulak is the favorite for the US. He is the 4 time National Champion going into the Rio and will be competing in his second Olympic™ Games.
AM: As a gymnast who has competed on the Olympic™ stage, do you share any words of wisdom to the gymnasts that you share with them when you've been traveling with them?
NL: Most of them don’t need too much advice. They are more prepared, physically than they will ever be in their lives. But mentally, it’s important to stay calm and treat it like any other competition. Also, enjoy it. It goes by so quickly, you blink and it’s over.
AM: What are you looking forward to in Rio (whether within the gymnast category or outside of it)?
NL: Definitely the gymnastics but also getting a chance to see the other sports. When I was in Beijing, I didn't get that chance to go to other events, so I’m looking forward to that. I also love trying to experience the culture of every city/country I visit.
AM: What's it like when you've been on the circuit with the gymnast as a broadcaster?
NL: Well the current group of athletes I’ve known them and even competed with most of them. So I really have to remove myself from being friends with them and just do my job as an analyst. Of course I’ve been in their shoes, so I know how it feels when someone is a little too negative or could say something that really puts you down. I feel like there is a difference with analyzing something, even if it’s a fall, and being negative.
AM: What do you do in terms of your personal training and how is it different than when you competed?
NL: Well it’s definitely quite a bit different now. I used to train 7 hours a day, 6 days a week. Now I workout about 4 times a week for about 30-60 minutes, depending on my schedule. I’m on the road a lot so that makes it difficult, but not impossible. I love mixing it up. Pilates, yoga, spinning, circuit training.
AM: How do you stay balanced with your busy schedule to ensure that you take the time that you need for yourself?
NL: I always make sure to take time in the morning, even if I have a busy day ahead. I like waking up extra early to have my coffee, get in a workout, even if it’s only 20 minutes. That keeps me balanced and make me feel great the rest of the day too.
AM: What's your personal style (items that you would wear when running errands, heading out to brunch and/or for a night out on the town)?
NL: As much as I love dressing up for events, red carpets and photo shoots, my day to day life is definitely athleisure wear. From the gym to running errands to brunch, I love Stella McCartney for Adidas. She’s one of my favorite designers both in the sports world and fashion world.
Read more from the July Issue