Nastia Liukin: Workouts, Cooking, Cookies

Nastia Liukin talked to the Cut about cookies, workouts, and how everyone has a gold-medal body.

How I start my mornings: I wake up around 5 or 5:30 and work out. For me, it’s really important to get a workout in as soon as I wake up because if I don’t do it then I feel like I’m not going to have a chance to do it. I try to get four to five days a week.

I like to eat something very small beforehand, whether it’s a banana or a piece of fruit, and I have coffee. It was the same when I was in gymnastics. After my workout I’ll have a bigger breakfast, like an omelet with tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and maybe some chicken or something. Making sure to get enough protein in is extremely important for me to this day. It keeps you full longer.

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How I like to sweat: I followed a strict plan for 22 years so as soon as I was done competing I was like, you know what? I’m gonna do what I feel like doing. Some days that’s just getting in 20 minutes of some kind of workout, maybe it’s in my hotel room or my apartment or going for a quick jog. But for the most part I love changing it up. I also think that my body responds to that best. When you do the same thing over and over your body just gets used to it.

I love boxing with my trainer. I love barre classes and hot yoga. I love Pilates. That really elongates you, but it’s also important to do some kind of cardio and now that the weather’s nice I love running along the West Side. It’s a beautiful view. I take spinning classes, too.

To me, wellness is: I remember my mom telling me at a really young age, “You have to treat your body like an expensive car. What kind of fuel are you putting into that expensive car?” If you’re going to put junk food into your body, then that’s what you’re going to get out of it. As soon as I was able to process that, like when I was 12, it made total sense to me. Of course I ate junk food every once in a while as a kid, but then I would kind of feel it in my body, you know, you don’t have as much energy.

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On life after retirement: I felt so lost for a good year. I gained probably 10 to 20 pounds, because when you stop doing something and just go cold turkey your body doesn’t even know what to do. I finally feel like I’ve found my rhythm again. It takes time to figure out what your body needs and what’s best for you both in nutrition and also fitness.

I remember walking into a regular gym, not a gymnastics gym, and looking at the equipment and thinking, “What are these things?” I had no idea what to do and how to use this equipment because my whole life was so structured. My dad was my coach and he always gave me a plan. All of a sudden I’m like, “Wait, where’s my coach?” It was really up to me to kind of figure it out.

On cooking versus ordering: My fiancé, Matt, is actually a really good cook. Better than me, which I’m working on. But I’ve also felt like, living in New York, it’s a little bit challenging to cook here. It’s easier to Seamless or Postmates something. But I’ve been trying to cook a little bit more. We always either have some kind of fish and he’ll make a great kale salad and a homemade dressing. We definitely eat more protein and vegetables, but obviously making sure it’s a well-balanced diet of having some carbs in there, too — brown rice, sweet potatoes, those kinds of things. But I wouldn’t necessarily eat a whole bowl of pasta at night. If I would have that, it would probably be earlier in the day.

On dessert: I also remember my mom telling me, “If you want a cookie, have a cookie.” Because then you’re going to get to a point where just like you want ten cookies and you’re going to eat ten. So allow yourself to have that. Yeah, maybe don’t have a cookie every single day, but if you want one, then have one. It’s all about having that balance and not getting too crazy about it because that’s definitely not good for anybody.

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